Monday, June 30, 2008

Sun Health Research Institute garners award

[Source: Daily News-Sun] - The Arizona Chapter of the National Parkinson Foundation will present the Sun Health Research Institute with the 2008 Shelley Anderson Research Scholarship Award on Tuesday.

The presentation will be at 10:30 a.m at the Sun Health Research Institute, Bldg B Auditorium, 10515 W. Santa Fe Drive, Sun City

The $24,950 award will help fund research seeking to identify Parkinson's disease diagnostic markers in biofluids, including blood and cerebrospinal fluid.

More than 50 people are expected to attend the award presentation and stay for a free monthly tour of the research institute, an event held on the first Tuesday of the month.

Robert Eaton to speak at New Mexico Biotechnology and Biomedical Association

[Source: Kathee Austin, EVLiving] - Robert Eaton CEO of Arizona BioIndustry Association will be the featured speaker at the New Mexico Biotechnology and Biomedical Association’s Biomedical Tuesday event, presenting on The Arizona Bioscience Experience. The event will be held in Albuquerque at UNM STC Rotunda from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. Cost: $25.00 NMBBA Members and $35.00 Non-Members.

To register, visit

Eaton serves as CEO of AZ Bio, the Ariziona Bioindustry Association which he joined in October, 2007. During his short time with AZ Bio, Bob has succesfully merged the State’s regional bioscience groups into a single, strong Statewide association, and has begun an aggressive drive to expand membership.

Previously, Bob served as president of MdBio where he expanded the nonprofit organization. He has worked closely with senior biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry leaders regarding state and federal regulatory and policy issues. In previous roles, Eaton worked with the Technology Council of Maryland, where he worked with industry leaders to establish the Maryland Bioscience Alliance; served as director of R&D programs for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (now PhRMA) in Washington, D.C.; worked with a small molecular biology services company; and was involved in protein biochemistry research at the National Institutes of Health.

Eaton received a master’s degree in science, technology, and public policy from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in applied and engineering physics from Cornell University.

About Arizona BioIndustry Association

AZBio seeks to unify, empower and advance its member organizations, who collectively form Arizona’s bioscience community. As the unified voice of the bioscience industry in Arizona, AZBio strives to make Arizona a place where bioscience companies can grow and succeed. For more information, visit

Local C-Path leads project for drug-firm info sharing

[Source: Dale Quinn, arizona daily star] - For the first time, 17 major pharmaceutical companies have agreed to share information to fight major diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, said the president of the Tucson-based non-profit institute that's leading a drug-safety consortium.

The companies still need to hammer out the legal details of such an agreement, and that could take until the fall, said Dr. Raymond Woosley, the president and CEO of the Critical Path Institute, known as C-Path.

"One of the reasons drugs have been failing, even though they've had millions of dollars of lab work … (is that) most of the time we don't understand the diseases well enough," Woosley said.

It's just one project C-Path is looking into with several pharmaceutical companies. Together they're exploring how genetic indicators can lead to more effective disease treatment and reduce risks patients face when taking new drugs.

The Predictive Safety Testing Consortium, which is the cooperative effort of the 17 pharmaceutical companies led by C-Path, recently yielded its first major results by producing data that could help detect kidney damage from new drugs faster.

The Food and Drug Administration and its European equivalent, the European Medicines Agency, have announced that they would accept data from animal tests identifying new renal "biomarkers," or proteins secreted by injured kidneys.

The current indicator of kidney damage is creatinine, which doesn't show up in tests until the kidneys have suffered significant damage, said Federico Goodsaid, an associate director in the FDA's Office of Clinical Pharmacology.

The seven new protein signals, or biomarkers, were confirmed in data from rat studies, and they show kidney damage much sooner than the current method does, Goodsaid said.

It's the first time a new method for detecting kidney damage has been developed in more than 100 years, Woosley said.

The drug companies can now move toward using the biomarkers for detecting kidney damage in humans, Woosley said.

The FDA is more likely to trust research when it comes from several drug companies, said J. Lyle Bootman, dean of the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy.

"In the past, companies just did the tests individually, so the FDA was much more hesitant about approving them," Bootman said.

Goodsaid said one drug company would not likely have the resources or the necessary perspective to develop a new process for detecting kidney damage.

"What we're asking them to do is pool together knowledge," he said. "And above all, this is a step forward, because we're asking companies to look into what they already know and what they've already done, and then share that."

Some treatments, while beneficial to some people, can be ineffective, or even dangerous, to others. When the pharmaceutical companies share information through C-Path, Goodsaid and Woosley said, they can more quickly identify how effective treatments will be for certain people.

C-Path is working with the drug companies to find out who will respond to drugs that treat lung cancer, Woosley said. The research centers on the epidermal growth factor receptor — EGFR — and finding out how drug companies get information about the presence of that protein.

"If your lung cancer has EGFR, you've got a much better chance to respond to certain drugs," Woosley said.

Another C-Path project involves warfarin, a blood-thinning drug that if administered in the wrong dose can cause excessive bleeding or stroke.

Determining the proper dose of warfarin can be challenging for doctors, Woosley said. Giving a patient too much can cause him to bleed to death, but too little can lead to a stroke, he said.

C-Path is working with the University of Utah and the drug companies to develop a genetic test that will predict the proper dose of warfarin for a person, which Woosley estimated could prevent as many as 17,000 strokes every year, based on a study by the Brookings Institute.

The process doesn't end when the products hit the market, because people can have an adverse reaction to drugs that already have been approved, said Don Featherstone, the pharmacy division supervisor for Bashas' in Southern Arizona.

C-Path conducted a pilot program with Bashas' pharmacies and the FDA called Community Pharmacy Safety Network, allowing people to report potential side effects of drugs to the UA's poison control center.

Featherstone said Vioxx — a painkiller developed by Merck & Co. that was removed from the market because of its potential to increase risk of heart attack — is an example of such a drug.

C-Path wants to take the program to all pharmacies nationwide, but it currently lacks the funding, Woosley said.

Historically, treatments have been developed that battle the symptoms of disease, Woosley said. But it's an understanding of the underlying causes of disease that leads to the most effective treatments, he said.

When it comes to sharing information about Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, the drug companies won't discuss drug development, Woosley said.

But they have made a verbal agreement to pull together everything they know about the diseases, including drugs that have failed, he added.

● Contact reporter Dale Quinn at 573-4197 or

Prof's new book drives partnership successes

[Source: NAU] - A new book co-authored by a Northern Arizona University Regents' Professor is putting partnerships on the road to success.

NAU's Robert T. Trotter II and General Motors Corp. anthropologist Elizabeth K. Briody wrote Partnering for Organizational Performance: Collaboration and Culture in the Global Workplace to help "fill an important gap" in scientific and organizational literature about partnerships.
The book offers insights and practical suggestions for groups working together toward a common goal.

It explores concepts, practices and lessons learned from collaborative relationships involving business, academic and non-profit organizations from different types of organizations and cultures around the world. It also features chapters by experts who provide case studies that highlight ways for people to keep their interactions productive.

"If you think of marriage as a partnership, then in the U.S. they fail more than half the time they are tried, and the picture in business, industry, universities and governments is even grimmer," Trotter said. "This book is a blueprint of successful partnerships and how to duplicate them."

Trotter worked with Briody at GM to develop a model for applying effective partnering. Some of the key tools in the model include identifying core conflicts, ways for improving communication, methods for assessing relationships and analyzing data from various working relationships.

The anthropologists used their model to improve GM's internal relationships and to expand GM's collaborative research laboratories with universities from four to 12 in the United States, one in India, and more in other countries continue to form. The laboratories help expedite putting cutting-edge research into action.

"Partnerships tend to fail due to circumstances that are actually within the control of the partners," Briody said. "Partnerships are all about relationships. They require ongoing interactions at every level to keep them strong and healthy enough to handle inevitable tension and conflict."Trotter said good partnerships foster success for everyone involved. "For NAU the ongoing collaborative research with GM has a lot of long-term benefits. GM has hired two master's level anthropology graduates and one current graduate student to work in the GM research and development laboratories," he said.

Trotter and Briody also are authors of a patent "System and Model for Performance Value Based Collaborative Relationships."

Business magazine: City has biotech promise

[Source: ALAN FISCHER, Tucson Citizen] - Tucson has been labeled an up-and-coming biotechnology center by Business Facilities magazine.

The magazine called Tucson "Arizona's other rising biotechnology star," after touting Phoenix's efforts to pump up biotech activity with facilities such as the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

While lagging behind established biotech centers including Boston and San Diego, Arizona, along with Texas, St. Louis and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was cited as showing promise in biotechnology.

"Local and state leaders in Arizona are using the state's strong research base in genomics and personalized medicine to position itself as a major player in the biotechnology industry," the magazine article said.

Boosting Tucson's biotech presence is the Technology and Research Initiative Fund, the magazine said.
The fund is supported by Proposition 301, which Arizona voters approved in 2000 to funnel taxes directly into schools and universities in the areas of optics, biotechnology and information technology.

One Tucson hot spot is the University of Arizona's BIO5 Institute.

BIO5, 1657 E. Helen St., encourages collaborative research by scientists working in different disciplines.

BIO5 is home to the iPlant Collaborative, which is working to design computer systems to tackle the huge amounts of data produced in biotech experiments.

The collaborative received a $50 million grant Jan. 30 from the National Science Foundation.
The grant will be used to develop a centralized database of research information on plant biology.

It will be accessible by researchers and others worldwide, creating scientific collaboration in ways never seen before, officials said.

The collaborative will focus on using advances in information technology and computing to help researchers find solutions to the "grand-challenge" questions they face. The monthly Business Facilities is based in New Jersey and specializes in the business site selection marketplace.

Oncolin Appoints Member of National Cancer Institute Advisory Board to Its Scientific Advisory Board

[Source: HOUSTON, BUSINESS WIRE] - Oncolin Therapeutics, Inc., is very pleased to announce that Dr. Daniel Von Hoff has joined the company's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Dr. Von Hoff is generally considered to be one of the world's leading experts in oncology drug development and is an advisor in some capacity to a large number of oncology companies.

Dr. Von Hoff was appointed to President Bush's National Cancer Advisory Board in June 2004.

Dr. Von Hoff is the past President of the American Association for Cancer Research (the world's largest cancer research organization), a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a member and past board member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He is a founder of ILEX' Oncology, Inc. (acquired by Genzyme after Ilex had 2 agents, alemtuzumab and clofarabine approved for patients with leukemia). He is founder and the Editor Emeritus of Investigational New Drugs ' The Journal of New Anticancer Agents; and, Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., is currently Physician in Chief, Senior Investigator and Director of Translational Research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute's (TGen) Translational Drug Development Division and Head, Pancreatic Cancer Research Program in Phoenix, Arizona. He is also Chief Scientific Officer for US Oncology and Chief Scientific Officer, Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute. He has done work on the development of many anticancer agents, including paclitaxel, docetaxel, gemcitabine, camptosar and hab-paclitaxel.

'Oncolin Therapeutics is very excited to have someone with Dr Von Hoff's stature and experience as a member of our SAB. His oncology development experience will be a major addition to our advisory board,' said Dr. Donald Picker, COO of Oncolin.

Agilent Technologies Updates CGH Microarray Software to Process 100+ Samples, Adds Genomic Browser, Expands Probe Database

[Source: WEBWIRE ] - Agilent Technologies Inc., (NYSE: A) today introduced Agilent DNA Analytics 4.0 software for visually exploring, detecting and analyzing patterns in microarray data. New in this release are: the ability to analyze more than 100 samples per experiment, a free genomic browser and copy number variation (CNV) analysis capability. These features join existing chromatin immunoprecipitation-on-chip (ChIP-on-chip), array-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), and gene expression analytics capabilities.

"The speed of processing is amazing; it makes working with 244K chips much more interactive" said early-access user Michael Bittner of Translational Genomics Research Institute. "Changes to analytical conditions no longer produce 20- to 60-minute waits, and the graphics updates generally occur in seconds"

For large-scale experiments, Agilent DNA Analytics 4.0 can process more than 100 microarrays (244K), helping users easily compare data and visualize patterns. The package also now includes a free genomic browser that enables researchers to easily share data and results with colleagues.

CNV research and discovery is a rapidly growing area of research where gains or losses of genomic DNA are increasingly being associated with certain cancers and developmental diseases. Using aCGH techniques, CNVs at multiple loci can be assessed simultaneously, allowing for their identification and characterization. Agilent has added CNV capability to Agilent DNA Analytics to help users realize the full potential of Agilent microarrays.

"Because we create the microarrays as well as the software, we are able to develop and tune the algorithms to perform particularly well with Agilent microarray data" said Charlie Nelson, Agilent product manager, DNA Analytics.

Agilent also announced that it has updated its eArray online design tool for creating custom microarrays by expanding the CGH probe database from 8.4 to more than 24.5 million probes. This advance in microarray probe density and the addition of search capabilities specific to this content provide a more comprehensive coverage of genome, including CNVs.

Valley researchers take a look at longevity

[Source: Mary K. Reinhart, East Valley Tribune] - Lloyd Pearsall really did walk to school barefoot. Rosalee Sproul made ends meet by tending a garden and canning her own fruits and vegetables. Henrietta Pearsall was known in her neighborhood as the "Brownie Lady" and when she wasn't baking, she was knitting, crocheting and sewing.

Throughout their long lives - this week Rosalee turned 105 and the Pearsalls celebrated 75 years of marriage - they worked hard, traveled some, raised children and collected lovely antiques and even lovelier memories.

They also struggled through the Depression and outlived most of their children, siblings and friends.

So what makes the Pearsalls, Sproul and the growing number of Arizonans surviving well into their 90s and beyond different from those who don't?

And what can they teach us about how to live not just a long life, but a good long life?
"I guess love is what it amounts to," says Lloyd, gazing at his wife. "We've had a good family. We've traveled a lot and met so many nice people."

More than 700 centenarians live in Arizona, and the number is growing at an astounding rate. Nationwide, there are about 85,000 centenarians and by 2040 there are projected to be more than 580,000, according to the U.S. Census.

The fastest-growing segment of our population are those 85 and older - a group that in Arizona is projected to grow by 102 percent between 2000 and 2020.

Researchers attribute these numbers to the huge wave of baby boomers, medical advances that have lead to growing life expectancy (though that's starting to level off) and, in Arizona, migration.

Setting aside the policy implications for health care, employment, Social Security and myriad other issues - and they are enormous - it's clear that people who've lived longer have, to a large extent, lived healthier.

Dr. Walter J. Nieri wants to know how they've done it.

Together with his colleagues at the Sun Health Research Institute's Center for Healthy Aging and a team from Arizona State University West, Nieri is studying the lives of people aged 98 years and older to learn more about healthy aging.

The researchers also need participants as young as 50 years to follow long-term for what is believed to be the first longitudinal aging study in Arizona.

Though many studies have looked at the physical aspects of old age, and chalked up about half of it to genetics and much of the rest to exercise and a balanced diet, Nieri's research is more holistic, focusing on stress and psychological factors as well as physical health, and how they interact.

"We're looking at their psychological makeup. How they're coping with stress," said Nieri, a geriatric physician and director of the aging center. "Particularly the fact that they're getting older and they're not as independent as they'd like to be."

Nieri, who's also medical director at Huger Mercy Living Center in Sun City, said depression can take hold as people age and the losses stack up: career, spouse, friends, home, independence.
"We just assume that they've reached that stage and they're doing fine," he said. "But a lot of times they're hung up on the would've, could've, should've."

Nieri encourages people to stay engaged and try new things, from politics to college coursework. Exercise, he says, can help people make new friends while keeping fit.

The longevity study, in cooperation with TGen, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, also will examine whether some people are genetically predisposed to handle stress better than others. Much like the 100-year-old man who visited Nieri this week and, just months after losing his wife of 67 years, still maintained his sense of humor and a positive view toward the future.

In addition to being born with good genes that enable them to avoid heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia, researchers are finding that people who age well also have good attitudes.
"They tend to be optimistic and have fun. They tend to let troubles roll off their backs," said Dr. Mitchell Harman, founding director of Kronos Longevity Research Institute. "They're not bitter. They don't hold grudges. They don't withdraw.

"Their basic attitude is, 'Life is good and I'm going to have a good time.'"

Also, he added, "most of them aren't fat, and most of them never were."

Other than that, people in this age group, known as the oldest old, may not have much else in common. Women outnumber men by more than 2-1.

"Some of them smoked, some of them didn't. Some of them exercised a lot, some of them didn't," Harman said. "It seems like they're resistant to everything. They dodged. There's no question that about half of that is having the right genes."

They also aren't any more likely to suffer a long, slow decline than are people in their 60s or 70s, Harman said. Research has shown that most people spend about two to three years on a progressively slippery slope toward death. Centenarians generally spend the vast majority of their years in pretty good health.

"So it really doesn't matter. Whether you live to be 75 or 105, the amount of time you spend sick, frail and dependent is the same," Harman said. "The real issue becomes, at any age, what can you do to enrich your life and stay healthy?"

At 105, Rosalee Sproul is in remarkably good health, though she had a stroke about four years ago and is slipping deeper into dementia. Granddaughter Linda Heimer of Queen Creek says Rosalee hasn't called her by name in about 10 years, but otherwise has no health problems.

Dressed in a flowered dress and pearls, Rosalee sat serenely in her wheelchair Monday at Citadel Care Center in Mesa while everyone made a fuss and enjoyed birthday cake and punch. Among those congratulating her was a very spry 102-year-old Emily Schneider.

Emily's knees are bad and she uses an oxygen tank most days, but her mind is sharp. She gives much of the credit for her longevity to God, but also allows, "I've had a beautiful family."
Rosalee does, too. Though she's outlived two husbands and her two children, she has five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandkids.

Heimer says her grandmother was canning and preserving food well into her 90s. She enjoyed playing the piano, painting landscapes of the nearby Superstition Mountains and quilting, and had little use for TV beyond the 10 o'clock news.

"She was real laid-back," said great-granddaughter Michele Walcott, of Mesa.

At 96, Henrietta Pearsall still knits three or four colorful doilies each day. Visitors to the Pearsalls' Scottsdale home are implored to take one or two home.

Lloyd, 98, tells wonderful, detailed stories of the early years at General Motors, where he not only drove a Dusenberg, but met Mr. Dusenberg. He helped with the development of air conditioning and adjustable seats and chatted with some of the country's elite as he drove them from the Detroit train station to the GM proving grounds.

He also remembers the day he worked up enough gumption to make his pitch to Henrietta as they approached each other on the street.

"I just kept looking at her," he recalls. "I said to my dad, 'I'm going to hit her up for a date.'" They were married at Henrietta's parents' home in 1933. Five years later, the couple bought their first home, in Brighton, Mich., for $2,600.

This week their surviving son, Dennis, and his family came from Michigan and New York to help celebrate the Pearsalls' 75th anniversary. Hospice of the Valley, which helps care for the couple in their Scottsdale home, brought a cake, champagne and sparkling apple juice.

The Pearsalls have seen many changes over their long lives and, when asked, Lloyd says families don't seem to be as cohesive as they used to be, with children "farmed out" to others much of the time.

Mark Pearsall remembers watching his grandparents on camping trips, with Henrietta setting up the camp kitchen while Lloyd got ready for fishing. The couple had their own interests - she worked at a local bank and owned an antique store - but life mainly centered on the family.
"They each had their independence," he said. "But they were a good team."

Lloyd, diagnosed with congestive heart disease, has been receiving hospice care for nearly two years. He isn't sure why he's lasted so long, but is grateful for the years he's had.
"It's been a great trip."

Caris Diagnostics Providing KRAS Mutational Analysis for Colon Cancer Patients

[Source: PRNewswire] - Caris Diagnostics (Caris Dx), a leading provider of the highest quality diagnostic, translational development and pharmaceutical services encompassing anatomic pathology and molecular testing, announced that it is now offering KRAS mutation analysis, designed to provide information on which colon cancer patients are most likely to respond to cetuximab (Erbitux) co-marketed by ImClone and Bristol-Myers Squibb or panitumumab (Vectibix) developed by Amgen.

This assay, which can be performed on biopsies taken for the initial cancer diagnosis, identifies those patients who have somatic mutations in KRAS, which is associated with a lack of response to Erbitux or Vectibix. This prognostic information has recently been validated in a number of retrospective studies and will help better suggest which patients are most likely not going to respond to Erbitux or Vectibix, two chemotherapies widely being utilized to treat colon cancer. Caris Dx's KRAS assay is comprehensive in that it detects any and all nucleotide changes at the three validated KRAS codons (12, 13, and 61) that alter amino acids at these positions, offering a distinct advantage over other laboratories that may only screen for a few specific mutations in codons 12 and 13.

"Responding to oncologists needs for more and better information at the bedside, we are proud to be at the forefront of providing the newest, valuable molecular tests with the consistent quality and reproducibility that physicians have come to expect from Caris Dx," said Dr. Robert Penny, CEO of Caris MPI, the molecular profiling arm of Caris Dx. "We are excited to provide this vital information to clinicians at the time of their initial diagnosis to improve the likelihood of success with the patient's first therapy."

A recent Journal of Clinical Oncology study found that none of the 24 patients with confirmed KRAS mutations responded to Erbitux, whereas tumors shrank in 40% of those patients with the wild type (normal) KRAS gene. In another research study conducted in Belgium and published in March, Erbitux was ineffective in treating any of the 42 patients with a mutation, but proved effective in 27 of 66 patients with wild type KRAS. Amgen has also published a study noting that their drug Vectibix only works in patients with wild type KRAS. In Europe, Vectibix is only approved for patients who have wild type KRAS.

"The data are very compelling; research has clearly implicated KRAS as a vital biomarker for the assessment of response to Erbitux and Vectibix," said Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, Executive Director of Caris MPI's Pharmaceutical Services division, TGen Physician in Chief, and Chief Scientific Officer of US Oncology. "I think the oncology community is looking forward to having this type of information available in order to continue to develop more targeted, personalized treatment plans for patients."

KRAS mutation analysis is also being offered as part of Caris Dx's Target Now(TM) testing program. Target Now is an oncology testing service that utilizes cutting-edge molecular profiling techniques, including DNA microarray, advanced immunohistochemistries (IHC), fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH) and sequencing analysis, to provide molecular profiling information about a malignancy as an aid to a patient's oncologist. Each test report provides information on the molecular targets present in the cancer specimen for which there are believed to be associated therapies based on published literature. Furthermore, the report provides other additional information on the molecular profile of the patient's cancer.

At the beginning of 2008, Caris Diagnostics acquired Caris MPI in order to offer a single source solution to physicians seeking the highest quality medical opinions coupled with the most advanced molecular information available on a patient's tumor. The Company currently receives, processes and provides medical opinions on over one thousand GI biopsies per day. Caris MPI developed the KRAS mutation analysis so that it can be performed on these same biopsies without any need for additional coordination, or delay, and with the highest quality standards.

"Given our leading position in gastrointestinal pathology, it is not only natural, but also imperative for us to offer our clinicians this critical information for their treatment decisions," concluded David D. Halbert, Chairman of Caris Dx. "We have been predicting the convergence of anatomic pathology and molecular testing for some time. With our ability to perform the KRAS analysis on the biopsies that we receive for initial cancer diagnosis each week, the paths of anatomic and molecular test are now united. We look forward to adding further analyses to our Target GI testing panel in the future."

Physicians who are seeking additional information for their patients when considering treatment with Erbitux and/or Vectibix can order mutation analysis for KRAS by contacting 1-800-901-5177.

New Grant Targets Networks to Reduce Tobacco Use

[Source; Donna Breckenridge, Arizona Cancer Center] - The goal of the grant awarded to the Arizona Cancer Center is to help reduce the number of tobacco users, which has remained unchanged in recent years.

A grant awarded to the Arizona Cancer Center at The University of Arizona will be used to study the North American Quitline Consortium, a well-defined tobacco control network, with the goal of identifying best practices across its 62 "quitlines" – located in each of the 50 U.S. states, in 10 Canadian provinces, and in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The goal of the research is to identify and then implement best practices to help reduce the number of tobacco users, which has remained unchanged in recent years.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of illness and death in the United States, killing 430,000 Americans and costing the U.S. $97.2 billion in health care and lost productivity every year. These statistics are widely known, yet more than one in five Americans continues to smoke.

Researchers at the Arizona Cancer Center, the UA Eller College of Management, the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and others will analyze complex networks within a system that is designed to generate new knowledge about how to treat tobacco dependence and how translation and dissemination of information through that network can be improved.

This study is an outgrowth of efforts at the National Cancer Institute to understand how developing more communication and collaboration among networks of people – scientists, clinicians and citizens – can lead to system changes that will foster improvements in cancer prevention and care.

While the analysis of networks to improve outcomes is an established practice in the business community, the military and the sciences, such as physics and meteorology, scientific approaches that are designed to understand and improve networks to benefit public health are more recent. They have been central to understanding and preventing the spread of HIV and other communicable diseases. The outcomes of this study are expected to benefit not just efforts in tobacco control, but also the broader public health field.

Dr. Scott Leischow, professor in the UA College of Medicine and associate director in the Arizona Cancer Center, is the grant’s principal investigator. Leischow is an expert in smoking cessation and serves as president of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, the premier worldwide scientific organization dedicated to tobacco control research. He previously served for five years in the federal government as chief of the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute, and as senior adviser for tobacco policy in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He also is co-editor of a 2007 NCI Monograph titled "Greater than Sum: Systems Thinking in Tobacco Control."

“It is essential that we better understand how new knowledge is gained and shared by different disciplines of scientists, and how we can improve the integration of research and practice,” Leischow said. “By understanding and improving how networks of people can work together toward a common goal, the benefits to society are greater than the sum of what individuals can do separately.”

Keith Provan, McClelland professor in the Eller College of Management and well-known expert on social and organizational networks, will collaborate with Leischow on the grant. Provan explained that one focus will be the impact of local decision making.

“Certain networks are more effective than others. We want to know why,” he said. “We will examine the impact of decision-making and communication at every level across the network.”
The grant totals close to $3 million over a five-year period. It was awarded by the National Cancer Institute.

The Arizona Cancer Center is the state’s premier National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. With primary locations at the UA in Tucson and in Scottsdale, the Center has more than a dozen research and education offices throughout the state and 300 physician and scientist members working to prevent and cure cancer.

Genome Communication: Alleles Of Homologous Genes Can Silence One Another

[Source: ScienceDaily] - In the late 19th century Gregor Mendel used peas to show that one copy of a gene (allele) is inherited from the mother and one from the father. In the progeny, the inherited genes are expressed at the right time and in the right place, but until recently, it was thought that although gene products could be modified during the life of the organism, the genes themselves were unchanged, except for random mutation.

Now it appears that one copy of some genes can alter the expression of the other copy, and those changes are passed down to the next generation. These epigenetic alterations, called paramutations may be important in introducing changes when plants and other organisms are environmentally stressed. The exact mechanisms of how genes talk to other genes and change their behavior are being investigated, and recent results suggest that these processes could be important in engineering plants responsive to a variety of environmental conditions.

Dr. Vicki Chandler and her colleagues have studied paramutations in maize and other plants and have identified some of the genes and mechanisms that operate in this epigenetic process. Dr. Chandler, of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson, will be presenting this work at a symposium on Maize Biology at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 28, 9:10 AM).

The sequencing of genes, proteins, and, ultimately, whole genomes has revealed that genomes are not simply strings of genes, but rather complex, communicating, and interacting regions of information that could be compared to DNA computers controlling growth, development, and metabolism in each organism. The physical architecture of the genome is also highly complex.
The nucleus, where the genome resides, is not full of strings of DNA like a pot of spaghetti.

Rather, the strands of DNA are wrapped around proteins called histones and the whole is organized into an elegant and highly controlled structure called chromatin. When it is time for genes to be expressed, a section of chromatin is unwound and the DNA for that particular gene is made available to the machinery that transcribes DNA to RNA. Once the process is finished, the DNA is neatly folded back into the chromatin structure until needed again.

Different parts of the genome can interact by direct contact or through intermediaries that can be proteins or RNA sequences. The exact mechanisms of how paramutagenic alleles communicate with their homologous partners are still unknown, but the work of Chandler and others suggests that both direct contact of homologous regions and changes induced by intermediary RNA molecules may be involved.

Peas also played an important role in the discovery of paramutations, as the first mutants of this type were observed in peas in 1915. Then, in the 1950s, Alexander Brink identified these types of mutations as interactions between alleles. He recognized that these interactions resulted in heritable changes to the expression of those genes. Since then, paramutations have been found in humans and other animals, as well as other plant species including tomato, tobacco, petunia, and maize. In animals, paramutations may be important in mediating the occurrence of diseases like diabetes. Chandler and her co-workers have been investigating paramutations in maize at the b1 gene, which regulates the distribution of the purple pigment anthocyanin in plant tissues.

At the b1 locus, the paramutagenic allele, which causes light or stippled pigmentation arises spontaneously from the wild-type allele, which causes dark purple pigmentation. If a plant with the paramutagenic allele is crossed with a wild-type allele, the progeny get both alleles. However, the paramutagenic allele silences the wild-type allele and produces a plant with stippled rather than purple pigmentation. The silent state is then passed on in subsequent crosses.

Several different components may be involved in paramutation, although they may differ among species. One important player is an array of repeated non-coding DNA sequences that lies upstream of the gene sequence of the paramutagenic allele. Seven of these tandem repeats are required for b1 paramutation. If only three tandem repeats are present, there is only partial paramutagenic activity. One possibility is that these tandem repeats are involved in direct interactions of chromatin regions, which results in paramutation changes.

However, RNA also appears to be part of the process. The gene mediator of paramutation1 (mop1), an RNA dependent RNA polymerase is absolutely required for paramutation silencing at the b1 locus as well as for several other maize genes. In Arabidopsis, this RNA polymerase is associated with the production of small, interfering RNAs (siRNA) that function in gene silencing in other contexts. The siRNA could thus act as an intermediary molecule, being sent to silence the homologous allele. A third component is the placement of methyl groups on the control sequence (promoter) of the wild-type gene.

Gene methylation has been known for some time as a cell defense mechanism for silencing foreign DNA but is also functional in other cellular processes. In several species, such methylation is also directed by RNA molecules. None of these processes is likely to be sufficient by themselves to effect paramutation, but rather all of them may interact, although to varying degrees in different species.

The molecular components of paramutation probably arose as cell defense mechanisms against viral or bacterial DNA. They have evolved to serve the needs of plants that grow in complex and changing environments from which they cannot escape, but to which they may be able to adapt through mechanisms like paramutation. Indeed, two instances of paramutation are known to be influenced by temperature. This work has implications for engineering crops that may be able to adapt to higher temperatures or drought conditions, as well as for applications in human and veterinary medicine.

Adapted from materials provided by American Society of Plant Biologists, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Biotech executives help developing companies

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal, Angela Gonzales] - A group of biotech executives has come together to create a virtual incubator to support fledgling life-science companies in Arizona.

Behind the effort is Jeff Morhet, president and CEO of InNexus Biotechnology Inc. The incubator, called ThirdBiotech Research Group, is part of a nonprofit life-sciences network created by Morhet.

The group's mission is to facilitate development of intellectual property, science and technology to help develop Arizona's biotechnology companies, he said.

One component will be connecting startups with available lab space within other biotech companies such as InNexus, where they can temporarily use the space they need free of charge or at reduced rates. They also would be able to use expensive equipment they're not yet ready to buy on their own, Morhet said.

This virtual incubator is different from traditional incubators, which generally have failed in the biotech sector. Incubators are meant to assist startup companies with shared resources and inexpensive space.

"The difference is we're not setting up dedicated lab space until it's needed," Morhet said. "Basically, we're looking for individuals and institutions willing to dedicate space, time and energy and help to facilitate those things."

Morhet said companies that offer free space benefit in the long run because it helps build a critical mass of biotech companies in Arizona.

"We don't have critical mass, and that's what this research group is there to do," he said. "It's not there to take the place of any university or institutional programs. It's there to help them, to evolve them."

Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said he will do everything he can to support ThirdBiotech's efforts.

"I really like the kind of activism that's come from Jeff and his company," he said. "What Jeff is doing is putting people together to find money, support research, and help people make research commercially viable and turn it into an enterprise."

Sharon Harper, president and CEO of The Plaza Cos., which is developing the 275,000-square-foot Phoenix Biomedical Plaza in downtown Phoenix, said it could provide an opportunity.

Harper said about 25 percent of the Phoenix Biomedical Plaza will be wet lab space -- which includes ventilation and gas lines because researchers study chemical substances and genetic material. That could increase as prospective tenants come to the table. Some of it could include incubator space, she said.

"A couple of tenants we are talking to are intending to have incubator space available for themselves and possibly for others," she said.

Morhet said InNexus has between 250 and 400 square feet of Class A wet lab space available to biotech entrepreneurs.

"The issue here is free, low-cost flex and expanding space for companies that grow," he said. "You have to have a flexible model."

Wet lab space is one component of what ThirdBiotech plans to offer. Biotech executives also will help startups protect their intellectual property by connecting them with attorneys and other specialists.

"We're not here for exploratory research," Morhet said. "We're here to help create Arizona-based biotech (that is) focused on creating devices, products and solutions."

He said it's a different set of criteria from a university's tech-transfer arm, which promotes research. In fact, he said, ThirdBiotech would work with university tech-transfer divisions to help a new company protect its intellectual property and commercialize its product.

The same goes for financing, as ThirdBiotech would try to connect startups with venture capitalists, angel investors, grants and other sources of funding.

"We're saying we want to help out," Morhet said. "We want to foster growing biotechs in Arizona."

Get Connected
Thirdbiotech Networking Event
When: June 26, 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Gordon Biersch Restaurant, 420 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
RSVP: 480-736-0033

Sponsors: Bio5 Institute, GE Healthcare, Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Canada-Arizona Business Council, Osborn Maledon PA, InNexus Biotechnology Inc.

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Medivation Initiates Second Pivotal Phase 3 Trial Of Dimebon™ In Patients With Alzheimer's Disease

[Source: Genome Web News] - Medivation, Inc. (NASDAQ: MDVN) announced it has initiated dosing of patients in its second pivotal Phase 3 trial of the investigational drug Dimebon™ in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD). The international, double-blind, placebo-controlled safety and efficacy study of oral Dimebon is known as the CONNECTION study.

"We saw very encouraging results in our first pivotal trial, in which Dimebon demonstrated statistically significant improvements over placebo on all five efficacy endpoints at both six months and at one year. We look forward to confirming the efficacy and safety of Dimebon in the CONNECTION study," said Lynn Seely, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Medivation. "The initiation of this study brings us a major step closer to our goal of obtaining regulatory approval for Dimebon. We are working to bring this investigational drug to market as quickly as possible to address the unmet medical need in Alzheimer's disease and bring hope to patients and caregivers."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has informed Medivation that the CONNECTION study together with the previously completed pivotal trial can be used to support the approval of Dimebon to treat mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease, as long as a significant proportion of the sites in the CONNECTION study are located in the United States. Medivation expects to complete the CONNECTION study and apply for U.S. and European marketing approval in 2010.

Design of CONNECTION Study

The CONNECTION study will enroll approximately 525 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease at approximately 100 sites in the United States, Europe and South America. Patients will be randomized to one of three treatment groups: Dimebon 20 mg three times per day, Dimebon 5 mg three times per day or placebo. Patients may not be taking any other Alzheimer's disease drugs during the trial. After completing six months of treatment, all patients - including those randomized to placebo - will be offered the opportunity to receive Dimebon in an extension trial until marketing authorization.

The primary endpoints of the trial are the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale - cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog) and the Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Change plus caregiver interview (CIBIC-plus). These are the two endpoints that have been accepted by the FDA to support registration of all approved drugs for Alzheimer's disease.

Pierre Tariot, M.D., Director, Memory Disorders Center, Banner Alzheimer's Institute. "There is an urgent need for new treatments for a disease with such devastating effects on the quality of life of patients and their caregivers. Dimebon represents an innovative form of therapy that may have the potential to ameliorate symptoms and possibly improve the course of Alzheimer's disease. It is crucial that it be fully assessed as rapidly as possible."

For more information on the CONNECTION study, please visit

Results of First Pivotal Phase 3 Trial

Medivation previously announced results from its first pivotal trial of Dimebon in 183 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease, which showed that Dimebon improved the clinical course of Alzheimer's disease by demonstrating statistically significant improvements over placebo in each of the five primary aspects of the disease - memory, thinking, activities of daily living, behavior and overall clinical function. Significant gains over placebo were evident after as little as 12 weeks of treatment, and were maintained after both six months and a full year of treatment. Importantly, overall benefit compared to placebo continued to increase over time, and was larger at one year than at six months. Dimebon was well-tolerated throughout the entire one-year treatment period. The majority of adverse events were mild. Dry mouth (18.0 percent Dimebon, 1.1 percent placebo) and depressed mood were the most common events. Patients treated with Dimebon experienced significantly fewer serious adverse events than those treated with placebo at one year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

At trade show, Arizona competes for a piece of the biotech cake

[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] - The state of Georgia hosted biotech executives from across the globe aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier. Pennsylvania raffled away a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. And Minnesota handed out a $500 shopping spree at the Mall of America.

Economic-development representatives from 31 states, including Arizona, and more than two dozen foreign nations courted biotechnology executives and investors this week in San Diego at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual convention.

They are desperate to woo biotech companies and research, which they see as an environmentally friendly industry that offers high-wage jobs, innovation and improved health care.

The states offered trips, trinkets and lots of cash to capture the industry's attention.

One day after Massachusetts Gov. Deval Partick signed a $1 billion biotech bill, Maryland proposed its own $1.1 billion funding plan to sprinkle investments across that state's biotech sector.

Not to be outdone, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of a dozen or so governors at the convention, chatted up his state's $3 billion stem-cell research initiative and pitched California as a business destination.

"Let's face it, California is the biotech capital of the world," Schwarzenegger said during a luncheon speech. "If you are a biotech scientist, or an entrepreneur or an investor, California is one of the best places to set up shop."

Arizona's contingent of public and private bioscience interests wasn't far behind when it came to chatting up the state's burgeoning biotech efforts.

Representatives from the University of Arizona's Bio5 Institute, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, Northern Arizona University, the Flinn Foundation and others were on hand to promote the Grand Canyon State.

Arizona made no splashy announcement of any new funding deal at the conference.

But the state Department of Commerce issued a news release Wednesday listing some of Arizona's bio-related accomplishments.

Walt Plosila, a consultant who helped draft the state's bioscience road map, said Arizona's planned approach to grow its research base is the smartest way to expand its biotech efforts.

"The goal is not to be good at everything," said Plosila, senior adviser to Cleveland-based Technology Partnership Practice. "It's not to try to be like Massachusetts or Silicon Valley. They are so far ahead, and they have such a deep base - you can't do that."

Arizona has notched some positive momentum in recent years, Plosila said, noting the state ranked No. 27 among all states in federal National Institutes of Health grants and No. 20 in bioscience venture-capital investment during the 2007 fiscal year.

A state-funded measure helped build new state-of-the-art research labs in Tucson and Tempe. And the Translational Genomics Research Institute has expanded the state's molecular know-how.

Even though Arizona has made strides in the area of research funding, the state still has not spawned a strong cluster of privately owned biotech companies, he added. "Arizona is not yet at a critical mass of companies," Plosila said.

That is true of many states across the United States.

But those states work hard to woo companies at the annual biotechnology industry show.

"This has evolved over the years from being an industry show to an economic-development show," said Curt Bilby, chief executive officer of the Austin-based biotech company Terapio. "Everybody is trying to become the next biotech cluster."

Contest among states

Louisiana's pavilion featured an amateur ventriloquist handling a stuffed ostrich. A pavilion for Nebraska offered biotech executives a drawing for Omaha steaks.

Kansas took on a sporting theme, with the state's biotech organization, called the Kansas Bio Authority, circulated a pamphlet featuring a picture of the state's college-basketball championship aftermath. The message: "Kansas: Home of Champions."

Economic development representatives from Georgia acknowledged that competition among the states remains tough.

"You look at Boston, San Diego and the Silicon Valley - they are the leaders," said Michael Starling, a senior project manager with the DeKalb County Office of Economic Development in suburban Atlanta. "Everybody else is reaching for that second rung."

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8285.

Arizona-Based SenesTech, Inc., Partners With Australia to Stop Starvation Due to Rice Shortages

[Source: PRNewswire] - A new chemical fertility control technology that could substantially reduce the devastating impacts of rodents on rice production in developing countries is being featured at the BIO 2008 International Convention in San Diego, California from the 17th through the 20th of June. SenesTech, Inc., a Flagstaff, Arizona - based corporation, is developing a technology that will target the fertility of rice field rats in Southeast Asia. If successful this technology will result in increased crop yields, an increase in food supplies globally, and will improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of lives within a few years.

"It is impossible to overstate the importance of this technology," said Dr. Loretta P. Mayer, one of the company's founders and inventors of the technology. "One fifth to one third of the world's food supply never reaches the table due to the deleterious impacts of rodents. They damage crops both pre- and post-harvest by not only eating the grain but damaging it with urine and feces pollution. They also spread many debilitating diseases. While this problem has persisted for centuries, it is possible that we may be able to start reversing this process. Research shows that just a ten percent reduction in the rice rat population can feed over 380 million people. The numbers are simply staggering," she said.

The development of the technology is being completed at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, while further characterization of animal models is being conducted at Arizona State University in Tempe. The technology is built on patents filed by the University of Arizona in Tucson, on which Dr. Mayer is co-inventor. This statewide effort reflects the mission of the Arizona Bioscience Roadmap, which provides Arizona scientists with a conduit for collaborative research and technology transfer.

"It is impressive to witness the level of collaboration and innovation that occur within our universities and communities," said Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. "These advances -- which potentially have a significant impact on the planet -- are possible when we create the infrastructure for and foster science-based projects and discoveries."

To complete development of the environmentally neutral product called "ContraPest(TM)", and to provide for efficient distribution, the Arizona-based biotech company has signed an international agreement with the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC) in Canberra, the capital of Australia. This Centre is part of an Australian government science innovation program that brings together research institutions, industry partners and business enterprises to accelerate technology transfer and the delivery of new products into the marketplace.

Rats, insects, and weeds rank as the three major pests of small landholder farmers in developing countries. A pair of rodents and their offspring can potentially produce over 600 offspring in just three months. When food supplies are plentiful, rodents reach unprecedented numbers. Today, it is not unusual for smallholder rice farmers to report chronic yield losses of 20-30% per year, rising to 50% or even total crop loss in certain areas. This places an enormous strain on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in developing countries. In turn, such losses compound the current food crisis, placing a heavy burden on the tens of millions of landless and urban poor. SenesTech believes the technology has the potential to have a significant impact in the 13 countries that produce over 84% of the world's rice supply, including China, India, and other Southeast Asian nations, which will be SenesTech's first customers.

Dr. Mayer, along with Dr. Cheryl Dyer, and Dr. Timothy Vail, SenesTech's scientific team, has developed this environmentally safe alternative to poison that can be used to sterilize the rice field rat. The technology accelerates the natural reproductive aging process in the rat resulting in sterility or reproductive "senescence". These scientists, all from Northern Arizona University, have teamed up with Dr. Lyn Hinds from the IACRC and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia and Drs. Sudarmaji at the Indonesian Centre for Rice Research in Sukamandi, Indonesia to begin assessment of the product in Indonesian-based studies this fall.

"I am dedicated to addressing starvation with this technology and changing the livelihoods of the rural poor," said Everett Hale, CEO. Hale was recruited by the company to lead the international effort and build on the company's core technology. "I never knew the extent to which governments had to use poison to prevent famine. A percentage of poison in any food supply is not acceptable. We are losing lives and the environment. Through our technology, we can now change the world and help feed its people."

For additional information on ContraPest(TM) contact Everett Hale at or visit ContraPest(TM) is projected to be available for commercial use in the Spring of 2010.

ABOUT (SenesTech, Inc.) SenesTech is a platform technology company located in Flagstaff, Arizona specializing in fertility control products for wildlife population control including dogs and cats. Other products in the development pipeline include ChemSpay(TM), a non-surgical spay product for female dogs and cats.
SenesTech, Inc.

CONTACT: Everett Hale of SenesTech, Inc., +1-619-876-8745, or fax,+1-928-774-5149,

Web site:

Source: PRNewswire

Memory Loss Linked To Poor Diet, Study Suggests

[Source: ScienceDaily] - Loss of memory with advanced age is a significant problem within most societies, and appears particularly severe in advanced industrialized nations. A less visible and often ignored problem comes from a food supply high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which has led to high obesity rates particularly in the United States.

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have linked memory loss to a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Collaboration between two laboratories at MUSC and one at Arizona State University led researchers to discover that rodents that were fed a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat displayed impairment in working memory. This memory loss is associated with inflammation in the brain, as well as the impairment of structural proteins that affect how a nerve cell functions. As inflammation is associated with a poor diet, the failure of functions in other key organs such as the eye and the ear also could be expected.

Assuming that the same phenomenon occurs in human beings, the study suggests that as humans age, memory may be preserved and brain functions improved by restricting the consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats. As cases of obesity and obesity-related diseases have increased exponentially in the United States, and are second only to tobacco use for premature mortality and the number of health-care dollars spent, the importance of this issue is immediate.

Journal reference:

1. Ann-Charlotte Granholm, Heather A. Bimonte-Nelson, Alfred B. Moore, Matthew E. Nelson, Linnea R. Freeman and Kumar Sambamurti. Effects of a Saturated Fat and High Cholesterol Diet on Memory and Hippocampal Morphology in the Middle-Aged Rat. Journal of Alzheimer%u2019s Disease, 14:2 (June 2008), pp. 133-145

Adapted from materials provided by Medical University of South Carolina, via Newswise.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Filtering Through the Coffee Studies

[Source: JOSEPH BROWNSTEIN, ABC News Medical Unit] - Coffee drinking -- even more than six cups a day over the course of almost 20 years -- won't kill you, and may even help you live longer, says a new study.

Researchers from Harvard and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid used 20 years of surveys from two groups of health professionals to draw their conclusion: death does not come any sooner for those who drink more coffee.

"I think the main conclusion is that, for those coffee drinkers, they can be quite sure that coffee doesn't increase their risk of death," said Esther Lopez-Garcia, the study's lead author.

So, time to break out the Folgers or head over to Starbucks, right?

Not so fast. People love drinking coffee -- the National Coffee Association estimates that the United States imported almost 6 million bags in the last three months of 2006 alone; so, coffee, like red wine or dark chocolate, is a popular choice for these kinds of studies.

But the results are not uniform. Some studies say there is no harm, others proclaim a benefit, while still others warn of dire consequences if you so much as look at that cup of joe in the morning.

Wake Up and Smell the Research

So, what are we to make of this latest news?

"It's one more study to add to the puzzle, but the message remains: Coffee in a healthful eating plan is OK, but it's not a magic food," said Connie Diekman, former president of the American Dietetic Association.

In other words, coffee isn't going to hurt you, but there's no need to start gulping it down if you weren't drinking it before. While the study is new, its findings aren't that different from what your doctor probably would have told you.

"This has been studied for decades, and putting all the studies together, there is no benefit nor harm," said Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, who was not involved with the study.

Even the researchers on this study say the findings should be taken with caution.

"Epidemiological studies have many limitations, and we need more studies in different populations with similar results in order to understand how diet can have an effect in our health," said Lopez-Garcia.

Those repeated, confirming studies are how health recommendations are made by licensed dieticians, said Joan Salge Blake, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, and professor of nutrition at Boston University.

"You never take one study as the definitive study -- it's always based on a whole collection of studies," she said.

While it may not be as exciting when a food study confirms what we know, but a study with unprecedented results will need to be repeated before dieticians will make recommendations based on it.

"If it's brand new, say 'that's interesting,' don't say 'it's the definitive last word on it,'" said Blake. "All our recommendations are when the science is strong enough, enough of it is in, and it's all science-based. When enough science supports the recommendation, that's when the recommendation gets made."

All Diets Are Personal Diets

Blake adds that when a dietician works with a patient, they will look at medical history and other factors before deciding what recommendations to make for them.

Lopez-Garcia acknowledges this lack of a one-size-fits-all diet, saying that "people with hypertension, insomnia, and anxiety should ask their doctors before starting drinking coffee."

There may be little fault in this study's findings -- perhaps because they have been found in many other studies -- but even this study has its own potential problems.

"One cannot discount the possibility of a bias known as 'reverse causation,'" said Charles Poole, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. "Sick people may be avoiding or cutting down on coffee. This would make coffee look protective."

The lesson is that each study, no matter how well-designed, will have its limitations.

"Epidemiology is attractive to the general public and the media because its findings are directly relevant to free living humans," said Dr. Charles Hennekens, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, who first looked at coffee's impact on health in the 1970s. "It is also true, however, that epidemiology is crude and inexact, as observations of free living humans can never take place under the controlled conditions in a laboratory."

Repeated findings over multiple studies are the key to making decisions about diets, because of the flaws any individual study will have.

"No one study is ever the definitive word on anything," said Blake.

States push biotech research funding

[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] - One day after signing a $1 billion biotech initiative for his state, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Tuesday said it is critical for states to commit funding during tough economic times to build and sustain a research-based economy.

Patrick said it takes "political will and courage to make those long-term commitments" and to show scientists around the globe that a region is serious about funding research.

"I know the world is small, change is constant and competition is fierce. People come from all over the world to replicate the advantage we have," said Patrick, who co-billed a keynote discussion at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual convention on how state governments can foster biotech research

Patrick shared the stage with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose state spearheaded an effort to recruit the prestigious Scripps Research Institute to Florida in 2004. Florida's biotech efforts are often compared to Arizona's bioscience goals because both states sought to jump-start their economies by luring a major research institution.

In addition to speaking at the conference, Patrick was named the BIO 2008 governor of the year, which recognizes a state leader's vision and support of the biosciences industry. Patrick assumed the award from last year's winner, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

The Massachusetts bill comes at a time when Arizona and other state governments are grappling with sharp budget deficits and considering cuts to research, among other areas.

Arizona bioscience leaders have urged state lawmakers to preserve funding for projects such as the biomedical campus in downtown Phoenix and Science Foundation Arizona.

They say it is important for Arizona to foster growth of research and other white-collar jobs to diversify the state's economy and avoid the type of economic slump Arizona now faces due to its real-estate woes.

Patrick said that Massachusetts has a long history of innovation and therefore maintains an edge over other states seeking to grow science jobs. That is in part due to the state's highly educated workforce and prestigious universities, such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He said his state's funding commitment, in part, is a defensive measure to ensure Massachusetts universities, companies and research institutes retain top scientists and biotech companies.

Bush echoed Patrick's call for sustained funding. Florida committed more than $300 million in federal economic-development funds to land Scripps in 2004, a move that was deemed controversial at the time.

Like Arizona, Florida once had little in the way of existing biotech companies, when it landed the biomedical research institute Scripps Florida, a division of La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps.

Arizona and the city of Phoenix committed millions for a state-of-the-art research lab and startup costs for the Translational Genomics Research Institute, also known as TGen.

Bush said Florida's decision has paid big economic dividends with a cluster of biotech companies and research institutes settling there.

Other West Coast research institutes have followed Scripps to Florida, including Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, SRI International and Burnham Institute for Medical Research.
Large pharmaceutical companies have taken notice, too, with Merck & Co. establishing a for-profit research venture with H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute of Tampa.

The state now boasts nearly 600 biotech, pharmaceutical and medical-device companies.

He said the decision to commit such a large amount of up-front money helped the state avoid cost-cutting that often occurs during slumping economic times.

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8285.

Flagstaff startup to test rodent-control technology on rice-field rats for Australian government

[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] - Everett P. Hale was enjoying the leisurely pace of San Diego last summer when he got a call from friend Loretta Mayer.

Hale, CEO of a California-based nutraceuticals business that sells such items as herbs and health foods, had no interest in adding an out-of-state, experimental business to his schedule.

That is, until Mayer asked him: "How would you like to feed 1 billion people?"

Today, Hale serves as CEO of SenesTech, a startup Flagstaff company launched by a trio of Northern Arizona University scientists who believe they have discovered a technology that can be used to bolster crop yields and increase the world's food supply.

On Tuesday, at the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in San Diego, SenesTech unveiled terms of a research pact with Australia that allows the Arizona biotech company to test its rodent-control technology on the rice-field rats of West Java.

The deal is a significant milestone for the small company because it allows a chance to show whether its chemical-spay technology can protect large rice crops from the parasitic, long-fanged rats.

Under terms of the deal, SenesTech scientists will join Australian government officials in Java to set baits of the chemical-spay compound that targets the ovaries of female rats. Rats that consume the bait will become sterile within one month, SenesTech said.

The experiment will start this fall on a 2.5-acre site under an agreement with the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre in Canberra, Australia.

The technology was developed at the University of Arizona. UA has licensed one facet of the technology - called mouseopause - to Jackson Laboratory, which provides research mice to scientists.

Mayer said the technology already has been proven in the lab. It will be the first such large-scale spay experiment on the rice-field rats, which are prolific procreators. A single female rat can have three litters of 12 to 18 pups during a single harvest season.

If rice-producing nations increased crop production by 10 percent, it would yield enough food to feed 380 million people. That would provide a bountiful harvest in an era of escalating food prices and fears of worldwide rice shortages.

"As a result of their (rats) voracious appetite, they destroy hundreds of crops and people go hungry," said Cheryl Dyer, the company's chief scientific officer and a research professor at NAU.

SenesTech is attempting to commercialize facets of the technology, including the spay technology, which the company calls ContraPest.

The company employs about 17 in Flagstaff with plans to grow as its technology catches on. The company already has raised $2 million and soon will close on an additional $9 million private placement, Hale said.

The company will soon move into a new Flagstaff technology incubator called the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies.

SenesTech representatives don't see any ethical challenges of spaying field rats. The practice will preserve valuable crops without the use of poison that potentially can harm the environment or humans.

"This particular species of rat is nothing but a pest," Dyer said. "There is nobody who is going to stand up for the rice-field rat."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Japanese biotech officials to sign agreement with UA

[Source: Dale Quinn, Arizona Daily Star] - Representatives from the Japanese bioscience industry and Osaka University have gathered at the University of Arizona today to discuss a relationship that could have a widespread impact on biotechnology development in Tucson.

In the coming months, the two universities will sign an international memorandum of agreement that will allow for the exchange of faculty, students and research in the area of biotechnology.

Biotechnology uses DNA or other components of cell structure to manufacture substances or produce new devices.

Osaka has been a leader in the development of biotechnology and the UA and the Tucson-area has much to gain by fostering relationships with the univeristy and industry there, officials said.

Kiyoji Hanasaki, a professor at Osaka Univeristy, said the UA was selected because of the growing biotechnology industry here, and the strong collaboration between industry, the university and the government.

C-Path Announces New Scientific Appointments

[Source: Report] - The Critical Path Institute (C-Path) is pleased to announce the appointments of Klaus Romero, M.S., M.D. to the position of Clinical Pharmacologist, and Elizabeth Gribble Walker, Ph.D. to the position of Assistant Director, Predictive Safety Testing Consortium (PSTC). In these new positions, Doctors Romero and Walker will advance C-Path’s collaborative programs to accelerate the development of faster, safer medical products.

“It is an honor to welcome next-generation scientific talent to Tucson – Drs. Walker and Romero have precisely the type of scientific thinking we envisioned recruiting to Tucson when we started C-Path,” said Raymond L. Woosley, C-Path President and CEO.

As Clinical Pharmacologist at C-Path, Klaus Romero, M.S., M.D. will primarily serve as co-investigator in the C-Path housed Arizona Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics (AzCERT), a program focused on prevention of adverse reactions caused by drug-drug interactions. He will initially focus on the web-based educational program and the registry for cases of the drug-induced arrhythmia, torsades de pointes ( In addition to this work, Dr. Romero will collaborate with C-Path, industry and FDA scientists and others to help design quantitative disease progression models to improve the design of drug development programs.

A native of Colombia, Dr. Romero earned his medical degree from the School of Medicine at Javeriana University in Bogota and completed his residency in medical epidemiology at the Colombian School of Medicine at El Bosque University in Bogota. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Pharmacology from Colombian National University in Bogota. (Check with Klaus on my revisions.

Dr. Romero is married to Olga-Lucía Parga, also a native of Colombia. Olga-Lucía, an accomplished accessory designer and TV producer, holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Social Communications and Fashion Design. She is currently perfecting her English at the U of A, where she started a successful dance club. Olga-Lucía plans to get into graduate school at the U of A, to get an MA degree in media studies.

Elizabeth Gribble Walker, Ph.D. Assistant Director, PSTC, will support what has become a global endeavor to identify and qualify laboratory safety testing methods used to test new drugs. Over 190 scientists from 17 Member companies, along with scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its European equivalent, the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA) are collaborating in this consortium.

Dr. Walker most recently served as a Scientist in Preclinical Drug Development at ZymoGenetics. She earned her Ph.D. in Toxicology in 2005 from the University of Washington where she was an NIH/NIEHS Environmental Pathology and Toxicology Training Grant recipient for four years.

Dr. Walker is married to Matt Walker, M.A., ABS. Matt is a Primary Therapist and Wilderness Director at In Balance Ranch Academy and in private practice through Inner Passage where he offers coaching and counseling for individuals, families, and organizations.

Do your part for prostate cancer

[Source: Barbados Advocate] - CANCER is the third leading cause of deaths in Barbados after cardiovascular disease and diabetes, with prostate cancer being the leading cancer among Barbadian men.

This is according to Dr. Karen Springer, Senior Medical Officer of Health who spoke yesterday at the press conference to announce the Barbados Cycles for Charity (BCC) event at the Ministry of Health, National Insurance and Social Security.

She said that around 150 new cases are diagnosed every year and the International Agency for Research in Cancer estimates that prostate cancer is responsible for one third of cancer cases in Barbadian men.

Honourary Secretary at the Barbados Cancer Society (BCS), Dr. Dorothy Cooke-Johnson added that prostate cancer tends to develop earlier in men of African descent in the Western world while men of European descent tend to get it later on in their lives.

In a brochure released by the BCS, it states that men should have a digital rectal exam (DRE) annually after the age of 40 and a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test, especially if they are in a high risk group or they have experienced symptoms like discomfort in urinating, blood in the urine or semen, frequent urination and/or difficulty urinating. Early detection and educational programmes are imperative if Barbados is going to reduce prostate cancer cases and in this case, every stakeholder must play their part. Members of the general public can do this by pledging $10 for every kilometre that the four members of the BCC - Monica Weekes, Sean King, Gregory Austin and Larry Rogers would climb in a 15-day cycling tour in France from July 5th to the 19th as they seek to raise money for prostate cancer.

Pledgers can contact the BCS at 436-8888 or King at 231-1300 to discuss how they can send in their donations. This money can then be used to finance early detection clinics and to design, print and distribute educational materials on this type of cancer among other things. The other stakeholders are already playing their part. The Ministry of Health is collaborating with the University of the West Indies (U.W.I.) and the USA based Stony Brook University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute to conduct the Barbados National Cancer Study. The purpose of this study is to find out in detail what factors cause persons to get this cancer.

Another initiative of the Ministry in this regard is the establishment of the Barbados National CNCD Registry in conjunction with the Chronic Disease Research Centre of the U.W.I. This registry will contain the history, incidence and outcomes of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke cases in Barbados.

The BCS is also doing their part through their early detection clinics, educational outreach, health exhibitions, a air-conditioned transport service for cancer patients to and from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Q.E.H.) and counselling services.

Blacks are more likely than whites to die of breast and prostate cancer. Researchers want to know why.

[Source: Peter Wehrwein and Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., NEWSWEEK] - Not so long ago, people were often uncomfortable discussing breast or prostate cancer. The science was also limited by a lack of funding. But with ribbons, walks, bicycle rides and fund-raising, advocacy groups generated resources for research and public-awareness programs. As a result, breast and prostate cancer are now very much on the map. Despite these laudable efforts, there's still a disturbing fact about the two cancers that many Americans don't know: AfricanAmericans—and especially young African-Americans—are much more likely to die of breast or prostate cancer than white Americans are, for reasons scientists still don't understand. Now a number of doctors, researchers and patient advocates want to see African-American breast and prostate cancer pushed to the top of the health-policy agenda.

The need is undeniably urgent. African-American men have the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the world; they get the disease about 60 percent more often than white American men. And they're twice as likely as white men to die of it. Black women face grim statistics as well. Although they get breast cancer less often than white women, they have a higher breast-cancer mortality rate, especially at a younger age. That may be because young African-American women with breast cancer are twice as likely as whites to have triple-negative tumors—particularly aggressive cancers that lack receptors for estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor-2 (HER2). Without those receptors, anti-estrogen drugs such as tamoxifen and the aromatase inhibitors, and the anti-HER2 drug Herceptin, have no targets and therefore can't be used—although combinations of conventional chemotherapy drugs can still be quite effective.

Dr. Lisa Carey, a University of North Carolina researcher and oncologist, and her colleagues have also found that young African-American women are disproportionately affected by a subset of triplenegative breast cancers—called basal-like carcinomas—that generally have an even worse prognosis. Robert Millikan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, estimates that 20 to 40 percent of breast cancers in young African-Americans are the basal-like form, compared with about 15 percent among whites. Based on research reported earlier this year, Millikan estimates that about two thirds of basal-like breast cancers in young African-American women could be prevented by breast-feeding and a reduction in abdominal obesity.

In general, less is known about the biology and genetic origins of prostate cancer. "We don't have a gene for prostate cancer like the BRCA1 gene for breast cancer or the APC gene for colon cancer," says John Carpten, a prostate-cancer researcher at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix. Small studies suggesting that black men may have androgen receptors that respond more vigorously to testosterone, which could in turn stimulate the proliferation of prostate-cancer cells, have not been confirmed by larger studies.

Many experts believe that differences in education and income as well as access to health insurance and medical care are more important than biological explanations for the higher death rates among African-Americans. There is some good news on this front: the breast- and prostate-cancer screening gap between black and white Americans seems to be closing. The federal government's National Health Interview Survey found that black men between the ages of 40 and 49 are more likely to get a PSA test than white men in that age bracket—and found no racial disparity in PSA testing at other ages. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provides low-income women with access to screening services, seems to have helped increase the number of black women who get mammograms regularly.

But researchers have identified racial disparities elsewhere in the cancer-care system. It's been documented, for example, that there's more delay time between the discovery of a breast abnormality and follow-up tests for African-American women than for white women. A study of six New York City hospitals found that African-American and Hispanic women were twice as likely as white women not to get important radiation, hormonal or chemotherapy follow-up treatments after breast surgery. African-American men are less likely to receive aggressive treatment for prostate cancer—a difference that can't be entirely explained by the stage of the cancer, the age of the patient or other health conditions. (There is no strong evidence that treatments are less effective in African-Americans.)

In an effort to address barriers to screening, diagnosis and treatment, the National Cancer Institute has established the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, which funds community outreach projects and research. Programs uniting health professionals with community leaders have begun to form in some cities, like Chicago, where the goal is to improve mammography and treatment services. Groups in Houston and Baltimore may follow the Chicago group's example. More than 200 cancer centers around the country now have patient "navigators," health-care workers who help patients coordinate appointments and paperwork and arrange for transportation and babysitters. While new tests and therapies may save lives, they have also "made the path to the best treatment extremely complicated," says Dr. Karen Freund, chief of the women's health unit at Boston Medical Center. "You need someone to see you through it."

Although disparities are still unacceptably high, some researchers think there's reason to be optimistic. A deeper understanding of tumor biology has led to clear improvements in breast-cancer treatment, "and that is only going to continue," says Dr. Harold Burstein, a breast-cancer specialist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Just as significant is the fact that both the socioeconomic and biological issues underlying the higher death rates from breast and prostate cancer are now literally on the agenda at cancer research meetings. "There is increasing awareness, and people are finally getting motivated to do something about it," Burstein says. And as the history of the fight against these cancers shows, awareness is the first step to a cure.

Wehrwein is editor and Komaroff is editor in chief of the Harvard Health Letter. For more information go to .


Growing use of nanomaterials spurs research to investigate possible downsides

[Source: Latest Biology News, Bio-Medicine Online] - Potential risks from the use of nanomaterials will be explored by three Arizona State University engineering faculty in a project supported by a $400,000 grant from the U.S.Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research.

Nanomaterials are becoming more prevalent in our lives each day. These are particles of less than 100 nanometers less than one one-thousandth the width of a human hair composed of metals, carbon, polymers or semiconductors. They are increasingly used in clothes and cosmetics, plastics and cleaning solutions, skin lotions and bandages.

Nanoparticles offer an array of benefits. They have been found to effectively improve methods of cleaning up water pollution. They are helping produce medical advances by acting as carriers of medicinal drugs to specific parts of the body for fighting cancer. They are used to strengthen plastics and rubber, to make clothing more durable, sunscreen lotions more protective and antibacterial solutions more potent.

But while the properties of nanoscale materials can improve such products, there's growing concern about the impact of some nanoparticles when they find their way inside our bodies or out into the environment.

"We are exposed to engineered nanomaterials through our skin, eyes, nose and mouth. They get transported into waterways and soils. And we are just not certain if they are detrimental in any way," explains Jonathan Posner, an assistant professor in Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering in ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

Posner's partners in the research project are Paul Westerhoff, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Trevor Thornton, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

They will examine how and where nanomaterials get transported and what environmental and biological risks th e materials may pose.

"This research will provide government and industry policy makers essential information to arrive at prudent decisions about the safest ways to regulate, handle, dispose of and manage nanoscale materials in the environment, as well as the potential for using nanomaterials in medical therapies," Posner says. "To the best of our knowledge, there is no research currently addressing these specific issues."

The effort will require gaining an understanding of how nanomaterials are partitioned, or separated, particularly in liquids, and how to precisely measure the partitioning and model the process.

For an analogy of this type of partitioning, Posner says, think of salad dressing.

"If you shake up Italian salad dressing, you mix together oil and water and spices. But if you let the dressing sit a while, the oil and water separate into phases. The oil moves to the top and the water to the bottom because they are immiscible [incapable of being mixed] and have different densities. So then where do the spices go?" he says.

"A question like that is important when considering the fate and transport of nanomaterials in the environment and the human body. Partitioning is basically a measure of where the spices go into the oil or the water," Posner explains.

"For instance, partitioning determines where nanomaterials end up in the body, such as in the in the blood, kidneys, brain or in fat tissue," he says. "In the environment, one would be concerned with what fraction of the nanomaterials ends up in the waterways, soils or biomass. Partitioning measurements are typically made for pesticides and pharmaceuticals before they are mass produced, so that we can better understand where they end up."

Thus with the rising use of nanomaterials, he says, "We need to be able to predict their fate, to know how they might break up and how and where they get transported."

There are particular questions about the interaction of nanoparticles with human body cells. Some particles may tend to gather on the protective membranes that wrap around the body's cells. There is concern that the particles could weaken the membrane, causing it, in effect, to leak and harm or even kill cells. It is also not well understood how, or if, nanoparticles enter cells.

Studies of such possible effects have so far been largely inconclusive and sometimes contradictory, Posner says.

The ASU research project is designed to overcome that problem by devising methods to more closely determine the behavior of nanoparticles. That includes developing microfluidic technologies to measure partitioning, transport and toxicity.

Nanoparticle partitioning experiments will provide a foundation for developing screening tests for environmental toxicology and for predicting the behavior of the particles in the environment and the human body.

The project reflects the complexity of trying to grasp the environmental impact of nanotechnology, says Thornton, who also directs the Center for Solid State Electronics Research at ASU.

"This work combines faculty and student research assistants from three areas of engineering electrical, civil and mechanical," he says. "It exemplifies the interdisciplinary knowledge necessary to understand nanotechnology and the kind of collaborative approach to research that is taking place at ASU."

The project, Posner adds, "will build on the very strong nanotechnology research already going on at ASU."

A wide range of nanotechnology research includes projects funded by the Environmental Protection Agency focusing on the toxicology of nanomaterials as well as on using nanomaterials to treat water.

Contact: Joe Kullmanjoe.kullman@asu.edu480-965-8122Arizona State University'/>"/>

Small tech companies highlighted

[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] - Even the most experienced scientist can feel like a tiny mouse in a big maze at the biotech industry's sprawling annual convention.

Consider SenesTech President Loretta Mayer's experience at the annual conference. She was tucked away in an out-of-the-way booth and resorted to handing out chocolate-covered mice to promote her company's main commercial product, a rodent-sterilization technology.

This year, Mayer's company will gain more prestigious billing and location at the Bio 2008 conference, which runs Tuesday through Friday at the San Diego Convention

Arizona's economic development interests say the worldwide biotech industry event is an important way to showcase the caliber of biotech companies sprouting in Arizona. Companies covet the exposure because they can make important contacts and draw attention and money to their product or technology.

"This allows us to align ourselves with a state that is very collaborative," said Mayer, who is also a Northern Arizona University assistant research professor. "At the (Arizona) pavilion, people will come to our company and see us as part of something that is much larger."

Arizona has made a major push to invest in the biosciences by infusing tens of millions of dollars in new research labs at the state universities and in the private, non-profit genomics research group, the Translational Genomics Research Institute. Still, an important barometer of the state's biotech success is the number and quality of startup companies that are spinning out of the universities, research institutes or the private sector.
Event showcases state

Arizona Department of Commerce is organizing the statewide effort and promoting the efforts of participating companies with the goal of raising the state's biotech profile.

Among the new companies that will share space at Arizona's conference pavilion this year will be SenesTech and a handful of Phoenix companies such as Provista Life Sciences, Mission3, InSys Therapeutics and Caris MPI (formerly Molecular Profiling Institute). Several other Arizona research entities, such as Mayo Clinic, TGen, Biodesign Institute and Bio5 will join the ranks of state and municipal economic development representatives.

State officials expect to pool more than $100,000 in public and private funds to rent space at the convention and promote Arizona's research efforts. Similar efforts at past Bio conventions produced leads that resulted in relocations or expansions of such companies as Covance and InSys Therapeutics, said Jaye O'Donnell, senior director of marketing and business attraction for the state's department of commerce.

"This is one of our targeted industries that the state is focused on," O'Donnell said. "We are trying to attract the high-paying jobs from knowledge-based industries and the biosciences."

Industry analysts say the annual biotech event draws bio leaders across the globe and is an important way for states and regions to showcase their biotech achievements. It becomes an important tool for recruiting scientists, companies and investment to a state or region.

"If you aren't there, you sort of get lost in the dust in terms of branding and imaging," said Walt Plosila, a senior advisor at the Ohio-based Battelle Technology Partnership Practice and a consultant to the Flinn Foundation, which helped chart Arizona's biotech efforts.

Plosila said Arizona's new research labs and proximity to more established biotech corridors in California should capture the attention of small companies looking to relocate. These companies typically are more nimble and have more flexibility to move. Whether these companies actually move to a new city or town depends on such factors as workforce quality or availability of capital.

"(Companies) go to places where there are people like them," Plosila said.
Companies look to grow

Mayer believes that SenesTech in many ways represents the collaborative nature of Arizona's biotech industry.

The company was birthed on a technology from the labs of the University of Arizona and nurtured by scientists at NAU in Flagstaff.

The researchers have discovered a compound that hastens the aging process in rats and mice and other animals.

One form of the technology - called Mouseopause - has been licensed to Jackson Laboratory, which provides lab rats to researchers studying treatments for post-menopausal women.

SenesTech has secured $3 million from private investors in Arizona. It is raising another $10 million to expand the company and study how the technology can be used to reduce the crop-destroying rat populations in regions such as Indonesia or Java. SenesTech is exploring testing the ContraPest technology in rice-producing nations to see if it can effectively curtail rats that can consume or destroy half of an entire rice field.

Farmers now try to beat back the out-of-control field rats by using poison, which can be dangerous and potentially reach the food supply without proper safeguards.

Mayer and fellow NAU scientists Cheryl Dyer and Tim Vail say SenesTech's discovery is a safer, more effective alternative. And they believe the technology can be used to control other prolific animal populations, such as badgers, dogs or cats.

Mayer believes the company will meet other scientists and entrepreneurs at the Bio event that can help the Arizona company grow.

"When we first started at Bio, we were two PhD's with a cell phone," Mayer said. "We will get lots of new ideas this year. This technology can be expanded."

The other Arizona companies believe this week will be important for their bottom line.
"This is the biggest, most prestigious conference in biotech," said Caroline Hardy, director of marketing for Provista, a Phoenix company that sells a blood test that it says can help aid early detection of breast cancer.

Provista will attempt to market its test to pharmaceutical companies that may be interested in a diagnostic test to help select patients for clinical trials. The company soon expects to unveil a test that can identify Alzheimer's risk.

"This will give us more exposure to pharmaceutical companies and others wanting to license technology," Hardy said.

Reach the reporter at or (602)444-8285.