Tag Archives: tgen

medical.research

BIO5-TGen collaboration targets Alzheimer’s disease

BIO5 Oro Valley today announced a collaboration with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to develop new therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

BIO5 Oro Valley co-Director and University of Arizona College of Pharmacy medicinal chemist Dr. Christopher Hulme’s collaborative effort with TGen Assistant Professor Dr. Travis Dunckley will focus on the development of novel, small molecule inhibitors of dual-specificity tyrosine phosphorylation-regulated kinase 1A (DYRK1A). Upregulation of this kinase is implicated in promoting memory deficits associated with Down syndrome and neurodegenerative pathologies, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

“DYRK1A is a well-validated, recently discovered target, ready for translational efforts to deliver an oral medication to patients suffering from this insidious disease,” said Dr. Hulme. “Indeed, coupled with the advanced small molecules in-hand that target DYRK1A, further efforts are underway that will broaden our therapeutic presence in the Alzheimer’s arena to other Arizona-based biological discoveries.”

Statistics from the National Institutes of Health indicate that 5.1 million older Americans – or 1-in-8 – suffer from Alzheimer’s, which makes it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. Estimated to effect 45 million people worldwide by 2020, dementia is currently a leading, major unmet medical need and a costly burden on public health. Seventy percent of these cases have been attributed to Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative pathology characterized by a progressive decline in cognitive functions.

“This collaborative partnership is a critical step in advancing discoveries of the role DYRK1A plays to developing therapeutics that could alter the course of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Dunckley.

Drs. Hulme and Dunckley will focus on providing a significant alternative to common approaches that focus on small molecules that inhibit the production of neurotoxic fragments of amyloid proteins and antibody immunization approaches targeting the build up of these fragments.

The joint effort will explore the decrease of DYRK1A activity in the brain with proprietary small-molecule inhibitors. This approach could lead to new therapeutic strategies to alleviate cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s and Down syndrome.

Tony Pena, Brian Cashman

Yankees’ GM supports TGen Research

A top official of the New York Yankees whose father passed from pancreatic cancer has joined a prestigious national panel organized by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to fight this aggressive disease.

Brian Cashman, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the vaunted Yankees Major League Baseball franchise, has joined TGen’s National Advisory Council for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

TGen’s National Advisory Council leads a critically needed funding effort and promotes a deeper public understanding of pancreatic cancer, the nation’s fourth-leading cause of cancer death, which in 2012 took the lives of nearly 44,000 in the U.S. and nearly 235,000 worldwide.

Cashman lost his father, John, in September after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He had wanted his Yankees to reach the World Series as one last gift to his father.

“My father loved the Yankees. There are a lot of people who face these kinds of challenges, and they look to the Yankees to provide positive inspiration. For my father, the Yankees were always something he could look forward to,” he said. “I welcome the responsibilities and challenges of my role in the fight against pancreatic cancer. I have a personal experience to draw from, and coupled with my unique standing within the fabric of baseball, I’d like to believe I can make the type of contribution my father would be proud of.”

Cashman was invited to join TGen’s National Advisory Council by another council member, Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall, who in 2011 lost his father, Larry, to pancreatic cancer, even as Derrick was fighting his own battle with prostate cancer.

The Yankees and Diamondbacks played one of the game’s iconic 7-game World Series in 2001.

In addition to Cashman and Hall, another MLB official, David Dombrowski – President, CEO and General Manager of the Detroit Tigers – also is a member of the National Advisory Council for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Other members of TGen’s National Advisory Council are: Raymond Bojanowski, Co-founder and Co-chairman of the Seena Magowitz Foundation; Karl Glassman, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Leggett & Platt Inc.; Diane Halle,
President of the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation and the Herbert K. Cummings Charitable Trust; Steve Hilton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Meritage Homes Corp.; David Lane, President of the Lane Affiliated Companies; Roger Magowitz, President and Founder of the Seena Magowitz Foundation; Vincent McBeth, President of the The McBeth Group International and a retired U.S. Navy Commander; Larry Rogers, President and CEO of the Sealy Corp.; Steve Stagner, President and CEO of the Mattress Firm; Louis A. “Chip” Weil III, retired Chairman, President and CEO of Central Newspapers Inc.; and Howard Young, President of the General Wholesale Company.

“Brian Cashman is a powerful addition to TGen’s National Advisory Council. His personal experience, championship reputation, and national visibility will be a huge boost to TGen’s fight against pancreatic cancer,” said Michael Bassoff, TGen Foundation President.

Cashman joined the Yankees as a 19-year-old intern and now commands one of the most demanding jobs in sports. During 25 seasons, he has earned five World Series rings. At age 30, he became the youngest GM to win a World Series. And during 1998-2000 he became the only GM in Baseball history to win World Series titles in each of his first three seasons.

medical.research

Barrett-Jackson Auction, raffle net $129,000 for TGen research

The sale of a 2008 Shelby GT Barrett-Jackson Edition (Lot #3009) and the raffle of a 40th Anniversary Corvette generated $129,000 for cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) during Scottsdale’s 42nd Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction.

Proceeds went to the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen, in Memory of Russ and Brian Jackson. The fund, established in 2010, is a salute to auction Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson’s father, Russ, and brother, Brian, whose lives were cut short by colon cancer.

The 2008 Shelby GT Barrett-Jackson Edition (Lot #3009) was auctioned Jan. 18 for $100,000 and sold to Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, N.C.  Ele Chesney, a good friend of Nellie Jackson, the mother of Craig Jackson, donated this red and black convertible — upgraded by TMS Autosports — to raise funds for TGen.

The 1993 40th Anniversary Edition Chevrolet Corvette coupe was won by Roy Moreno of Allan, Texas (near Corpus Christi). The raffle raised $29,000 for TGen’s research. The ruby red Corvette, donated by Phoenix businessman David Harbour, is one of the 40th Anniversary models of this legendary sports car, which was first built in 1953.

Although the raffle was held during the Jan. 13-20 auction at Westworld of Scottsdale, the TGen Foundation conducted the raffle. Neither Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. LLC nor any of its affiliates were responsible for conducting this promotion.

“We are extremely grateful to Craig Jackson and his team at Barrett-Jackson for everything they do to raise funds for TGen research, and for spreading the word about TGen’s pursuit of personalized medicine; treating each patient based on their unique genetic profile,” said Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation.

More than 140,000 Americans, men and women, were diagnosed last year with colon cancer, which in 2012 killed nearly 52,000 patients, the third-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

An additional 241,000 American men were diagnosed last year with prostate cancer, which in 2012 killed nearly 28,000 patients, the second-leading cause of cancer death among men in the U.S.

In addition to its annual Scottsdale event, Barrett-Jackson also will conduct collector car auctions this year in: Palm Beach, Fla. (April 4-6), Las Vegas, Nev. (Sept. 26-28), and — announced Jan. 20 — a new auction in Reno, Nev. (Aug. 8-10).

The 2012 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction helped raise nearly $5.9 million for local and national charities.

clinical research advantage - vaccines

TGen, Scottsdale Healthcare study may help pancreatic cancer patients

A multi-center Phase III clinical trial demonstrates that Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) plus gemcitabine is the first combination of cancer drugs to extend survival of late-stage pancreatic cancer patients compared to standard treatment.
The MPACT (Metastatic Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Clinical Trial) study was led by physicians from Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials, a partnership between Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Their findings show that Abraxane plus gemcitabine was well tolerated and resulted in clinically meaningful outcomes compared to gemcitabine alone, the current standard of care. The study abstract was released today and the data will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2013 Gastrointestinal Cancers annual meeting Jan. 25 in San Francisco.

“We are ecstatic that this clinical trial of Abraxane plus gemcitabine improves survival for patients with advanced stage IV pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, international lead investigator for MPACT, chief scientific officer for Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare, and TGen’s Physician-In-Chief. “It once again demonstrates that laboratory science based medicine can make a difference for patients.”

MPACT is the largest phase III clinical trial completed in advanced pancreatic cancer with more than 800 patients. Findings from the study showed a 59 percent increase in one-year median survival rates from less than a quarter of the patients (22 percent) to more than a third (35 percent). The two-year survival rate for this cancer is negligible, less than 4 percent, but that more than doubles (9 percent) with the nab-paclitaxel/gemcitabine combination.

One of those patients was Lynne Jacoby, 48, of Phoenix, who works as a director of compliance for a healthcare company. Jacoby was given only weeks to live when her Stage 4 pancreatic adenocarcinoma, a tumor the size of a golf ball, was first diagnosed in April 2012 — nine months ago.

“If you had to live your life in a year, and that is all the time you have, wouldn’t you do everything you could to experience this time,” said Jacoby, who for nearly a year before her diagnosis had experienced night sweats, indigestion, stomach pains, neck and back pain, and an elevated white-blood count.

She began the treatment of Abraxane plus gemcitabine in May 2012 and continues on the medications, saying now that she “feels awesome, wonderful.” She is scheduled to remain on the drug combination through May 2013.

“Life is priceless. No amount of money can be placed on life. I know I would be gone already if it was not for Dr. Von Hoff,” said Jacoby, who also refers to him as “Dr. Von Hope.”

The study showed significant improvement among some of the sickest patients including those with increased metastases. Significantly there was no increase in life-threatening toxicity. Other drug combinations that have demonstrated benefit have been limited by increased toxicities.

“This is a major improvement in a cancer with the lowest survival rates among all cancer types,” said Dr. Ramesh Ramanathan, medical director of Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare and principal investigator for the clinical trial in the United States. “Advanced pancreatic cancer is fourth most common cause of cancer death in the United States and throughout the world. It is difficult to diagnose with a majority of the cases diagnosed at a late stage after the disease has already advanced.”

Abraxane wraps traditional chemotherapy, paclitaxel, in near-nano sized shells of albumin, a protein that the tumor sees as food. The tumor uses various mechanisms to preferentially attract the albumin, which then acts like a “Trojan Horse” to release its package of chemotherapy inside the tumor. It is approved in the U.S. for metastatic breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

The pancreas is a gland behind the stomach that secretes enzymes into the upper part of the small intestine to help digestion. It also produces hormones, including insulin, which helps regulate the metabolism of sugars.

The incidence of pancreatic cancer is increasing worldwide with an estimated 279,000 cases per year, including nearly 44,000 in the U.S. in 2012, and resulting in more than 37,000 American deaths last year.

Individuals seeking information about eligibility to participate in clinical trials at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare may contact the cancer care coordinator at: 480-323-1339; toll free at 1-877-273-3713; or via email at clinicaltrials@shc.org.

medical.research

TGen-US Oncology data helps triple-negative breast cancer patients

Genomic sequencing has revealed therapeutic drug targets for difficult-to-treat, metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), according to an unprecedented study by the Translational Genomic Research Institute (TGen) and US Oncology Research.

The study is published by the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics and is currently available online.

By sequencing, or spelling out, the billions of letters contained in the genomes of 14 tumors from ethnically diverse metastatic TNBC patients, TGen and US Oncology Research investigators found recurring significant mutations and other changes in more than a dozen genes. In addition, the investigators identified mutations previously unseen in metastatic TNBC and took the sequencing data into account in selection of therapeutic protocols specific to each patient’s genetic profile.

“This study stands as a one-of-a-kind effort that has already led to potentially beneficial clinical trials, and sets the stage for future investigations,” said Dr. John Carpten, Ph.D., TGen’s Deputy Director of Basic Science and Director of TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, and the study’s senior author.

The most frequently mutated gene among the tumors (seven of 14) was the TP53 tumor suppressor, and aberrations were observed in additional tumor suppressor genes including CTNNA1, which was detected in two of six African American patients (who typically have more aggressive and treatment-resistant disease). Alterations were also seen in the ERBB4 gene, known to be involved in mammary-gland maturation during pregnancy and lactation, but not previously linked to metastatic TNBC.

The study included an “outlier analysis,” which assessed expression patterns for each tumor when compared against the other tumors examined in the study. Specific cancer genes overexpressed among tumors in the study’s cohort included: ALK, AR, ARAF, BRAF, FGFR2, GLI1, GLI2, HRAS, HSP90AA1, KRAS, MET, NOTCH2, NOTCH3, and SHH. Significantly underexpressed cancer genes included: BRCA1, BRCA2, CDKN2A, CTNNA1, DKK1, FBXW7, NF1, PTEN, and SFN.

Each tumor was genomically unique, but nine of the 14 contained alterations in one or both of two particular cellular pathways: RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK and PI3K/AKT/MTOR.  Targeted therapeutic intervention aimed at these pathways achieved impressive responses in several cases.

“Importantly, the analysis provided insights into the potential unique therapeutic vulnerabilities of each cancer,” said Dr. Joyce O’Shaughnessy, M.D., the study’s other co-lead author. Dr. O’Shaughnessy is a practicing oncologist with Texas Oncology — an affiliate of The US Oncology Network — and is the Celebrating Women Chair of Breast Cancer Research at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.

Metastatic TNBC is a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that disproportionately affects African-Americans. It is called triple-negative because tumors do not express the estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor or HER-2, the biomarkers successfully targeted in most breast cancers.

Metastatic TNBC also has a poor prognosis once the cancer has spread to other organs, with a median survival rate among metastatic patients of only one year. While TNBC accounts for only about 15 percent of all breast cancers, its more aggressive biology makes it responsible for nearly one in four deaths related to this disease.

“The nature of this disease cries out for innovative research techniques such as whole genome sequencing coupled with new tools for data analysis,” said Dr. David Craig, Ph.D., TGen’s Deputy Director of Bioinformatics, and one of the study’s co-lead authors.

“We are aware that these results are preliminary and based on a small series of patients,” said Carpten. “However, our study will pave the way for new clinical trials and novel hypotheses for future testing in a very difficult to treat cancer.”

Whole-genome sequencing of tumors and normal tissue was performed on Life Technologies Corporation’s Applied Biosystems SOLiD™ 4.0 platform, and results were validated in a CLIA-certified laboratory.

The study, “Genome and transcriptome sequencing in prospective triple negative breast cancer uncovers therapeutic vulnerabilities,” is sponsored by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and US Oncology Research with support from Life Technologies Corporation.

Molecular Cancer Therapeutics is one of several peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the 34,000-member American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the oldest and largest scientific organization in the world focused on every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research. The programs and services of the AACR foster the exchange of knowledge and new ideas among scientists dedicated to cancer research, provide training opportunities for the next generation of cancer researchers, and increase public understanding of cancer.

 

molecular

Phoenix Children’s Hospital, TGen create Molecular Medicine Institute

Phoenix Children’s Hospital announced the creation of the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine Tuesday, in a joint venture with The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The University of Arizona’s College of Medicine.

The three organizations are joining forces with the hopes of unlocking genetic codes in child, adolescent and young adult cancer patients and develop drug therapies in real time to improve the outcome and treatment in these young demographics.

“Our goal is to bring genomics to the forefront of pediatrics,” said Robert L. Meyer, Phoenix Children’s president and CEO. “Research and development of novel treatments for pediatric diseases has fallen short over past decades.”

The reason why the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine is focusing on young patients is because there have been hardly any new therapies introduced to this population in the past two decades. The new institute hopes that clinical studies on children will lead to a better understanding of specific differences between children and adults, which will hopefully lead to the development of safer, more effective and more age-appropriate drug treatments that can be provided in a faster amount of time.

“A challenge with existing molecular medicine programs is the amount of time it takes to develop a new drug or treatment,” Meyer said. “Our collaboration with TGen and University of Arizona opens the doors to making a portfolio of drugs and compounds available immediately.”

The institute will also focus their clinical studies based on underlying genetic and molecular functions of different pediatric cancers, rather than specifically on tumor type. Furthermore, physicians will then create various treatment plans specifically for each patient treated based on the drug therapy that will attack and correct the malfunctioning genes.

With the start of the new institute, a special team of physician scientists will be brought on board to help start out the genomic profiling: Dr. Timothy Triche, a pediatric pathologist and former director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles; Dr. Robert Arceci, a pediatric oncologist from Johns Hopkins University; and Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, a medical oncologist at TGen.

“We are trying to figure out a way to have children get appropriate drugs,” said Dr. Robert Arceci. “We all want to know what causes diseases and how we can treat them and I think it takes a special team of people to do this and it takes a lot of unselfish commitment.”

A founding member from whom the institute gets its name, Ronald A. Matricaria, a member of the board of directors for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, is excited and hopeful for what the new institute is capable of doing in the world of pediatric care.

“Based on my knowledge of the institute and many years of working in the medical field, I’m confident that we can chart a new course for addressing the unique needs of children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases,” Matricaria said. “We could have a huge impact on children’s live and what could be better than that.

 

medical.research

TGen Launches Website Focused on Rare Adrenal Cancer

A new website officially launched by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) provides patients and their families with 24-7 access to essential and comprehensive information on Adrenocortical Carcinoma (ACC), a rare and deadly form of cancer.

Named in memory or Kirsten Sandstrom, Kirsten’s Legacy is TGen’s research and clinical program for defeating ACC. The site includes facts about ACC, links to valuable patient resources and the latest updates on progress being made by TGen researchers and clinicians studying ACC.

To all those who knew her, Kirsten was an extraordinarily caring and loving woman. As a wife, mother, daughter and friend, Kirsten displayed a level of grace and selflessness that lifted the hearts of her family and lent them strength as she endured a 21-month struggle with ACC that claimed her life in March of 2010.

As part of a $1.5 million gift to TGen in support of ACC research, Kirsten’s parents Gary and Barbara Pasquinelli of Yuma, Arizona, worked with their son-in-law Ed Sandstrom and TGen to establish Kirsten’s Legacy. The Pasquinelli’s made their donation as a challenge gift to help encourage others to support ACC research.
“We had trouble finding information on ACC, so we established the Kirsten’s Legacy website to provide timely information for patients, their families and friends as TGen pursues better treatments and moves toward a cure for this terrible disease,” said Gary Pasquinelli. “The website enables those dealing with ACC to know immediately that they are not alone — that there is hope— a place where you can get substantial information about ACC without having to go through what we went through.”

Prior to the Pasquinelli gift and the launch of the Kirsten’s Legacy website, ACC survivor Troy Richards established TGen’s ACC program and actively raised dollars for research through his Advancing Treatment for Adrenal Cancer (ATAC) fund.
In May 2005, Richards met with TGen Drs. Daniel Von Hoff and Michael Demeure to discuss establishing TGen’s ACC Research Program. Richards also developed a website and co-founded what is now the largest ACC support group on the Web. He continues to raise funds and be an advocate by helping patients worldwide to receive the best possible care.

After learning of the Pasquinelli gift, Richards and the Pasquinelli family chose to merge their efforts and today pursue a cure for ACC through the Kirsten’s Legacy program.
“The goal of the website, the entire program for that matter, is to educate others about ACC and support TGen scientists and clinicians,’’ said Troy Richards. “Our hope is that Kirsten’s Legacy continues the work we’ve started and paves the way to improved treatments and understanding of ACC, and ultimately, leads to a cure.”
ACC is rare: less than 2 individuals in 1 million are susceptible. When the numbers are that low, few federal or philanthropic dollars flow toward studying the causes or finding a cure. That means fewer advances in diagnoses or therapeutic treatments. Also known as cancer of the adrenal cortex or ACC, TGen scientists and clinicians conduct their work with a sense of extreme urgency, knowing the fight against ACC lingers and few institutions are working to defeat this deadly cancer.

“The Kirsten’s Legacy website will enable TGen to create a community of ACC patients and advocates around the world and to share our research progress and resources,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff. “The support of Troy Richards, the Pasquinelli’s and Ed Sandstrom, serves to remind us of the power and importance of collaboration, enabling TGen’s mission against ACC.”

TGen Drs. Kimberly Bussey and Michael Demeure lead a team of scientists and clinicians who, for the first time, have completed the first whole genome sequencing of ACC tumors. This offers new insight into the possible causes of this extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer by identifying all 3 billion chemical DNA bases of ACC tumors. Researchers compare the cancer DNA to a patient’s normal DNA to discover what’s different; what mutations might cause the disease.

The ACC research team at TGen is eager to work with all investigators on efforts to improve treatments for affected patients.

Visit Kirsten’s Legacy at: kirstenslegacy.org.

medical.research

Golf tournament benefits TGen pancreatic cancer research

Nearly 450 participants, including 288 golfers, are expected Dec. 7-8 at the 10th anniversary Seena Magowitz Golf Classic, benefiting pancreatic cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The weekend charity tournament at the world-famous Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa is sponsored by the Seena Magowitz Foundation, which helps fund TGen’s global effort to eradicate pancreatic cancer, the nation’s fourth leading cause of cancer death.

The Golf Classic, which this year is expected to raise more than $500,000, also will feature celebrity emcees and two leading scientists in the field of cancer research.

“If we continue working together in a hard-fought campaign to curb this brutal disease, I’m confident that our efforts will make a life-changing difference,” said Leggett & Platt COO Karl Glassman, this year’s tournament Honorary Chairman, who lost his mother to breast cancer and a good friend to pancreatic cancer.

Following the golf tournament on Dec. 8, Derrick Hall, President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, will co-emcee an awards luncheon with journalist and television personality Tara Hitchcock.

The luncheon’s featured speakers are: Keynote Speaker Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, TGen’s Physician-In-Chief and one of the world’s leading authorities on pancreatic cancer; and Dr. Victor Velculescu, a Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

The weekend event kicks off from 6-11 p.m. Dec. 7 with a special Monte Carlo casino welcome, including live jazz from renowned trumpeter Jessie McGuire.

The golf tournament begins at 7 a.m. Dec. 8 with breakfast and registration, followed at 8:25 a.m. by McGuire’s special rendition of the National Anthem, which will begin the tournament’s shotgun start.

The luncheon — with special guests, a live auction and raffle — starts at 1 p.m.

The event caps off with an 8 p.m. Anniversary Music Concert, staring: pop artist Alyssa Bonagura, who just released a new album, Love Hard; Ira Dean, former member of the band Trick Pony; and Brooke Burrows.

“A decade ago, I don’t think any of us could have foreseen the tremendous progress that has been made by TGen to help conquer this disease,” said Roger Magowitz, President of the Magowitz Foundation, which he founded in honor of his mother, Seena, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. “The advent of TGen’s whole genome sequencing and the ability to search out each patient’s genetic vulnerability is a phenomenal biomedical advance.”

TGen’s use of whole genome sequencing in analyzing three pancreatic cancer patients was recently documented in a scientific study, funded in part by the Magowitz Foundation, and published in October by the Public Library of Science.

In addition, the Magowitz Foundation helped support a study that concluded in November that a new cancer drug combination demonstrated significant improvement in overall survival of late-stage pancreatic cancer patients, according to a clinical trial led by Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Cancer Center Clinical Trials, a partnership with TGen.

“TGen’s groundbreaking pancreatic cancer research receives a tremendous boost from the Seena Magowitz Foundation’s annual December events,” said Michael Bassoff, President of the non-profit TGen Foundation. “Industry leaders like Leggett & Platt and Mattress Firm are making a difference in the lives of pancreatic cancer patients today.”

Pancreatic cancer annually takes the lives of more than 37,000 Americans. A staggering 74 percent of those diagnosed die within the first year, and only 6 percent survive more than five years.

Major tournament sponsors include: Leggett & Platt, Mattress Firm, Sealy, Mattress Discounters, Sleep Inc., Serta, Comfort Revolution, Ellman Family Vineyards, General Wholesale Beer Company, Morley Company, Simmons, Raymond James, Customatic, and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

A golf foursome, including the welcome and luncheon, is $1,750. Individual golfers are $450. For those who don’t play golf, and still want to participate, the welcome is $100 per person, while the luncheon is $150 per person.

Corporate sponsorships are available, ranging from $500 to $100,000. Sponsors may contact: Roger Magowitz at 602-524-7636 or roger@seenamagowitzfoundation.org; Liz McBeth, Tournament Director, at 757-773-7622 or liz@seenamagowitzfoundation.org; or Alison Bassoff, Vice President of Development, 602-361-7006 or Allison@seenamagowitzfoundation.org.

medical.research

TGen, Scottsdale Healthcare lead pancreatic cancer study

A new cancer drug combination demonstrated significant improvement in overall survival of late-stage pancreatic cancer patients compared to those receiving standard treatment, according to results of a Phase III clinical trial led by physicians from Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Cancer Center Clinical Trials, a partnership with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Physicians at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare were first to design a clinical trial to determine the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane) in combination with the standard drug gemcitabine in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Results of that multicenter study chaired by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff were encouraging enough that it led to one of the largest international studies ever done in pancreatic cancer, with 861 patients.

Full results are expected to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2013 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in Jan. 24-26 in San Francisco.

“This is a great example of rapid bench to bedside development of new treatments for cancer. We’re ecstatic that we will have a new treatment for patients with late stage pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Von Hoff, international lead investigator and Chief Scientific Officer for the Virginia G. Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen’s Physician-In-Chief.

The pancreas is a gland behind the stomach that secretes enzymes into the upper part of the small intestine to help digestion. It also produces hormones, including insulin, which helps regulate the metabolism of sugars. Advanced pancreatic cancer is fourth most common cause of cancer death in the United States and throughout the world. It is a difficult to diagnose and treat cancer with the lowest survival rates among all cancer types.

Nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane) is an albumin-bound formulation of paclitaxel, produced by Celgene Corp. Dr. Von Hoff said that results of the MPACT (Metastatic Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Clinical Trial) study will lead Celgene to submit for FDA approval.

“Pancreatic cancer incidence is increasing worldwide with almost 220,000 cases per year, and we are optimistic that this will have worldwide impact for treating advanced pancreatic cancer,” added Dr. Ramesh Ramanathan, Medical Director of Virginia G. Cancer Center Clinical Trials at Scottsdale Healthcare and principal investigator for the United States.

Dr. Von Hoff credited the support of Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation, Stand Up to Cancer and the Seena Magowitz Foundation for advancing the study at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare. He noted that TGen and International Genomics Consortium scientists in collaboration with scientists from Abraxis Bioscience found that in pancreatic cancer, an albumin-binding protein called SPARC was present at high levels in cells within the pancreatic tumor microenvironment. They hypothesized that the albumin formulation of nab-paclitaxel may be taken up by tumor and surrounding cells with high SPARC expression.

Individuals seeking information about eligibility to participate in clinical trials at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare may contact the cancer care coordinator at 480-323-1339; toll free at 1-877-273-3713 or via email at clinicaltrials@shc.org.

carbon

TGen, NAU awarded $2 million to study biodiversity

Potential connections between the biodiversity of soil microorganisms and the carbon cycle will be studied by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) under a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The TGen-NAU project was one of 14 recently awarded a grant by NSF under the Dimensions of Biodiversity program.

“The work will test the idea that biodiversity is a fundamental driver of the carbon cycle, connecting microbes to the entire Earth system,” said Dr. Bruce Hungate, Professor of Biology and a Director in NAU’s Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research.

The project will investigate “a surprising response” to changes in soil carbon levels: When new carbon enters the soil, a chain reaction leads to the breakdown of older soil carbon that otherwise would have remained stable, Dr. Hungate said.

“Current theory does not explain this chain reaction,” Dr. Hungate said. “The project will explore new dimensions connecting the diversity of the tree of life with the carbon cycle.”

TGen’s role in the project leverages advances in metagenomic sequencing — spelling out the DNA code of microbial samples from the environment  —made by Dr. Lance Price, Director of TGen’s Center for Microbiomics and Human Health, and Dr. Cindy M. Liu, a medical doctor and researcher at both TGen and NAU, who now works for Johns Hopkins University.

“This project is a natural extension of our efforts to understand how the human microbiome responds to injuries, surgeries and chemicals,” Dr. Price said. “Here, we’re investigating how the planet’s microbiome responds to excess carbon inputs, which may in turn loop back to negatively affect public health.”

The work is important, Dr. Hungate said, because soil carbon is a major reservoir in the global carbon cycle, storing about three times the amount of carbon contained in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Some soil processes promote carbon storage, locking it away in stable forms, resistant to decay.

133885164

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.’’

153797659

TGen Launches Center for Rare Childhood Disorders

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today announced the creation of a new center that could have life changing effects on the lives of potentially thousands of children and their families.

The TGen Center for Rare Childhood Disorders (C4RCD) will harness the latest technologic leaps in genome sequencing to pinpoint the causes of rare childhood disorders that largely remain a mystery to modern medicine.

“We envision a Center that leverages today’s genomic technology toward diagnosing children with a baffling array of seriously debilitating, and often lethal, symptoms for which there is no known cause or treatment, let alone a cure. In many cases, it’s merely a collection of symptoms,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, President and Scientific Director of TGen. “Through the C4RCD, TGen has a unique opportunity to significantly improve the lives of these children and their families.”

The Honorable Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer praised the new TGen initiative as a major step in meeting the healthcare needs of Arizonans, and as a fundamental building block of the state’s burgeoning biotechnology sector.

“With its new Center for Rare Childhood Disorders, TGen continues to position Arizona as a world-class leader in bioscience and research,” said Gov. Brewer. “More importantly, this program holds the promise of bringing much-needed certainty and hope to the lives of thousands of Arizona children and their families. I commend TGen for its pioneering work that is making a real difference in the lives of Arizonans.”

Resolving the plight of one 12-year-old Phoenix girl named Shelby helped pave the way for C4RCD. Shelby was once a wheelchair-bound patient who for nearly a decade had difficulty walking, talking, holding her head up, and who had difficulty swallowing, and even breathing.

Shelby’s sequenced genome showed she had a problem making dopamine, a key brain chemical that helps regulate movement, muscle control and balance. Within a few months of receiving a medication to address her dopamine deficiency, Shelby was able to do away with her wheelchair. Now, she can talk, walk; enjoy restaurants, shopping and school.

“For us, TGen has been a miracle,” said Shelby’s mother, Renee, who hopes TGen’s C4RCD will bring hope to other parents, as well. “I am truly ecstatic. Shelby and I are very happy about it. It gives parents a place to go when it may seem that they’ve lost all hope. The scientists at TGen are amazing.”

Often, there are just a few children, or even a single child, with a particular set of symptoms. Collectively, according to the National Institutes of Health, there are close to 7,000 rare diseases and about 25 million people in the U.S. have one.

“Too often, the parents of these children are left with nowhere to turn. They often are simply prescribed medications for their child, such as anti-seizure drugs, that only address the symptoms,” said Dr. David Craig, TGen’s Deputy Director of Bioinformatics and Co-Director of the C4RCD.

“At TGen, we now have the tools to sequence the entire genome of these children, in a relatively short time and at ever-lower costs. Through this examination of the billions of chemical letters that spell out each human being’s unique genome, and analyzing all the potential genetic changes, or mutations, we now have the ability to potentially identify the root cause of each child’s condition,” said Dr. Craig.

Understanding what is causing the disease or condition enables TGen to consider treatment options that could best help each child.

“Largely, these families have not had many answers. They’ve seen a lot of doctors. They’ve run a lot of tests. If they’re lucky, their disease might have a name,” said Dr. Matthew Huentelman, Head of TGen’s Neurobehavioral Research Unit and Co-Director with Dr. Craig of the C4RCD. “We hope to provide these families — first and foremost — with answers. We strongly believe those answers will be found in their genome.”

Once a genetic target is identified, C4RCD will look for an existing FDA-approved drug that could be repurposed to treat the rare disorder.

If there is no obvious approved drug, C4RCD will develop a custom screening approach to prioritize approved drugs in order of their potential effectiveness. In this fashion, it may be possible to help improve the quality of life for these children quickly without the time-consuming development of an entirely new pharmaceutical agent.

TGen’s C4RCD has four major components: 1) Clinical evaluation and genomic diagnosis. 2) Counseling, and optimizing conventional therapy. 3) Novel therapy development. 4) Community outreach.

Each child will be clinically evaluated and have their genome tested, including the use of whole genome sequencing, which spells out the entire 3 billion letters of each individual’s DNA genetic code.

“One of the important things is to collect available clinical information, and accurately define the phenotype, or problem, causing the child’s issues. That has to be framed very carefully, correctly. This initial step is critical in order to analyze the genome sequencing data,” said Dr. Vinodh Narayanan, Medical Director of C4RCD.

“A precise genetic or molecular diagnosis is of vital importance for the entire family of our patients. But that is just the beginning. We want to use this genetic information to understand more about the particular disorder, and develop novel approaches to treatment. That is what is going to differentiate us from other services — complete integration of the clinical center and the genomic research lab,” said Dr. Narayanan.

Dr. Trent said that there is a critical unmet need in the medical community, which only now can begin to be addressed through the advent of new genomic technologies.

“We continue to be amazed at the way families of children with debilitating conditions are able to find each other, share stories of their victories and of what is wrong, and try to come up with answers,” said Dr. Trent. “We hope to become an active partner and leader in these communities as we learn from the families and patients, and then try to come up with new and better answers for these children — today.”

For information about TGen’s Center for Rare Childhood Disorders, please go to c4rcd.org or call 1-855-343-8611.

Cancer-Research

Philanthropists establish $100,000 cancer challenge

Through Sept. 30, donations for ovarian cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) will be matched — up to $100,000 — by philanthropists Lynn and Foster Friess.

The challenge is in memory of Taryn Ritchey, the 22-year-old daughter of Judy Jost of Cave Creek, Ariz., a personal assistant to Foster Friess. In 2007, Taryn lost her battle with ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women.

“Taryn is gone physically, but her spirit remains. She is always with me, always in my heart. And, she continues to inspire the doctors and researchers at TGen,” her mother said. “My daughter never gave up, and neither has TGen, which continues to advance cutting-edge genetic technology in pursuit of better cancer treatments; and perhaps, someday — we can pray — a cure.”

TGen’s advanced genomics-based treatments, using molecular DNA profiling, gave Taryn another five months of life — months that still mean the world to her family.

“It gave us, and Taryn, hope.  She never gave up hope.  We never did, and neither did TGen,” Judy Jost said.

Lynn and Foster Friess, who split their time between Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jackson, Wyo., have previously donated more than $400,000 to TGen for ovarian cancer research.

“We continue to support ovarian cancer research in memory of Judy’s daughter, Taryn, because we are confident that TGen can win the battle against ovarian cancer, and save lives,” Foster Friess said.

The Friess Family Foundation will match contributions, dollar-for-dollar — up to $100,000 — to TGen’s ovarian cancer research. The challenge will end Sept. 30, 2012.

““The philanthropic leadership of Lynn and Foster Friess is a tremendous inspiration for our scientific researchers, as well as our patients and contributors,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff.

For more information or to donate, go to www.tgenfoundation.org or contact Erin Massey, Director of Development, at emassey@tgen.org or 602-343-8470.

Ivy Foundation

Ivy Foundation Contributes $10 Million To TGen For Research

The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation has awarded $10 million in grants for two groundbreaking brain cancer research projects at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

One $5-million-project is titled “Outliers in Glioblastoma Outcome: Moving the curve forward.” This five-year investigation seeks to discover why approximately two percent of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) patients — the outliers — live far beyond the average survival time of 18 months. GBM is the most common and aggressive form of malignant primary brain tumor; 98 percent of people diagnosed with GBM live less than 18 months.

“A major challenge with brain cancer is that people survive such a short time,” said Catherine (Bracken) Ivy, founder and president of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation. “If this research enables patients to live longer, clinicians and researchers will gain a better understanding of how this disease works, which will bring us time to move closer to a cure.”

“The tireless and dedicated support of programs like the Ivy Foundation is helping transform ideas into medical reality,” said TGen President and Research Director Dr. Jeffrey Trent.

By precisely identifying the billions of molecular building blocks in each patient’s DNA through whole genome sequencing, TGen researchers hope to discover the genetic differences between those patients who survive only a few months, and those who survive longer because their brain cancer develops more slowly.

Using these genetic targets, TGen researchers will identify those patients most likely to benefit from the current standard of care, and those who might best benefit from alternative or new experimental treatments.

“If we can identify patients who will likely only survive a few months on current standard of care regimens we can then prioritize those patients for personalized clinical trials,” said Dr. David Craig, TGen’s deputy director of bioinformatics and one of the project’s principal investigators.

In the second $5-million project, “Genomics Enabled Medicine in Glioblastoma Trial,” TGen and its clinical partners will lead first-in-patient clinical trial studies that will test promising new drugs that might extend the survival of GBM patients.

This multi-part study will take place in clinics across the country and TGen laboratories.

This project begins with a pilot study of 15 patients, using whole genome sequencing to study their tumor samples to help physicians determine what drugs might be most beneficial.

To support molecularly informed clinical decisions, TGen labs also will examine genomic data from at least 536 past cases of glioblastoma, as well as tumor samples from new cases, developing tools that will produce more insight into how glioblastoma tumors grow and survive. TGen also will conduct a series of pioneering lab tests to measure cell-by-cell responses to various drugs.

“We expect to identify genes that play a crucial role in this cancer’s survival and that may be crucial to the survival of other types of cancer as well,” said Dr. Michael Bittner, co-director of TGen’s Computational Biology Division.

To get new treatments to patients as quickly as possible, this five-year study will include a feasibility study involving up to 30 patients, followed by Phase II clinical trials with as many as 70 patients. TGen intends to team with the Ivy Early Phase Clinical Trials Consortium that includes: University of California, San Francisco; University of California, Los Angeles; the MD Anderson Cancer Center; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; University of Utah; and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

The results of these clinical trials should not only help the patients who join them, but also provide the data needed for FDA approval and availability of new drugs that could benefit tens of thousands of brain cancer patients in the future.

“Working with physicians, the project will aim to get new drugs to patients faster, deliver combinations of drugs that might be more effective than using a single drug, quickly identify which therapies don’t work, and accelerate discovery of ones that might prove promising for future development,” said Dr. John Carpten, TGen’s deputy director of basic science, director of TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, and another of the project’s principal investigators.

In addition to helping patients as quickly as possible, the projects should significantly expand Arizona’s network of brain cancer experts.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to find more solutions for the patient diagnosed with brain cancer,” said Ivy, who also is working to establish additional clinical trials in the Phoenix area, giving local patients more treatment options. “The clinical trials are very exciting because they can impact the patient today.”

For more information on the Ivy Foundation, visit their website www.ivyfoundation.org.

forma therapeutics

FORMA Therapeutics Teams With TGen Drug Development

FORMA Therapeutics and TGen Drug Development (TD2) announced an agreement to jointly develop transformative cancer therapies, leveraging the synergistic capabilities of both organizations.

“TD2 brings preclinical and clinical development capabilities to FORMA, filling the missing piece in our strategy to become a fully-integrated research and development organization, leading the creation of breakthrough medicines for cancer patients”

TD2 is a subsidiary of the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a world-renowned biomedical research institute.

FORMA and TD2 also announced that Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., F.A.C.P., TGen’s Distinguished Professor and Physician-in-Chief, and Stephen Gately, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer at TD2, will serve as clinical advisors to FORMA.

FORMA Therapeutics targets essential cancer pathways to create transformative, small molecule cancer therapies. Its focus on early identification of potent tool compounds helps facilitate target validation, enabling the creation of a robust pipeline of new therapies in areas such as tumor metabolism, protein-protein interactions and epigenetics.

TD2’s mission is to facilitate innovative drug development and move new, targeted compounds to patients as quickly as possible. TD2 applies cutting-edge preclinical tools, streamlined and efficient regulatory processes and unique, targeted clinical trial designs and strategies. The combination of cutting-edge science, clinical development expertise and access to patients will accelerate the development of new agents for patients.

“I am excited about the potential of this relationship between FORMA and TD2,” said Dr. Von Hoff. “It will accelerate the creation of new molecules that could be placed in research programs, such as our US Oncology Research Phase I program, further accelerating development and getting the right treatment to the right patient as soon as possible.”

“TD2 brings preclinical and clinical development capabilities to FORMA, filling the missing piece in our strategy to become a fully-integrated research and development organization, leading the creation of breakthrough medicines for cancer patients,” said Steven Tregay, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of FORMA. “We welcome Drs. Von Hoff and Gately as advisors and their unprecedented experience and networks in oncology drug development.”

“FORMA’s pioneering approach to oncology small molecule drug discovery has been prolific in tackling intractable targets and establishing industry partnerships,” said Dr. Von Hoff. “We look forward to bringing the experience of our team to the FORMA team to guide its discovery programs and develop these important new drugs for patients.”

TD2 has helped transition more than 40 companies from discovery to clinical development over the past five years, and TD2 has collective experience in performing clinical studies on more than 400 new anti-cancer agents

“Our oncology discovery programs span more than 30 drug targets per year, and we need a partner to help direct the right drugs to the right patient groups,” said Kenneth Bair, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Research and Development of FORMA Therapeutics. “The TD2 team provides unique access to genetically selected patient populations that will help us both discover and test personalized therapeutics.”

For more information on FORMA Therapeutics and TGen Drug Development, visit FORMA Therapeutics’s website at formatherapeutics.com and visit TGen Drug Development’s website td2.org.

man looking at molecular structure model

Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Breaking New Ground

Arizona’s bioscience roadmap has helped guide the state into the future.

A political breakthrough, not a scientific one, may be the biggest spark for the Valley’s burgeoning bioscience industry.

“The bioscience industry is critical to our economic future,” says Greg Stanton, who took over as the new mayor of Phoenix in January. “While other industries have lost jobs during the recession, bioscience created them. I am proud to have been a leader in supporting bioscience industries. … As mayor, I will continue that leadership — building a diverse, robust economy with quality high-wage jobs for our future.”

In his inaugural remarks, Stanton said that his first priority as mayor is forming a new collaboration with Arizona State University, Mayo Clinic Hospital and others in the private sector to develop a major bioscience hub in northeast Phoenix.

The Desert Ridge Bioscience Technology Collaborative will be built around the 210-acre Mayo campus. The area Stanton hopes to develop into a bioscience hub is the area between 56th and 64th streets, Loop 101 and the Central Arizona Project canal. The mayor hopes to draw higher education institutions, research and development facilities, and technology-based businesses. “In over a decade of public service, Greg Stanton has always fought to support the bioscience industry,” says Robert S. Green, longtime Arizona bioscience advocate and past president of the Arizona BioIndustry Association. “His consistent leadership has been, and will continue to be, vitally important to the future economic growth of our state.”

The Desert Ridge Bioscience Technology Collaborative will be the second centralized bioscience hub for Phoenix. The city already has a bioscience high school, the University of Arizona’s Phoenix medical school, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), which has spurred economic growth downtown. Stanton hopes to recreate the same success in northeast Phoenix, creating a second bioscience employment center for the city.

Stanton’s goals of bringing more high-wage jobs to Phoenix while building the city’s bioscience industry go hand in hand. Bioscience workers in Arizona earn an annual salary of $57,360, on average, compared with $42,090 for all private-sector employees, according to the Flinn Foundation. And average annual bioscience wages in Arizona have increased 47 percent since 2002.

The Desert Ridge Bioscience announcement also comes as the state enters the the final year of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, a 10-year-plan to make the state’s bioscience sector globally competitive. Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap was launched in 2002 by a comprehensive study by Battelle, the U.S. leader in positioning regions to excel in technology and the sciences. Commissioned by the Flinn Foundation, the study concluded that Arizona possessed many of the essential elements needed to become a global leader in niche areas in the biosciences, but must strengthen its biomedical-research base and build a critical mass of bioscience firms and jobs.

The roadmap, led by a 75-member steering committee of statewide bioscience leaders, specifically aims to build research infrastructure, build a critical mass of bioscience firms, enhance the business environment for bioscience firms, and prepare a workforce of educated citizens.

Arizona Bioscience Timeline

The following is a timeline of significant events that happened in the bioscience industry in Arizona since 2001.

2001

• Flinn Foundation commits to 10 years of major funding (a minimum of $50 million) to advance Arizona’s bioscience sector.

2002

• Gov. Dee Hull appoints a task force to raise funds to attract the International Genomics Consortium (IGC) and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

• Dr. Jeffrey Trent announces IGC’s move to Arizona and establishment of TGen, spurred by a $90 million package assembled from collaborating public and private sources.

• Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, commissioned by the Flinn Foundation and drafted by Battelle, outlines recommendations for Arizona to become a national biosciences leader.

2003

• Gov. Janet Napolitano creates the Governor’s Council on Innovation and Technology to advance technology-related growth and economic development.

• TGen breaks ground on its downtown-Phoenix headquarters.

• The state Legislature approves $440 million for research-facility construction.

• Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee, piloted by former Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza, holds its inaugural meeting.

2004

• Gov. Janet Napolitano, UA President Peter Likins, ASU President Michael Crow, and Regent Gary Stuart sign memorandum of understanding to create the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, to include the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with ASU.

• Maricopa County voters approve a bond issue that includes $100 million to expand bioscience and healthcare training for Maricopa County Colleges.

• Biodesign Institute’s first building, a $73 million, 170,000-square-foot facility, is dedicated.

2005

• TGen headquarters opens at the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

• Mayo Clinic opens a heart-transplantation program on its Scottsdale campus, becoming Maricopa County’s first hospital approved for performing heart transplants.

2006

• Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust commits $50 million to advance personalized medicine in Maricopa County.

• Arizona launches the Biozona brand to promote the state’s bioscience industry.

2007

• Cancer Treatment Centers of America selects Goodyear as the site for a 210,000-square-foot cancer hospital, the for-profi t company’s first hospital west of the Rocky Mountains.

• Classes begin for 24 students in the inaugural class of the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with ASU.

• Bioscience High School opens. The specialty high school focuses on science education, in collaboration with downtown-Phoenix academic and scientifi c communities.

2008

• ASU’s SkySong opens in Scottsdale; mixed-use development houses ASU commercialization and tech-transfer programs plus local and international companies.

• Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl named “Legislator of the Year” for 2007-2008 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the nation’s largest biotech trade group.

• Gov. Janet Napolitano announces formation of the Arizona STEM Education Center to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

2009

• TGen announces strategic alliance with Van Andel Research Institute of Grand Rapids, Mich. Jeffrey Trent assumes leadership of both institutions.

• Covance Inc. opens $175 million drug-development laboratory in Chandler. Facility may ultimately provide 2,000 high-wage jobs.

• A study of Arizona’s bioscience sector by Battelle finds that bio accounted for $12.5 billion in revenues in 2007 and more than 87,400 jobs.

• Chandler approves $5.7 million to establish bioscience- and high-tech-focused Innovations Technology Incubator.

2010

• VisionGate Inc., a Seattle medical-imaging company focused on early detection of cancer, announces that it is relocating its headquarters to the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

• Gov. Jan Brewer announces the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority, a public-private partnership designed to attract firms in key growth areas, including the biosciences.

• The International Genomics Consortium secures $59 million in federal contracts to continue its role as the biospecimen core resource for the Cancer Genome Atlas Project.

2011

• Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon announces that Phoenix will be the headquarters for the nonprofit Institute for Advanced Health, founded by billionaire biotech entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong.

• Phoenix Children’s Hospital opens its new 11-story, $588 million facility, accommodating

additional patients and new opportunity for recruitment of subspecialist researcher-physicians.

• An economic-impact report finds that for every $1 invested in Science Foundation Arizona by the state of Arizona, SFAz has returned $3.15 in investments from the private sector, venture capital, federal grants, and other sources.

• Chandler’s Innovations Technology Incubator, open a year, reached full capacity. Tenants include startup firms in the fields of biotechnology, bioinformatics, software design, nanotechnology, and medical devices.

2012

• Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton says that his first priority as mayor is forming a new collaboration with Arizona State University, Mayo Clinic Hospital and others in the private sector to develop the Desert Ridge Bioscience Technology Collaborative in northeast Phoenix.

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

Who To Watch: Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent

Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent
President and Research Director
TGen

Since it was founded in 2002, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has been helping people with neurological disorders and such diseases as cancer and diabetes through business spin-offs and commercialization of its research. Today, TGen’s president and scientific director, Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent, believes this Phoenix nonprofit has built an “underlying bioscience engine” in Arizona.

In fact, with TGen helping to attract and retain a knowledge-based work force, Arizona’s bioscience-research sector has held its own during the recession and even expanded. “As far as jobs are concerned, bioscience is still an area that shows growth in Arizona,” Trent says. That doesn’t mean the recession did not affect the bioscience sector as a whole.

“The area that has fallen the furthest is venture capital to seed new company formation,” Trent says. “There is no question Arizona has been behind the curve in venture capital for biomedical science.”

Last year, TGen announced the formation of its 10th business, but Trent says the organization must “look around the world for funding for these companies.” This is a national problem, he adds, but he is optimistic it will improve this year. Philanthropic donations for bioscience research also slowed during the economic downturn, but Trent already sees a return of that type of funding and is hopeful it will continue to gather momentum this year.
Still, TGen has managed to prosper.

“In less than three years, we doubled our economic impact, doubled employment and increased commercial activities 375 percent,” Trent says. “The biomedical sector and nonprofits are being hit as hard as anyone (by the recession), but we were able to not only maintain, but also to grow the last two or three years.”

In an independent analysis, Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburgh research firm, concluded that TGen generates an annual economic impact of $77.4 million, including spin-off businesses and commercialization. TGen’s economic clout is expected to reach $321.3 million annually by 2025, according to Tripp Umbach. Again, including business formation and commercialization in its calculations, Tripp Umbach reported that TGen produced $5.7 million in state taxes, created 461 full-time jobs and generated $14.07 for every dollar invested by the state in 2008.

In addition to federal funding and donations, and grants from businesses, foundations and individuals, TGen receives $5.5 million a year from state tobacco taxes. In 2025, the state’s return on investment is expected to reach $58.42 per dollar invested, tax revenues are estimated to climb to $27.4 million, and TGen is expected to generate more than 4,000 jobs when business and commercialization activities are factored in.

TGen reached several milestones last year, but from Trent’s point of view, the standout was its affiliation with the Van Andel Research Institute, a global organization headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“This affiliation brings a remarkably complementary scientific skill set under one roof,” Trent says. “Van Andel is basically a discovery engine and TGen gets to capture that and move it to a new test or treatment for patients. We are constantly renewing information that we can pull toward the patient.”

www.tgen.org


Arizona Business Magazine

January 2010

cress in lab

Researchers At The Translational Genomics Research Institute Have Embarked On A Number Of Cancer Studies

While scientists at the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) investigate diseases of the brain and heart, as well as deadly pathogens, most of the nonprofit biomedical institute’s research is devoted to seeking the genetic causes of cancer.

TGen’s central goal is to discover which genes within our 3-billion-base DNA either protect us from cancer or allow cancers to form.

This year, TGen has been involved in two cancer research initiatives that have potentially far-reaching implications.

In May, Stand Up to Cancer awarded an $18-million grant to TGen and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, TGen’s physician-in-chief, and Dr. Craig B. Thompson, director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, will lead a three-year investigation into new approaches in treating pancreatic cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

In April, a study sponsored by TGen, Scottsdale Healthcare and Caris Dx showed that molecular profiling of patients can identify specific treatments for individuals, helping to keep their cancer in check for significantly longer periods and in some cases even shrink tumors. Von Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, released the study’s results at the 100th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Denver.

TGen this year also has made major headlines on a monthly basis following other discoveries and partnerships that could lead to new treatments for cancer patients.

In August, Dr. Glen Weiss, who works for TGen and Scottsdale Healthcare, announced two significant advances in treating lung cancer. Weiss, an associate investigator in TGen’s cancer and cell biology division and director of thoracic oncology at TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare, made both announcements at the 13th World Conference on Lung Cancer in San Francisco. In one presentation, Weiss described research that eventually could help prevent lung cancer from spreading to the brain. In the second presentation, Weiss discussed the results of phase I clinical trials for a drug called TH-302 developed by Threshold Pharmaceuticals. The trials, conducted at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare, found that 75 percent of patients with small cell lung cancer who were treated only with TH-302 “achieved stable disease or better.” The trials also found that 67 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer who were treated with a combination of TH-302 and other chemotherapy agents “achieved stable disease or better.”

In July, an international scientific team led by TGen received a $1 million grant from the Melanoma Research Alliance to study skin cancer. The team, led by Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen’s president and research director, will conduct a two-year study called, Identification of Novel Melanoma Risk Genes Using High-Throughput Genomics.

Also in July, California and Arizona researchers identified a gene variant that carries nearly twice the risk of developing an increasingly common type of blood cancer, according to a study published by the science journal, Nature Genetics. Investigators at the University of California, Berkeley and at TGen found that mutations in a gene called C6orf15, or STG, are associated with the risk of developing follicular lymphoma. This is a cancer of the body’s disease-fighting network and has an incidence rate that has nearly doubled in the past three decades.

In May, the opening of a new breast health center next to John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital provided significant new research opportunities for TGen. The 9,000-square-foot Breast Health and Research Center includes a tumor biorepository for TGen that will aid the research institute in discovering new ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer, which affects one in every eight American women.

In April, TGen researchers announced they might have found a way to stop the often rapid spread of deadly brain tumors. One gene, named NHERF-1, may be a serious target for drugs that could prevent malignant tumors from rapidly multiplying and invading other parts of the brain, according to a cover story in Neoplasia, an international journal of cancer research.

In February, TGen and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) announced they would forge a strategic alliance to enable both to maximize their worldwide contributions to science and health. The partnership between TGen and the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based VARI will enable both institutes to speed up their mutual goals of moving research discoveries about cancer and other debilitating medical conditions from laboratories to patient care as quickly as possible.

TGen’s efforts are also international. The institute is partnering with the small European country of Luxembourg to help develop the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg (IBBL). In addition, TGen is part of the first IBBL demonstration project, Luxembourg Project Lung Cancer, in collaboration with the Partnership for Personalized Medicine.

Steve Yozwiak is a senior science writer at TGen, www.tgen.org.

Katie Pushor - AZ Business Magazine October/November 2006

CEO Katie Pushor Adds Fresh Ideas To Greater Phoenix Chamber Of Commerce

New President and CEO Katie Pushor adds fresh ideas to Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce


Katie Pushor gets a rush as she looks out of her 27th floor office, taking in the booming development in downtown Phoenix. The president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce mentions the expanding ASU campus, the expanding convention center and the TGen headquarters. “I just like to see what’s going on,” says Pushor, who took the helm of the 4,000-member chamber early this year.

“The most important thing I bring is the knowledge of actually running a business, being in business in the Valley for 27 years, and I understand the challenges that business owners and executives face,” Pushor says. “When we look at programs or events or opportunities we might have here at the chamber, I am able to say, ‘When I was in the business community, would that have had value for me? Is that something I would have wanted to go to?’”

Pushor agrees with others who say her leadership style is “calm and collaborative.” But she feels she is most noted for building superior management teams, “and getting accomplished through a team, what you could never accomplish through a collection of individuals.”

She’s also process-oriented. “I see structure,” she says. “Here at the chamber, I’ve been very interested in understanding our business processes and improving them so that they can better serve the needs of our growing community.”

Her main strength, Pushor says, is the diversity of her experience, but that’s not all. “My genuine interest in people and wanting their business to be successful is probably my greatest strength,” she says. “That’s what provides my motivation and passion when I come to work each day. I love to hear about other people’s business models, I like to understand what makes it work, how they get their customers, what their profit margin is, what their challenges are.”

Not surprisingly, Pushor says her weakness is impatience. “I’m able to see exactly what needs to get done, and I have a hard time understanding why it wasn’t done yesterday,” she says.

Working at the Arizona Lottery provided Pushor with a bridge to her current role. The Lottery is a quasi-public business that deals with 2,600 retail outlets, does a lot of consumer advertising and acts like a privately-held business, but is bound by legislative mandate.

“It was an opportunity for me to learn what it’s like to work with an administration and with elected officials and how to work within a legislative cycle,” she says. “And how a great deal of our value to the business community is advocating for them within the legislative and executive branches.”

Since coming on board at the Phoenix Chamber, Pushor has made it her business to meet with chambers and other groups in the Valley, such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and other economic development officials.

“That has helped me understand what they do, and helped me to differentiate in my mind what we’re doing,” she says. “What is the unique slot that we’re fitting in and where can we be of help to other people? Where can we join forces? A lot of it is communication and to be willing to be a student, and not come in and think you know all the answers.”

While high-tech is a key driving force of the Arizona economy, and a sector where Pushor excelled for several years, she now takes a broader view. “What the chamber really does is accelerate business growth and retention within the Valley,” she says. “What’s different about us is we look horizontally across the Valley. We don’t see you only as a bioscience company or only as a technology company or only as an agricultural company. We see you as a business partner.”

So the focus is on the challenges that all businesses face, such as workers’’ compensation, safety, human resource issues and employee retention. Pushor says her mission is to get the word out to non-member businesses about the services the chamber provides. “That’s why they hired me,” she says.

And she emphasizes that the chamber is not competing with business recruitment organizations. “They’re looking out of state, out of the country, to bring people here,” Pushor says. “We want you to start here and stay here and grow here. If they bring the fish in, then we’re the aquarium.”


Quick Facts about Katie Pushor

Katie Pushor’s resume reads like a been-there, done-that array of business and executive experience. She came to the Greater Phoenix Chamber from the Arizona Lottery, where under her leadership, revenues and profits soared. Beginning her career as a CPA, Pushor has started and operated two small businesses, held several executive positions at MicroAge starting in 1989, and in 2002, co-authored a book, “Into the Boardroom.”



Arizona Business Magazine October/November 2006