Thursday, April 26, 2007

U.S. cancer group launches mass cancer study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The American Cancer Society said it was looking for half a million volunteers willing to let researchers watch them for the next 20 years to see if they get cancer. The aim is to match similar big studies in Europe and Asia that are looking on a large scale for the environmental and lifestyle factors that cause cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. "This type of study involves hundreds of thousands of people, with diverse backgrounds, followed for many years, with collection of biological specimens and assessments of dietary, lifestyle and environmental exposures," Eugenia Calle, managing director of analytic epidemiology at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement. "It also requires active follow-up to discover if and when study participants develop cancer."

The group will recruit men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. They will give blood to be tested and answer questionnaires at various times over the next 20 years. Similar big studies have confirmed the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, shown that obesity increases the risk of several cancers, and linked aspirin use to a lower death rate from colon cancer. They have also found evidence that defied conventional wisdom, such as the Women's Health Initiative study that found hormone replacement therapy actually raises the risk of breast cancer, stroke, and heart attack.

Friday, April 13, 2007

TGen North expands Arizona’s bioscience corridor

With bio-terrorism a stark reality in today's world, understanding and combating this threat is essential for the nation's security. Today, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Northern Arizona University (NAU) and a host of elected officials celebrated the formal opening of TGen North, the new pathogen genomics and biodefense research facility in Flagstaff. The facility joins the ranks of a number of facilities across the country today whose research centers on the detection and prevention of biological threats. Although operational for the past year, today's event marked the move to TGen North's permanent facility that contains more than 4,500 square feet of state-of-the-art research laboratories and office space. "Opening the doors of TGen North is a concrete step toward bringing new bioscience jobs and opportunities to the people of northern Arizona and furthers the State's efforts toward building out the bioscience corridor," said Congressman Renzi, whose support was key to planning and launching TGen North. "The unique work done at TGen North is dedicated to improving public health and biosecurity for our nation."

TGen North researchers use the latest in genomic technology to develop smarter and faster diagnostics for infectious diseases, including the use of new analytical tools to create better therapies and new vaccines.

Dr. Bert Weinstein, Former Associate Director of Biology and Biotechnology Research Programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said, "This new TGen North facility builds upon a decade of critical biodefense and forensic work by the scientific team in Northern Arizona and will help our country in the battle against terrorists and naturally emerging diseases."

TGen North is comprised of three research centers: (1) Center for Public Health and Clinical Pathogens, (2) Center for Dangerous Pathogens, and (3) Center for Pathogen Bioinformatics. "The advances being developed at TGen North will help doctors-from our local hospitals to the battlefield-to not only quickly identify dangerous pathogens, but to better characterize the nature of those pathogens by identifying genetic markers that cause antibiotic resistance or increased virulence," said nationally recognized biosafety expert Dr. Paul Keim, Director of TGen's Pathogen Genomics Division and Professor of Biology and Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology at NAU.

TGen North's initial research activities are focused on common infectious diseases like influenza and valley fever, important hospital infections like drug-resistant staphylococcus, and a number of bioterrorism agents, including tularemia and plague. "TGen North represents our ongoing commitment to all of Arizona," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, President and Scientific Director of TGen. "The biodefense and public health research we are doing at TGen North is a direct expansion of our mission to provide earlier diagnostics, in this case to dangerous pathogens."

TGen North is a collaborative effort between TGen and NAU. As such, several joint and adjunct TGen-NAU faculty members staff the facility. Furthermore, TGen North has access to the advanced Biosafety Level 3 facilities on the NAU campus as well as the comprehensive genomic research capabilities of TGen Headquarters in Phoenix. "The partnership continues to strengthen the ties between TGen and NAU. It is my hope that TGen North will further establish Northern Arizona as a premier site for pathogen research," said Dr. John Haeger, President of NAU.

David Engelthaler, the former Arizona State Epidemiologist, will provide the day-to-day management of TGen North. In addition to NAU, TGen North has many local national and international research partners, including universities, biotech companies, security agencies, health care providers, and public health departments. "To go from a virtual lab to a bricks and mortar facility in just under a year speaks to the remarkable pace at which the bioscience economy is taking root in Flagstaff and all across Arizona," said Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson.

TGen North is funded by multiple federal agencies that support medical diagnostics, forensic analyses and biodefense-related work including the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and others.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

ASU professor tapped for USDA genetics panel

[Source: Ty Young, Business Journal of Phoenix] -- An Arizona State University professor has been appointed to a federal panel that will make recommendations about the future of genetically engineered agricultural products. Guy Cardineau from ASU's Biodesign Institute and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture. The 18-member board was created in 2003 to investigate the potential uses and further developments in agricultural biotechnology.

Cardineau has been involved with numerous agricultural biotechnology patents, including insect-resistant corn and herbicide-tolerant cotton. He is responsible for the first plant-made vaccine, which was made from tobacco, and is working on similar tomato-based pharmaceuticals for the plague and Norwalk disease. "I understand the technology and am not afraid of it," he said in a statement. "Science is a big, dark room, and people are very often afraid of the dark. I do believe the technology is beneficial, and I think it's safe, but I understand there are issues to it."

With more than 50 agricultural biotechnology-based patents affiliated with his work, the university is proud to have Cardineau on board, said Gary Marchant, an ASU law professor and executive director of the law, science and technology center. "It will confirm his status as one of the nation's leading experts on the science, policy and law of biotechnology," he said in a statement. "And the experience and knowledge he gains from participating in the deliberations on biotechnology policy at the highest levels in the U.S. government will further benefit our students."

Cardineau is a former researcher for Dow AgroSciences and has more than 20 years working with agricultural biotechnology. Because of his history in both academia and industry, he understands the value of the research and the economic potential of the science, Cardineau told The Business Journal recently. "I've seen it from both sides," he said. "There is definitely more to it than just keeping the science in the lab. You have to put it to use." Cardineau joined The Biodesign Institute in 2002 and the law college in 2003.