Tag Archives: Dr. Paul Keim

123rf.com: Illia Uriadnikov

TGen developing accurate test for Lyme disease

Focus On Lyme, an initiative sponsored by the Leadership Children’s Foundation of Gilbert, Ariz., has donated $75,000 to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to support research into the development of a quick, affordable and accurate method of diagnosing Lyme disease.

The most common vector-borne illness in the U.S., Lyme disease affects an estimated 300,000 Americans annually.

Today, no perfect test for Lyme disease exists due to three main barriers: multiple strains of Lyme bacteria often confound test results, the existence of related bacteria may cause false positive test results and most Lyme infections typically present at a level not detectable by current testing methods.

Scientists at TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division in Flagstaff, Ariz. — TGen North — will use the power of targeted DNA sequencing to develop and validate a test to measure the presence and severity of tick-borne Lyme disease at the genomic level.

By analyzing a sample’s DNA, the new test should be able to pinpoint Lyme disease, identify multiple Lyme strains, detect other tick-related infections, and show non-Lyme causes of disease.

“With recent advances at TGen and genomics overall, we can finally develop a diagnostic test that will put more actionable information into the hands of the physician than previously possible. We are thrilled to be working with Focus On Lyme on this project,” said Dr. Paul Keim, Professor and Director of TGen North and Director of the Center for Microbial Genetics & Genomics at Northern Arizona University (NAU), which will help develop the test.

The bacterium that causes Lyme disease occurs naturally in mice, squirrels and other small animals. The infection spreads as ticks feed on these animals and then bite humans. Although deer are not a source of the bacteria, they are important for the life cycle the ticks.

This infection can manifest with a bulls-eye rash or a non-specific rash, but not always.  Flu like symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches and fatigue can last a few days to a few weeks.

Undiagnosed and untreated cases can lead to fatigue, painful and swollen joints, memory loss, insomnia, heart palpitations, difficulty with concentration and other changes, including those that mimic other diseases, complicating a clinical diagnosis.

This is why an accurate diagnostic tool is essential.

“We chose to partner with TGen because they have the best and most experienced pathogen researchers in the world,” said Tammy Crawford, Executive Director of Focus On Lyme. “TGen has a proven record of success. I am convinced there is no one more qualified to develop an improved diagnostic test for Lyme disease.”

Lyme disease was first described in 1977 following investigation of a cluster of arthritis cases among children living near Lyme, Conn. Further study indicated that arthritis was a manifestation of a tick-transmitted disease.

If detected early, most cases of Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Lyme disease can be prevented by using insect or tick repellent, promptly removing ticks, applying pesticides, treating pets for ticks, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease also can transmit other tick-borne diseases.

Focus On Lyme plans an inaugural Scientific Conference about Lyme disease on Feb. 11-13, 2016. This invite-only event will bring researchers, clinicians and more together to discuss diagnosis and treatment for Lyme patients. A fundraising dinner is planned Feb. 12, 2016. Proceeds will assist clinical trials and FDA approval of TGen’s diagnostic tool.


TGen and NAU celebrate 5-year research pact

Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) announced a five-year agreement to promote innovation and quality research benefiting Arizona.

The NAU-TGen Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) implements the allocation of state funding as directed by Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Legislature, and reaffirms the commitment of both institutions toward quality research, training and educational opportunities, protection of public health and improved patient care. The Governor and Legislature recommitted state funding support as part of the 2014-15 state budget, recognizing the positive dividends from a viable, competitive bioindustry in Arizona.

“TGen has played a valuable role in developing and advancing Arizona’s bioscience industry,” said Governor Brewer. “From delivering medical breakthroughs and first-rate research — to creating quality jobs and growing our economy — TGen is a shining example of the innovative companies we seek to attract and expand in Arizona. By enhancing the successful partnership between TGen and NAU, we can ensure that both our bioscience industry and our economy will continue to thrive for years to come.”

NAU and TGen also announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved a patent for a new set of genetically-based tests, jointly developed by NAU and TGen, that accurately identify fungal pathogens that threaten public health worldwide. Broad-based identification of fungi is essential for clinical diagnostics and also for environmental testing. This is the first of many patents anticipated through NAU-TGen collaborations.

The two institutions also are celebrating other joint research, including highly accurate, genetically-based tests for detecting and monitoring Valley Fever, influenza and different types of staph bacteria infections, especially the potentially deadly Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA.

These achievements, and numerous other collaborations underway between NAU and TGen, will be celebrated at 2 p.m. today at NAU’s Applied Research and Development building.

The NAU-TGen developed genetic-based tests allow real-time tests in any location, including laboratories, but also clinics, physician offices, emergency rooms and even field settings. Immediate diagnosis of pathogens is a critical part of TGen’s push for precision medicine, in which patients receive the correct treatments as quickly as possible, speeding their recovery and saving lives.

The genetic-based tests for various pathogens were developed by a team from NAU and TGen that includes Dr. Paul Keim, Director of TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division (also known as TGen North) in Flagstaff, and a Regents Professor and Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology at NAU.

“These advanced diagnostics have far reaching implications for protecting public health, quickly treating patients and lowering the cost of healthcare,” Dr. Keim said. “Through our joint NAU-TGen research, we are continuing to develop tools and technologies that have a great impact on human health.”

This joint effort has generated other intellectual property, stimulated the founding of a startup company, and now generates licensing revenues for both NAU and TGen.

“Our relationship with TGen exemplifies the importance of the biosciences to NAU and to Arizona’s economy,” said NAU President John Haeger. “An important mission of our university is to produce research with direct benefits to the state and to the world, and together with TGen that is what we are accomplishing. We look forward to much more.”

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, praised President Haeger, Gov. Brewer and the Arizona Legislature for helping ensure TGen’s continuing role in stimulating local research that directly benefits Arizona patients.

“We are enormously grateful to Governor Brewer and the state Legislature, particularly the leadership, for their continuing confidence and support in us,” said Dr. Trent. “In addition, as demonstrated by the leadership and cooperation of President Haeger, Dr. Keim and NAU, there is no question that these types of collaborations between universities and research institutions can result in significant commercial applications.”


TGen’s Keim named AZBio’s 2012 Bioscience Researcher of the Year

TGDr. Paul Keim, Director of the Pathogen Genomics Division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Cowden Endowed Chair of Microbiology at Northern Arizona University (NAU), will receive the 2012 Bioscience Researcher of the Year award from the Arizona BioIndustry Association (AZBio).

“Dr. Keim was nominated by members of the Arizona Bioscience Community and selected by an independent, statewide panel of leaders for this recognition of his research and innovation in the field of pathogen genomics and microbiology,” said AZBio President and CEO Joan Koerber-Walker.

His award will be presented at the 7th annual AZBio Awards on Oct. 23 at the Phoenix Convention Center. An industry showcase and student discovery session are scheduled from 3-5:30 p.m., and the awards gala is from 6-9 p.m.

“AZBio’s recognition of Dr. Keim is extraordinarily well deserved,” said TGen President and Scientific Director Dr. Jeffrey Trent. “Paul’s unique achievements in interpreting the microbial genomes of pathogens — both those that naturally cause disease, but also those made into weapons by terrorists — are of profound importance.  His research, coupled to his dedications to his students and to the cause of public health globally, place him in the upper echelon of premier scientists, and puts Arizona on the map in this critical growing area of research.”

Dr. Keim is a world-renowned expert in anthrax and other infectious diseases. At TGen and NAU he directs investigations into how to bolster the nation’s biodefense, and to prevent outbreaks — even pandemics — of such contagions as flu, cholera, E. coli, salmonella, and even the plague.

“Our science has been completely transformed by the rapid advancements of technology. Now, TGen’s job is to rapidly advance our science to make great impacts on human health. We have that ability, therefore, we feel that we have that responsibility,” said Dr. Keim, a Professor at TGen and Regents Professor of Microbiology at NAU.

Dr. Keim also is Director of NAU’s Microbial Genetics & Genomics Center, a program that works with numerous government agencies to help thwart bioterrorism and the spread of pathogen-caused diseases.

Since 2004, he has been a member of the federal government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). He helped draft national guidelines for blunting bioterrorism while elevating ethical standards and improving the quality of scientific research. Dr. Keim’s work at the NSABB includes recently serving two years as the acting Chair.

While TGen this year celebrates a decade of progress, TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division, also known as TGen North in Flagstaff, is celebrating five years of protecting human health though genomic investigations of some of humankind’s most deadly microbes.

“Paul Keim’s work ranges broadly — from plague in prairie dogs, to cholera in Haiti,” said NAU Provost Laura Huenneke. “Here at NAU, literally hundreds of students, both undergraduate and graduate, have participated in that research and launched from there into successful careers. His research group has also grown into the strong partnership between the university and TGen North — a huge economic development dividend for Flagstaff.’’