Monday, September 29, 2008

Nanotechnology Will Make Proteomics Experiments Lightning Fast

[Source: Aaron Rowe, Wired] - Some of the biggest experiments in biology have hit a significant bottleneck.

Proteomics researchers learn a tremendous amount about disease by measuring every single protein in a group of unhealthy cells, but they need a faster way to sort the molecules before analyzing them. Tiny spheres, made from silicon dioxide, could solve the problem.

"In order to study the proteome, we need to separate the individual proteins from one another for analysis," said Douglas Malkin, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona. "Our materials self-assemble to form crystals that can quickly isolate each protein out by their size or hydrophobicity."

He and his adviser, chemist Mary Wirth, pack the small spheres into capillary tubes that feed into a nanospray mass spectrometer. When they squirt a crude mixture of proteins through that little pipe, each of them will come out the other side at a different time. As they pop out the other end, the machine will measure them.

"We are doing liquid chromatography," said Malkin. "We're just doing it on the nanoscale."
Malkin presented his work today at the American Chemical Society meeting in Las Vegas. He said that the new tool could help scientists discover new biomarkers -- molecules that indicate whether someone has a disease like cancer or diabetes.

Once researchers have identified new signposts of an illness, they can make blood tests that doctors will use to give their patients an early warning.

Before that can happen, Malkin and Wirth must overcome some problems with their own technology. Because their nanoparticle-packed columns are so narrow, it takes a tremendous amount of pressure to push a brew of proteins through them.

Malkin is sure that his colleagues will rise to the challenge. Over time, the pace of protein separation will catch up to the incredible speed of high-end analyzers. When that happens, biotech research will shift into a higher gear.

The BeamPath NEURO System: First Flexible CO2 Laser Scalpel

[Source:] - OmniGuide, Inc. (Cambridge, MA) has recently announced their new BeamPath NEURO™ flexible CO2 laser for neurosurgery. According to the company, it is the first flexible CO2 laser scalpel out there. The big idea is to allow neurosurgeons to perform precise dissection, cutting, debulking, and microvascular coagulation using a hand-held, no-touch instrument, that is portable and flexible.

Robert F. Spetzler, M.D., F.A.C.S., Director, Barrow Neurological Institute, J.N. Harbor Chairman of Neurological Surgery in Phoenix, is quoted in the press release: "Neurosurgeons have long realized the benefits of CO2 lasers for microsurgery, but the traditional means of delivering the laser were too rigid and unwieldy for microsurgery, limiting lasers' use in our specialty, A flexible CO2 laser is ideal for removing small tumors that are in close proximity to critical structures, including very sensitive areas of the brain and spinal cord, as well as for tumors in deep holes, when the most precise, no-touch surgical tool is essential. A flexible CO2 laser is ideal for removing small tumors that are in close proximity to critical structures, including very sensitive areas of the brain and spinal cord, as well as for tumors in deep holes, when the most precise, no-touch surgical tool is essential."

The BeamPath NEURO system is designed to be used for various central nervous system (CNS) procedures, including intracranial tumor reserctions, spine tumor surgeries and transnasal pituitary procedures.

More about the company's proprietary BeamPath™ technology:

OmniGuide’s BeamPath™ photonic bandgap fibers are the world’s first solid state structure-based transmitters. Within each fiber, over forty microscopic layers of alternating glass and polymer form a reflective system known as a Bragg diffraction grating. The wavelength of light transmitted by this structure is a function of the thickness of the glass/ polymer bi-layers, which can be easily varied. Thus the BeamPath™ fibers can be scaled to channel different wavelengths of light. This approach represents a new paradigm in the field of light transmission, and resolves all of the limitations inherent in conventional fiber optics.

OmniGuide has also mastered a manufacturing process through which semiconductor/ polymer multi-layers can be manufactured in a scalable manner, to tolerances that were previously seen only in the semiconductor industry. The manufacturing breakthrough that made this possible is a system of drawing out a foot-long “preform” with millimeter-thick layers, into hundreds of meters of fiber with micron-thick layers.

Shifty eye movements behind famous optical illusion

[Source: New Scientist, David Robson] - The cause of an optical illusion, made famous by a 1981 painting, has finally been solved.

Neuroscientists have shown that the way our eyes constantly make tiny movements is responsible for the way concentric circles in Isia Leviant's painting 'Enigma' (see image, right) seem to flow before onlookers' eyes.

Susana Martinez-Conde and her team from the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, tested whether the effect was down to tiny, involuntary jerks of the eyes, known as microsaccades. Their purpose is not fully understood, but the rate of these movements is known to vary naturally.

In the team's experiment, while three subjects viewed Enigma, cameras recorded their eye movements 500 times every second. The subjects were asked to press a button when the speed of the optical "trickle" of the illusion appeared to slow down or stop, and release it when the trickle seemed faster.

Faster flicker

Accounting for the reaction time required to press the button, the results showed that the illusion became more pronounced when microsaccades were happening at a faster rate. When the rate slowed to a stop, the illusion vanished.

Those results go against earlier findings that suggested eye movements were not responsible for the effect.

A previous study involved giving volunteers contact lenses with tiny stalks attached that held a version of the illusion, ensuring, the team thought, that it was always stationary relative to the eye. The volunteers still experienced the illusion, suggesting that the brain actually caused the phenomenon.

But the effect of microsaccades was not taken into account, says Martinez-Conde, since the contact lenses do not keep pace with the eye during such rapid, jerky movements.
"We can now rule out the idea that the illusion originates solely in the brain," she told New Scientist.

Martinez-Conde adds that their research may also explain other similar illusions, such as Bridget Riley's Fall, or the Ouchi illusion. "It would be unexpected if Enigma is the only illusion affected by eye movements," she says.

However, the researchers are still in the dark as to what brain processes link the eye movements and the perception of an illusion. They intend to develop new experiments to find out.

Lacosamide Controls Partial-Onset Epileptic Seizures: Presented at ANA

[Source:, Andrew N. Wilner, MD, FACP, FAA] - Lacosamide is more effective than placebo in decreasing seizure frequency in patients with uncontrolled partial-onset epileptic seizures, according to results of a phase 3 trial presented here at the American Neurological Association (ANA) 133rd Annual Meeting.

These results reinforce the findings of 2 previous trials of lacosamide (SP667 and SP755) for epilepsy control, so said the investigators, led by Steve Chung, MD, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Arizona. Lacosamide is an investigational drug pending approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for partial-onset seizures and diabetic neuropathic pain, the researchers noted at a poster presentation on September 22.

In this placebo-controlled clinical trial (SP754) of 405 patients, subjects were randomised 1:2:1 to either placebo, lacosamide 400 mg/day, or lacosamide 600 mg/day (twice-daily administration).

At baseline, all subjects were taking 1 to 3 other antiepileptic drugs, which included levetiracetam, lamotrigine, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, phenytoin, topiramate, valproate, and zonisamide. The trial had an 8-week baseline phase, a 6-week titration phase, and a 12-week maintenance phase.

The median percentages of seizure reductions were as follows: 21% in the group on placebo (n = 104), 37% in the group receiving lacosamide 400 mg/day (n = 201) (P = .0078), and 38% in the group on lacosamide 600 mg BID (n = 97) (P = .0061). The 50% response rate was 18% in the placebo group, 38% in the group receiving lacosamide 400 mg/day (P = .0084), and 41% in the group on lacosamide 600 mg BID (P = .0005).

In addition, patients taking both doses of lacosamide had a significant increase in the number of seizure-free days: 5.25 days for 400 mg/day (P = .013) and 8.22 days for 600 mg BID (P < .001). Nine patients taking lacosamide achieved freedom from seizures throughout the entire maintenance phase, compared with none of the patients on placebo.

The most common adverse events affected the central nervous and gastrointestinal tract (dizziness, nausea, diplopia, blurred vision). Adverse events were mild to moderate and were most common during the titration phase. A dose-related increase in the PR interval on electrocardiography (EKG) was observed as follows: placebo (1.2 ms), lacosamide 400 mg/day (4.4 ms), and lacosamide 600 mg BID (6.1 ms). No clinically significant changes on EKG, laboratory values, vital signs, or weight were observed.

Withdrawal from the study due to adverse events occurred in 5% of the group on placebo, 18% of the group on lacosamide 400 mg/day, and 27% of the group on lacosamide 600 mg BID. Adverse events most likely to result in study withdrawal were dizziness and decreased coordination.

The mean age of subjects in this study was 38.3 years, with a mean epilepsy duration of 24.5 years.

Funding for this study was supported by UCB Pharma, Inc

Runoff Research Promotes Healthier Aquifers

[Source: USDA, Laura McGinnis] - Where rain falls can influence the quality of surface water before it enters underground reservoirs, some of which provide water that eventually comes out of our taps.

That's one conclusion from a collaborative study by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Arizona (UA). The ARS and UA scientists are investigating how urban landscapes influence storm runoff and water pollutants. The focus of their study is the greater Tucson metropolitan region, which has quadrupled in size since the early 1960s.

Like many Arizona cities, Tucson is looking into "enhanced stormwater recharge" to capitalize on the region's rare, but intense, downpours. Enhanced recharge is the process of improving groundwater reservoirs with strategic engineering, such as artificial wells to store water or porous pavement that allows more water to trickle into aquifers.

Understanding how housing density affects the region's aquifers can be helpful in identifying the best enhanced-recharge methods for a specific area.

Jean McLain, an ARS microbiologist at the U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Ariz., is working with a team of UA scientists, led by Kathleen Lohse of the School of Natural Resources, to examine how housing density affects the levels of nutrients, fecal bacteria, metals and organic pollutants in storm runoff.

They're also researching whether and how those substances enter aquifers. This information is essential for selecting optimal enhanced-recharge methods.

Impervious surface areas, such as paved parking lots, have higher runoff than absorbent surfaces. Preliminary studies show that this allows for less processing of pollutants, leading, in turn, to higher levels of enteric bacteria and nutrients in the water samples.

Ultimately, this collaboration will assist in developing effective best management practices for promoting aquifer water quality. For example, an effective recharge method for the kind of runoff mentioned above might allow the water to slowly filter through the soil, removing pollutants before the water enters underground reservoirs.

ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cepheid Receives FDA Clearance for First Rapid On-Demand Molecular Diagnostic Test for MRSA and S. aureus

[Source: PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX] - Cepheid today announced it has received clearance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to market its Xpert(TM) MRSA/SA Skin and Soft Tissue Infection (SSTI) test, which runs on the GeneXpert(R) System, for the rapid detection of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Staphylococcus aureus (SA, typically Methicillin-sensitive) in skin and soft tissue infections.

In less than one hour, Cepheid's Xpert MRSA/SA SSTI test processes specimens from suspected skin and soft tissue infection swabs to determine if a patient is infected with MRSA or SA, giving physicians and surgeons a powerful new tool to aid in selecting the most effective antibiotic therapy to improve patient management.

"The ability to detect MRSA or SA in less than one hour, versus two to three days with current culture methods, will enable clinicians to make real- time decisions as to the best course of treatment or management. The ability to accurately identify MRSA and SA on a more timely basis is important in managing both hospital-acquired and community-acquired infections. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 12 million patient visits in the U.S. each year for skin infections," said John Bishop, Cepheid's Chief Executive Officer. "We are very pleased to announce the first molecular SSTI diagnostic test for MRSA and SA, building on our established position as the leader in the HAI (Healthcare Acquired Infections) testing market. With our expanding test menu, we expect Cepheid's GeneXpert System to continue to be the molecular platform of choice for the management of HAIs."

MRSA is a bacterium that has become resistant to multiple antibiotics including penicillin and cephalosporins. Current culture-based lab testing methods require 48-72 hours to determine if a skin or soft tissue infection is caused by MRSA or SA. As a result, physicians and surgeons often prescribe broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapies while awaiting culture results.

"Millions of patients visit emergency departments and urgent care clinics each year for treatment of 'staph' infections in skin and underlying tissue, many caused by MRSA. Because culture-based antibiotic test results are not available to physicians for several days, physicians have been forced to make decisions about wound drainage and antibiotic therapy without having the benefit of supportive laboratory data," said Dr. Donna Wolk, Division Chief of Clinical Microbiology, College of Medicine; and Research Associate, BIO5 Institute at The University of Arizona. "Our clinical trial data show that this new laboratory test makes it possible to accurately detect a staph infection before a patient is released, and it provides information to support treatment choices. In addition, the GeneXpert System supports informed antibiotic choices whereby prescribing antibiotics of last resort can be reserved for those patients truly infected with MRSA, therefore, reducing the chances of microbes further developing antibiotic resistance."

Community Acquired Infections in the ER & Healthcare Acquired Surgical Site Infections

MRSA and SA infections are national medical concerns that place millions of lives at risk and add millions of dollars to healthcare costs each year - both in outpatient, or community-acquired infections, and in-patient, or surgical site infections acquired within the healthcare environment.

The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that an estimated 12 million people in the United States seek outpatient medical attention each year for skin and soft tissue infections, of which MRSA plays a major role. Significant incremental healthcare costs associated with these infections are a result of additional follow-up visits, changes in antimicrobial therapy, and transmission of infections to family members and the community.

The Institute of Healthcare Improvement reports that about 800,000 surgeries are complicated by infections annually. Cost to the health care system to treat these infections is estimated at $9.5 billion, largely due to extended hospital stays following surgery. According to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, increased length of stay is 18 days following a MRSA infection and 9 days for a SA infection.

Xpert MRSA/SA SSTI delivers actionable test results to assist physicians and surgeons in selecting accurate treatment plans for improved patient outcomes, better antimicrobial stewardship, and a reduction in both community- acquired and healthcare-acquired infections.

BIO5 to Host 7th Arizona Biosciences Leadership Symposium

[Source University of Arizona Communications] - Scott Patterson, executive director for medical services at Amgen, is the keynote speaker at the 7th Arizona Biosciences Leadership Symposium, taking place at The University of Arizona's Student Union Memorial Center.

The event is hosted by the UA's BIO5 Institute on behalf of the Flinn Foundation and the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission. The program begins at Oct. 6 at 9 a.m. and concludes on Oct. 7 at 1 p.m.

This year's event features a new format with speakers from around the country. Session topics and leaders are:

Case Histories in Translational Medicine: Ronald Marler, Mayo Clinic Phoenix
Personalized Medicine: Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, Translational Genomics Research Institute
Arizona Funding Sources for Translational Research: Laurence H. Hurley, BIO5 Institute and UA College of Pharmacy
New Technologies: Jennifer Barton, UA's Arizona Research Laboratories

A poster session highlighting Arizona Roadmap-themed research is planned.

To register and to submit posters, go to visit

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sexual Practice Of Polygyny Skews Genetic Variability

[Source: ScienceDaily] - Women have been more successful on average in passing their genes on to the next generation. "This is because a few males have fathered children with multiple females, which occurs at the expense of other less successful males", says Dr. Michael Hammer, ARL Division of Biotechnology at the University of Arizona.

The group has found DNA evidence that polygyny, the practice among males of siring children with multiple female partners at the same time or successively, has led to an excess of genetic diversity on the X chromosome relative to the autosomes.

The X chromosome is present in two copies in females and a single copy in males. The autosomes, which are inherited equally by both sexes from each parent, are expected to have more genetic diversity than the X chromosome in a population with an equal number of breeding males and females.

The article examines potential demographic and evolutionary forces that have led to higher than expected genetic variation on the X chromosome. The research team measured levels of neutral polymorphism at 40 independent loci on the X chromosome and autosomes in ninety humans representing six populations, including: Biaka (Central African Republic), Mandenka (Senegal), San (Namibia), French Basque, Han Chinese and Melanesians (Papua New Guinea). The group contrasted alternative explanations for the higher observed levels of X-linked (versus autosomal) diversity.

Background selection, changes in population size and sex-specific migration were all discounted as contributors to the observed patterns of genetic variability. Only the process of polygyny could by itself account for the sex ratio skew and resulting patterns of genomic variation. By this process, fewer unique male genes are being passed into the next generation.

The group's research highlights how unseen, sex-biased forces have shaped genomic patterns of variability. Over the long-term, the findings may provide lessons on the dynamics of beneficial mutations on different chromosomes as they sweep through the population.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Understanding Underground Stems Focus of $4 million NSF Grant

[Source: Deborah Daun, BIO5] - Anyone who's tried to remove Bermuda grass from their yard knows about plant rhizomes. These stubborn underground stems give weeds—and other plants—many advantages, not the least of which is that even after you remove the above-ground plant, only a small portion of the underground stem needs to remain for the plant to survive and try to take over your yard once more.

Understanding the genetics and development of rhizomes is the focus of a four-year, $4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to a UA-led team of scientists. "We want to find the genes responsible for producing rhizomes," says BIO5 member David Gang, PhD, associate professor of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "The genetic triggers, the signals, the regulators, and also the genes that actually build the plant."

Gang is principal investigator for the grant; his co-PIs are BIO5 member Carol Soderlund, UA research associate professor of Plant Sciences, and Jay Thelen, assistant professor of Biochemistry at the University of Missouri. The plant biologists plan to study the rhizomes of a wide range of medicinal and weedy plants, from primitive ferns and rushes to complex flowering plants.

The fact that both simple and complex plants have rhizomes is part of what makes them so interesting. The original plant stem, the one used by all early land plants, was the rhizome. Early on in the evolution of plants, rhizomes remained common, but then—perhaps because there were evolutionary advantages to growing upwards instead of along the ground—plants abandoned the underground stems for a time. Yet rhizomes re-emerged in later plants, perhaps because of the benefits rhizomes confer—things like being able to resist fire or search far afield for water—became valuable once more.

Bermuda grass isn't the only rhizome-bearing weed to frustrate farmers and homeowners. "Most of the world's 10 worst weeds use rhizomes," Gang says. "They've adapted them as a mechanism to invade new territory and crowd out other plants." Gang says better understanding rhizomes may one day help us better control weedy grasses, which cause huge economic losses worldwide every year, as well as waterway weeds like giant salvinia, which is contaminating or destroying freshwater sources worldwide. "If we can understand the genetics of what makes a weedy rhizome so invasive, then we might be able to come up with strategies to control them better--strategies that affect just the rhizomes, so that we don't have to rely so heavily on broad-spectrum herbicides."

The practical applications of understanding rhizomes extend well beyond weed control, however. "If we can understand how a rhizome grows and how it is different from an upright stem, then we can better understand how upright stems grow and develop as well," Gang says. That understanding could ultimately help improve the yields of everything from trees that supply paper pulp to biofuel sources and food crops. "So maybe you can use less land to produce more food," Gang says. "In the next 50 years especially, doing so is going to be an important issue around the world. There's a huge potential impact here."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tucson-created cancer drug advances: South Korea in licensing accord for still-in-trials Amplimexon

[Source: Arizona Daily Star] - A local drug-development company with links to the University of Arizona got a boost from a drug-licensing deal with a South Korean company -- even before the cancer drug is approved by U.S. regulators.

Tucson-based AmpliMed Corp. said Wednesday that it has entered into a license agreement with a leading South Korean-based pharmaceutical company for exclusive rights to its developmental cancer drug Amplimexon in the Asian nation.

Under terms of the agreement with Seoul-based Handok Pharmaceuticals, Handok will receive marketing and distribution rights for all cancer uses for Amplimexon in South Korea.

The company will pay AmpliMed an upfront fee, plus additional payments based on certain development and regulatory milestones. Additional financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

AmpliMed CEO Robert Dorr said deals like these don't usually happened until results from randomized trials are returned, but Handok came looking to make an investment in the drug.

"Handok was willing to make a substantial investment before the trials were over," Dorr said. "It's a real vote of confidence in the technology."

A local biotech industry official said the deal is a big step for AmpliMed's technology.
"The drug's going to move forward through this relationship," said Nina Ossanna, director of business development for the UA's Bio5 Institute. Bio5 is the UA's cross-campus genetics institute.

Ossanna, who also chairs the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona, said such early licensing deals provide "third-party validation" of a drug's potential.

Dorr said AmpliMed -- founded in 1989 by UA cancer researchers -- will retain the drug's rights in the United States but may look to sell similar rights to its drug in the European Union and Japan.
So far, the company said it has raised $29.3 million since 2004 to help fund its research.

The drug has undergone rigorous trials and is making progress toward approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Dorr, who is a UA professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of pharmacology for the Arizona Cancer Center.

Amplimexon, a spinoff from UA research, has shown results in fighting melanoma, breast, lung, prostate and pancreatic cancer, the company said.

Representatives from Handok noted the drug's potential in the fight against cancer.

"Amplimexon is poised to be a leading product in Handok's cancer pipeline, and we anticipate this promising agent will improve the quality of life for cancer patients," Handok CEO Young-jin Kim said in a press release.

Currently, Amplimexon is in Phase II clinical trials combined with gemcitabine to test for use against pancreatic cancer.

Dorr said that Phase II trials should be completed by the second quarter of 2010, with Phase III trials to wrap up by 2013.

Phase III trials are typically the last step before a drug is submitted for final approval.
The company also plans to start a Phase II trial of Amplimexon in combination with the chemotherapy drug taxotere in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer later this year.
More tests for other cancers, as well as potential further deals with Handok are in the works.
AmpliMed plans to hold trials of Amplimexon in South Korea to combat gastric cancer, Dorr said.

"I foresee further interaction with Handok in the future," he said.

TGen Researchers Publish New Multiplexed Sequence Approach

[Source: By a GenomeWeb staff reporter , GenomeWeb News] - In a paper appearing online in Nature Methods this weekend, a team of researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute described a new multiplexed, targeted re-sequencing strategy for assessing regions of the human genome more quickly and efficiently.

The team used PCR amplicons to create degenerate, indexed DNA barcodes targeting specific regions of the genome before sequencing them with the Illumina Genome Analyzer. The multiplexed approach, they say, is an effective way to uncover genetic variation in genes of interest — an approach intended to facilitate cost-efficient re-sequencing on genes involved in particular diseases and conditions.

“In many cases, rather than sequencing the whole genome for ten people, researchers would rather sequence a dozen genes for 1,000 people,” co-lead author John Pearson, head of TGen’s Bioinformatics Research Unit, said in a statement.

The researchers tested their approach by simultaneously sequencing Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE, regions from the genomes of numerous HapMap individuals. Using its targeted resequencing approach, the team was able to identify genetic variants not previously described for these regions.

“Although whole-genome sequencing may be the primary motivator for improvements in sequencing technology, it is clear that next-generation technologies are immediately useful for focused, hypothesis-driven sequencing of linkage peaks, groupings of candidate genes or sequencing the entire known coding region of the human genome,” the authors noted. “In this report, we developed per-individual indexing of pooled PCR amplicons to carry out targeted sequencing.”

In the future, they added, pooled amplicons may also be replaced by other sample-preparation strategies, including genome partitioning. “[V]ariant discovery through the re-sequencing of all candidate regions implicated in a disease across genomes of dozens, possibly hundreds, of individuals could be considerably accelerated by merging multiplex capture, indexing, and next-generation sequencing approaches in a single protocol.”

New dawn for Aimee after brain surgery

[Source: Daily Mercury] - AS the sun rises over Phoenix in Arizona, Aimee Anderson awakes to a new day she never thought she would see.

The young mum is on the slow road to recovery after a gruelling eight-hour operation to remove a brain stem cavernoma on Tuesday, September 9.

Thanks to the generosity of the Moranbah mining community she was able to go to America and undergo lifesaving surgery at a cost of $250,000.

Rachel Gobourn said her sister-in-law left hospital at the weekend.

"She's spending this week doing some physio work in the pool because her left arm is still a bit sluggish.

"She's having hospital check ups throughout the week, but otherwise, her recovery to date has been excellent."

Mr Anderson and his wife's neurosurgeon Robert Spetzler were pleased with the way the operation went.

"It looks like Dr Spetzler got all of the cavernoma," he said.

"Although, when he went in to operate it showed she had not one cavernoma, but four more growing in the same area. "The operation was also watched on the viewing platform by six European surgeons."

The $250,000 procedure at the renowned Barrow Neurological Institute was made possible by workers from Goonyella Riverside and Peak Downs mines.

Employees at each site donated safety bonuses, from 50 days free from Classified Injuries, towards Ms Anderson's life-saving surgery.

Around $50,000 from each site was collected.

Their money was matched dollar for dollar by the BHP Billiton Matched Giving Program.
The mining company also paid for her flights, accommodation, car hire and extra medical expenses.

Thomas W. Peterson to Become NSF Assistant Director for Engineering

[Source: National Science Foundation] - Thomas W. Peterson, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Arizona, has been selected as the new assistant director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Engineering. Peterson has served as Arizona's dean of the engineering college since 1998. He will start at NSF in January 2009.

Peterson was the head of chemical and environmental engineering at Arizona from 1990-98, and led the merger of those two programs. During that time period, his department was home to the first Engineering Research Center in Arizona, supported jointly by NSF and the Semiconductor Research Corporation and focusing on environmentally benign semiconductor manufacturing.

"I can't tell you how pleased we are to have Dr. Peterson join us," said NSF Director Arden L. Bement, Jr. "His deep knowledge of university engineering research, history of creating collaborative programs on campus and commitment to engineering education will allow him to hit the ground running at NSF."

As dean of Arizona's engineering college, Peterson has initiated or continued the support of a number of collaborative programs between engineering and other colleges on campus. These collaborations include undergraduate programs in optical science and engineering, engineering management and biosystems engineering (with the colleges of Optics, Management and Agriculture, respectively) and graduate programs in biomedical engineering and the management of technology (with Medicine and Management).

Peterson is currently the vice chair of the Engineering Deans Council of the American Society for Engineering Education. He was one of the founding members of the Global Engineering Deans Council and has made global education experiences a high priority for engineering students at Arizona. He came to Arizona as an assistant professor in 1977. He holds three degrees in chemical engineering: a bachelor of science degree from Tufts University, a master of science degree from Arizona, and a doctorate from Caltech.

NSF's engineering directorate provides critical support for the nation's engineering research activities and is a driving force behind the training and development of the United States engineering workforce. With a budget of approximately $640 million, the directorate supports fundamental research, the creation of cutting edge facilities and tools, broad interdisciplinary collaborations, and through its centers and Small Business Innovation Research program, enhances the competitiveness of U.S. companies.

A National Science Foundation grant will allow the UA to establish a research center.

[Source: University Communications] - The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $18.5 million grant to establish an engineering research center based at The University of Arizona.

The center, or ERC, will focus on removing one of the last bottlenecks in the Internet by developing optoelectronic technologies for high-bandwidth, low-cost, widespread access networks.

The UA and nine partner universities will collaborate as the Center for Integrated Access Networks, or CIAN, to create an advanced optical access network capable of delivering data more than a thousand times faster to users at lower cost than they now pay to connect to information data bases and communication networks.

"NSF is pleased to welcome The University of Arizona and its partner universities into the ERC program,” said Lynn Preston, NSF deputy division director and leader of the Engineering Research Center program.

“As the world increasingly relies on communications networks, we anticipate that CIAN will contribute the understanding and innovations needed to extend the reach and expand the capabilities of these networks. We expect this area of research to interest many pre-college students in the program and in engineering, and we look forward to CIAN graduates becoming leaders and innovators in the creation of future communications systems," Preston said.

"I am very enthusiastic about this ERC," said Leslie P. Tolbert, UA vice president for research, graduate studies and economic development. "The University is proud to be the lead institution in this important collaborative endeavor that is aimed at generating the edge network of the future."

Partner universities in CIAN include the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, Norfolk State University and Tuskegee University.

The new center brings together leading researchers and world-class educators who will work to create "truly transformative systems that are of critical importance to the foundation of our national information infrastructure," said CIAN director Nasser Peyghambarian, UA professor of optical sciences and of materials science and engineering.

National Science Foundation funding for the new UA-based center is timely, Peyghambarian added, citing a recent study. Analysts at Nemertes Research, an Illinois-based firm that specializes in information technologies research, predict that demand for Internet access, especially in North America, will exceed existing Internet capacity within the next three to five years.

Failing to invest in new access infrastructure won't cause the Internet to collapse, the analysts said, but it will throttle innovation and "painlessly and invisibly leach competitiveness out of the economy."

"Our vision is to create the 'PC' equivalent of the optical access network," Peyghambarian said.
His analogy refers to the revolution in electronic computing.

Forty years ago, the first commercially successful supercomputer was the size of a room, cost more than a million dollars and performed five hundred million operations per second. Today's personal computers sit on desk tops, typically cost about a thousand dollars each and process more than a billion operations per second.

CIAN's goal over the next decade is to devise and adapt chip-scale optoelectronic integration technologies for an advanced optical access network capable of delivering data at 10 gigabits, or 10 billion operations per second, to single users "anywhere, at anytime," and at lower cost, Shaya Fainman, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSD and CIAN deputy director, said. The current data transfer rate is about 10 megabits, or 10 million operations per second.

In a unique approach, CIAN vertically integrates research from developing nanostructured photonic devices to demonstrating advanced network services.

USC Professor Alan Willner and Columbia Professor Keren Bergman will lead the system and networking research thrust of CIAN. Caltech Professor Axel Scherer and Berkeley Profesor Ming Wu will lead the subsystem integration research thrust. Berkeley Professor Connie Chang-Hasnain and UA College of Optical Sciences Professor Hyatt Gibbs will lead the photonic material and device research thrust.

UCSD Professor Joseph Ford and UA optical sciences Professor Franko Kueppers will lead the CIAN’s “Grand Challenge Testbed,” the center’s system integration and network demonstration platform. UA mathematics/optical sciences Professor Jerry Moloney will develop modeling and design tools for the integrated optoelectronic chips.

CIAN will serve industry through innovative systems research. Multi-billion-dollar communications, commerce, entertainment and health care industries will benefit. UA optical sciences Professor Robert Norwood will head CIAN's industrial collaboration and technology transfer program. This part of the program gives industry a voice in various functions of CIAN including guiding the selection of research projects, enabling technology transfer and participating in student education.

The center will educate students from diverse backgrounds by piloting novel, multi-level "super courses" and student recruitment and retention programs. "Education is a significant part of our NSF engineering research center," Peyghambarian said. "These students will be the skilled workforce who will lead the next-generation communications industry."

UA College of Engineering faculty members Kelly Potter, Joseph Simmons and Supapan Seraphin and Meredith Whitaker of UA optical sciences will lead the education and outreach activities of CIAN, while Kimberly Sierra-Cajas of UA optical sciences and Professor Arlene Maclin from Norfolk State University will lead the diversity enhancement program. The CIAN team will partner with minority-serving institutions such as Pima Community College, Norfolk State University and Tuskegee University and Native American tribes in Arizona, including the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, in student education and outreach programs.

Outreach programs will include middle schools, high schools, undergraduate and graduate programs. CIAN student training also will go beyond the United States.

"Students need to realize that they're not on an isolated island. Understanding how research is done in other cultures is very, very important to our field," Peyghambarian said. "So each student funded through the center will have at least one international research experience before graduation."

Research exchange programs are being arranged with universities and companies in Germany, Japan, Israel, Finland and elsewhere.

AZBio Announces 2008 Award Winners

[Source: BUSINESS WIRE] - At its annual dinner last night in Tempe, AZ, attended by more than 400 people, the Arizona BioIndustry Association (AZBio) presented six awards, recognizing the best in Arizona bioscience.

The dinner, hosted in partnership with Arizona CURE, also featured a keynote address by James C. Greenwood, President & CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington, DC. Greenwood reflected on the transformational potential of biotechnology, an industry that he believes truly does have the power to play a major role in healing, fueling and feeding the world.

The AZBio Bioscience Educator of the Year Award went to Margaret Wilch of Tucson High Magnet School in Tucson. She has worked closely with faculty from the University of Arizona, also in Tucson, to develop and implement new biotechnology curricula used in classrooms throughout the state, including the BLAST lab (Biotechnology Laboratory for Arizona Students and Teachers). Participants in this lab identify new microorganisms using genomics and submit their data to national repositories.

The recipient of the AZBio Award for Research Excellence was Rod Wing, Ph.D., Director of the Arizona Genomics Institute at the University of Arizona. A pioneer in the field of structural genomics, Dr. Wing led a group of researchers in developing a genetic "physical" map of the corn genome, which involved taking about 18,000 pieces of corn's genetic material and assembling them in the proper order. This work has led to the completion of a working draft of the corn genome, which could have an impact on society's ability to use this important crop in dealing with drought, global warming, population pressures and increasing energy needs.

AZBio's 2008 Public Service Award was given to Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who has often demonstrated her belief that our nation's ability to innovate will drive economic growth in the United States in the 21st century. As Governor, she has supported a number of legislative initiatives designed to enhance funding opportunities for Arizona's research institutions and early-stage companies, and she has been a strong supporter of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education programs.

The Jon W. McGarity Leadership Award for 2008 was presented to Michael Cusanovich, Ph.D., Regents Professor of Biochemistry and Director of Arizona Research Labs at the University of Arizona. He was cited for his many years of volunteer service on behalf of the bioscience industry in southern Arizona and, indeed, throughout the entire state. The founder of the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona (BIOSA), Dr. Cusanovich has been at the forefront of many issues affecting the growth of the bioscience industry in Arizona, and he saw the importance and value of integrating BIOSA into a strong statewide organization. He was a key player in the ultimately successful integration of BIOSA and AZBio in early 2008.

The AZBio Fast Start Award for 2008 went to Dedicated Phase I of Phoenix. The award was accepted by Jason Bonanza, the company's founder and CEO. Since opening its doors in October 2006, the company has grown from 4 employees to a staff of 60, dedicated to overcoming the obstacles to completing Phase I clinical trials successfully, while maintaining data integrity and patient safety. In its short history, Dedicated Phase I has already become a preferred clinical trial site for many major pharmaceutical development companies.

The winner of the AZBio 2008 Bioscience Company of the Year Award was Provista Life Sciences, LLC, in Phoenix. Accepting the award on behalf of Provista was the company's President & CEO, Will Gartner. In March 2008, Provista introduced to the market the BT (Biomarker Translation) test, an innovative diagnostic blood test for the early detection of breast cancer. The BT Test measures the level of key biomarkers associated with breast cancer and, when used in conjunction with a mammogram, is more than 80 percent accurate. This non-invasive detection option offers greater accuracy than a mammogram alone, making it an important advance in women's health care.

The Arizona BioIndustry Association is a not-for-profit trade association that seeks to unify, empower and advance its member organizations, who collectively form Arizona's bioscience community, and to make Arizona a place where bioscience companies can grow and succeed. AZBio is the state affiliate in Arizona for both the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the preeminent trade association for the biotechnology industry in the United States, and AdvaMed, a national trade association whose members produce nearly 90 percent of the health care technology purchased annually in the United States.

2008 AZBio Award Criteria

Bioscience Educator of the Year Award

The educator who, as a member of the faculty or administration ofaneducational institution, demonstrated the greatest leadership, creativity and/or actions to inspire students and encourage them in the biosciences. (Cited contributions may extend over several years.)
Public Service Award

The person in Arizona who is currently serving or has served in a publicly-elected capacity at a city, county, state or federal level and has demonstrated leadership that has contributed most significantly to the enhancement of the business climate for bioscience companies in the state. (Cited contributions may extend over several years.)

Award for Research Excellence

The life science researcher in Arizona who has made the most significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge and the understanding of biological processes, as measured by publications and/or professional acknowledgement of their work in either an academic or commercial setting. (Cited contributions may extend over several years.)

Jon W. McGarity Leadership Award

The person in Arizona who provided the most outstanding leadership that contributed significantly to development of the State's bioindustry and/or recognition of the advancement of bioscience in Arizona. (Cited contributions may extend over several years.)
Fast Start Award

The most significant for-profit bioscience company headquartered in Arizona and founded on or after July 1, 2005.

Bioscience Company of the Year Award

The for-profit bioscience company whose Arizona-based operations did the most to transform the world during the last 12 months.

Arizona CURE was formed in 2006 to educate the public about the benefits of research that improves every aspect of our daily lives. The organization is committed to furthering the opportunities for institutions involved in biomedical, biotechnology and bioagricultural issues to communicate with Arizonans about this important work.
SOURCE: Arizona BioIndustry Association

Friday, September 19, 2008

St. Joseph's Hospital and InNexus Biotechnology Enter Collaborative Partnership

[Source: PRNewswire-FirstCall] - St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, part of Catholic HealthcareWest, one of the largest healthcare systems in the West with 42 hospitalsin Arizona, California and Nevada and InNexus Biotechnology Inc., a drugdevelopment company commercializing the next generation of monoclonalantibodies based on its Dynamic Cross Linking (DXL(TM)) technology,announces a collaborative partnership focusing on the development oftreatments for women with endometriosis.

"I am pleased to announce this new partnership between St. Joseph'sHospital and InNexus to explore, develop and commercialize new therapeuticsolutions for women," said Jeff Morhet, Chairman and CEO of InNexusBiotechnology, "We've already identified our first project, aimed atproviding new treatments to attack the problem of endometriosis, a painfulcondition that can lead to other conditions, such as infertility."

"We're excited to join InNexus in pursuing new treatments to help womenwith endometriosis," says Linda Hunt, President of St. Joseph's. "We hopethis is the first of many collaborations that will ultimately help patientsin need."

Scientific activities of the partnership will be conducted infacilities of both St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and InNexus'GLP (Good Lab Practice) certified drug development laboratories withfunding provided by research grants, the partners and strategiccollaborators. Additional details were not disclosed.

Acetaminophen Linked to Childhood Asthma

[Source: Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter] - Children given acetaminophen during the first year of life to reduce fever are more likely to develop asthma later on, a new study finds.

These children are also more likely to develop rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema when they reach age 6 to 7, according to the report in the Sept. 20 issue of The Lancet.

"If this association is causative, it would suggest that acetaminophen use is a risk factor for asthma and may explain the asthma has become more common," said lead researcher Dr. Richard Beasley, from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand in Wellington.

Since this study can't definitively say that acetaminophen is a cause of asthma, its use for children shouldn't be changed, Beasley added. "Acetaminophen is the preferred drug for relief of pain and fever in childhood," he said.

Beasley thinks, however, acetaminophen should not be used routinely for childhood fever, but reserved for high fevers. "Acetaminophen is still the preferred agent, but the large amounts of acetaminophen used around the world are unnecessary," he said. "Its use should be limited to treat high fevers."

For the study, Beasley's group collected data on 205,487 children from 31 countries around the world. These children participated in the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood.

The researchers found that children who were given acetaminophen for fever during the first year of life had a 46 percent increased risk of developing asthma when they were 6 to 7 years old.

In addition, children who were given high doses of acetaminophen within the past year had a more than three times increased risk of asthma. Those who were given medium doses had a 61 percent increased risk of developing the condition, Beasley's team reported.

Acetaminophen use was also associated with an increased risk of severe asthma of about 22 percent to 38 percent, the researchers found.

Moreover, acetaminophen increased the risk of eczema by 18 percent and rhinoconjunctivitis by 32 percent. Among children given high doses of acetaminophen, the risk for eczema almost doubled, and the risk for rhinoconjunctivitis increased by almost threefold, Beasley's group found.

Dr. Norman H. Edelman, vice president for health sciences and professor of medicine at SUNY Stony Brook University in New York, and spokesman for the American Lung Association, said the study adds more evidence to acetaminophen's link to asthma.

"The study is consistent with quite a few others which show that use of acetaminophen associated with an increased in the risk for asthma," Edelman said.

Dr. Geoffrey Chupp, an associate professor of medicine and director of the Yale Asthma Clinic at Yale University School of Medicine, thinks the association between acetaminophen and asthma may be a sign of something else.

"Children who are taking acetaminophen may be getting sick more often and getting more respiratory viruses, and they are getting asthma for other reasons," Chupp said. "It's not actually due to the acetaminophen, but acetaminophen happens to be in the picture, because they get sick all the time."

Another study in the same journal concluded that allergic or not, allergic rhinitis is a predictor of asthma in adulthood.

In the study, researchers collected data on 6,461 patients without asthma. After 8.8 years of follow-up, the researchers found that 3.1 percent of the patients with non-allergenic rhinitis developed asthma, as did 4 percent of the individuals with allergic rhinitis. This compared with only 1.1 percent of the patients without rhinitis who developed asthma.

"This large prospective study provides strong evidence for an increased risk of asthma in adults with allergic rhinitis, and to a lesser extent non-allergic rhinitis... Several clinical trials in asthmatic patients with allergic rhinitis were associated with a reduction in asthma symptoms. However, only interventional studies could be used to conclude that the treatment of allergic rhinitis is effective in reducing the incidence of asthma," the authors concluded.

A third study in the journal found adult asthma has its origins in early childhood.

For the study, researchers from the Arizona Respiratory Center collected data on 849 infants. After 22 years of follow-up, 181 people had asthma. The researchers found that children who had wheezing at age 6 or 7 were four times more likely to develop asthma as adults.

For children whose wheezing persisted, their risk of developing asthma increased 14 times. Other factors in childhood which increased the risk of asthma included low airway function (4.5 times increased risk for asthma) and bronchial responsiveness (7 times increased risk for asthma).

"In over 70 percent of people with current asthma and 63 percent of those with newly diagnosed asthma at age 22 years, episodes of wheezing had happened in the first three years of life or were reported by parents at age 6 years... Our findings support our previous proposition that most forms of asthma have their origins in early life, but we now extend that proposition to asthma diagnosed in early adult life," the authors concluded.

UMC honored as country's 5th-best teaching hospital

[Source: Stephanie Innes, Arizona Daily Star] - For the first time in its history, University Medical Center is being honored as one of the top five teaching hospitals in the nation.

Officials with the local hospital are scheduled to receive an award from the Illinois-based University HealthSystem Consortium at a ceremony in Scottsdale today.

UMC ranked fifth among the 88 teaching hospitals across the country.

The consortium based its rankings on six areas of quality: mortality, effectiveness, safety, equity, "patient-centeredness" and efficiency.

Last year UMC ranked 11th in the same survey. The year before, its rank was 17th.

"We're proud of it, but I say that with caution because we know we are being re-evaluated and rejudged every minute of every day," said Dr. Andreas A. Theodorou, co-director of the Center for Quality and Safety at UMC.

"We look at it as a reflection of our dedication throughout the institution. But no more than that - it's back to business."

UMC scored particularly well on the mortality portion of the analysis, ranking third for its low mortality rate in a survey that judged the hospital by measuring deaths in 28 areas, including bone marrow transplants, cardiology, neurology, neurosurgery and trauma.

"We are being scored against the top medical centers in the country, so to be third, I'm numbed by that thought," Theodorou said. "All hospitals are doing better because of sharing of ideas, government and public scrutiny - everybody is doing better, so the fact that we have done this well compared to our peers in this environment means something extra- special to us."

Theodorou said a 1999 Institute of Medicine report gave the hospital impetus to put more focus on quality and preventing mistakes. The report said medical errors killed at least 44,000 hospitalized Americans each year.

The report did not blame individual health-care workers, but said the problem was with systemic flaws in the way hospitals, clinics and pharmacies operated.

"We started our intense quality program the day the Institute of Medicine's report came out," Theodorou said.

Theodorou said UMC fostered a change in hospital culture to ensure safety was always on everyone's mind.

"We started a pretty aggressive training program not just for the leadership but for the employees at all levels of the institution," he said. "There are ongoing quality programs that are very intense. We also created the Center for Quality and Safety at UMC, and through that we have numerous initiatives, including looking at research projects, and innovative ideas on how to become better, safer and proactive in reducing errors."

UMC was among more than half of the teaching hospitals that earned perfect scores for "equity" - treating patients the same regardless of their health-insurance status and ability to pay.
The top-ranking hospital in the survey was Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. But officials with the University HealthSystem Consortium stressed that the top five medical centers were extremely close in scores.

"Once you get toward the top of the scale, it's pretty tight in terms of what is separating them. It's like a photo finish in the 100-yard dash," said Dr. Mark Keroack, vice president and director of the consortium's clinical practice advancement center.

On Aug. 11 an international health-care consulting firm named UMC one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation. It was the only Arizona hospital to make Thomson Reuters' top 100 list, which analyzed the performance of more than 2,800 U.S. hospitals on a variety of clinical, financial, operational and patient-safety criteria from 2002 to 2006.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Small RNA Molecules Provide Big Tools for Understanding Plant Development

[Source: Deborah Daun, BIO5 Insitute, UA] - University of Arizona researchers are among those who have discovered a source of previously scarce small RNA molecules. Their finding, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a valuable new tool for better understanding how plants grow and develop.

All living things contain small RNA molecules, explains Vicki Chandler, PhD, UA Regents' Professor and director of the BIO5 Institute. Some small RNA molecules help the genes in cells to carry out their instructions; others silence genes and prevent them from acting. In plants, two types of small RNA molecules have been studied, one of them 21 nucleotides long, the other 24 nucleotides long. (Nucleotides are the atomic "building blocks" of all genetic material.)

Working with a mutant strain of maize, Chandler and her colleagues have honed in on a distinct class of small RNA molecule, one that's 22 nucleotides long. The 21- and 22-nucleotide RNAs are scarce in most plants—including wild maize—but in the mutant strain, the researchers discovered that they were common because the 24-nucleotide RNAs are dramatically reduced.

Having a reliable source of the 21- and 22-nucleotide RNA means plant biologists can now study these molecules in depth, and work out the pathways they follow to regulate plant genes. "We don't yet know exactly what it [the 22-nucleotide RNA] is doing in the cells, so there'll be a whole new line of experiments as we try to figure it out," Chandler says. She adds that there may well be other understudied small RNA molecules waiting to be looked at as well. "I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg with these small regulatory RNAs. There's still a lot to learn, and that's exciting."

The information that results from studying "new" small RNAs will become doubly valuable as other plant biologists (including BIO5 member Rod Wing) finish refining the genetic sequence of maize. "The two together [the small RNA molecules and the sequenced maize genome] will provide a lot of new tools for better understanding plant growth and function," Chandler says.

That work could ultimately have implications for everything from environmental and ecological issues to agriculture and medicine. "Gene regulation is fundamental to so many issues," Chandler says. "This [the 22-nucleotide RNA molecule] is one example of a pathway that—once it's worked out—could be targeted to address them."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

USDA to Provide $9.4M for Specialty Crop Genomics

[Source: Genome Web News, a GenomeWeb staff reporter ] - NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Nine universities will use funds from the US Department of Agriculture to conduct genomic studies on a variety of specialty crops aimed at improving the quality, yield, and traits of the crops, the USDA said Tuesday.

The $9.4 million, funded through the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, will support research into the genomics of sunflower, black cherry, peach, strawberry, apple, lettuce, potato, and tomato.

Under USDA’s National Research Initiative Plant Genome Program, scientists at the universities will use the money to study specialty crops in a program that augments the Specialty Crop Research Initiative started by the 2008 Farm Bill.

"These grants will create new knowledge, information, genomic resources and seeds that may improve fruit quality, yield, drought tolerance and disease resistance in specialty crops," said USDA Chief Scientist Gale Buchanan.

The aim of the plant program is to generate knowledge about the structure, function, and organization of plant genomes in order to improve crop sustainability, efficiency, and breeding, USDA said. The agency also expects this research to create new “educational, training, and extension avenues for students and the public in the area of fruit and vegetable crop sciences,” Buchanan said.

Under the program, the University of Arizona will receive $319,000; the University of California-Davis will receive a $362,500 grant and a $400,000 grant; the University of Georgia will receive two $400,000 grants; Michigan State University will receive one $5.4 million grant and a $400,000 grant; the University of New Hampshire will receive $383,000; Pennsylvania State University will receive $362,500; Virginia Tech will receive $400,000, and Washington State University will receive grants of $400,000 and $150,000.

MSU’s grant of $5.4 million is a Coordinated Agricultural Project award for studying specialty potatoes and tomatoes.

More information may be found here.

Audit calls for transparency on state biomedical spending

[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] - The state commission that funds more than $10 million in biomedical research awards each year needs to do a better job of reporting how scientists and research organizations parlay those state funds into tangible benefits such as jobs, patents and federal grants.

A state audit of the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission released Tuesday concludes that state-funded research appears to benefit Arizonans, but the biomedical commission does not always collect and report pivotal details that would measure those benefits for taxpayers.

The state's auditor general recommends that the biomedical commission revamp the way it collects and reports data about projects it funds for groups such as the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), the state's universities and others.

The audit and sunset review will be forwarded to a joint legislative committee that will recommend whether the biomedical commission's funding should continue. It is set to expire Oct. 1, 2009.

The legislative review, expected this fall, will be closely watched by bioscience groups that turn to the biomedical commission as a critical funding source for early-stage research. The commission is a key part of Arizona's push to invest millions in biotech research to create jobs and medical discoveries.

"The findings, at least as I have read through them, don't appear to point out anything glaring that would make people not want to fund (the biomedical commission)," said Rep. John Nelson, chairman of the joint legislative audit committee.

Jim Matthews, deputy director of the biomedical commission, said his group "agrees wholeheartedly" with the audit's recommendations and will make the requested changes.

The biomedical commission is funded by Arizona's tobacco fund and lottery collections, so the amount available for grant awards varies each year. In fiscal 2008, the biomedical commission awarded $6.6 million in competitive grants to scientists at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Sun Health Research Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Northern Arizona University, TGen and others.

In addition to the competitive grants, the commission awards TGen $5.5 million each year, making the Phoenix-based genomics group the biomedical commission's largest funding recipient.

Overall, the audit found that the biomedical commission's reporting was a mixed bag. It did not always report detailed information on projects that may be of interest to Arizona residents such as the seed funding that helped a team of Arizona research groups secure a $2.8 million grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's disease research. The biomedical commission also did not require state-funded scientists to report presentations made to other scientists.

The report also noted that the biomedical commission either did not collect or did not report key information provided from TGen under terms of its contract. The audit found that the biomedical commission did not report complete information about TGen's patent activities, the number or types of jobs created and research of interest to Arizona residents.

TGen considers the funding as a critical source of money to fund operating expenses such as personnel, equipment, supplies, travel, infrastructure and administrative expenses. The money allows TGen to pursue federal grants as it works to ramp up its research prowess.

TGen representatives said the funding is important because it typically can't spend federal grant dollars or some philanthropic gifts on operating costs.

"If we didn't have that $5.5 million, it would be a radically different looking TGen,"

One biomedical commission member sits on TGen's board, and the Phoenix research institute has opened its doors for periodic tours. Burleson added that TGen officials met with state auditors and members of the biomedical commission and agreed to include any requested information in the format the state wanted.

"Our goal is to make sure we are good partners in everything we do," Burleson said.

The audit recommends the biomedical commission:

• Revise its annual progress report to reflect more detailed information such as whether the state funding helped researchers secure patents or receive additional funding from other sources. The audit also suggests the biomedical commission report the progress of research projects relevant to Arizonans such as valley-fever or skin-cancer research.

• Post the annual report on its Web site.
• Ensure that TGen reports details about job creation, presentations, research projects relevant to Arizonans and collaborations with other scientists. It also recommended that the commission's annual report include the same information contained in TGen's annual report.

NAU announces venture to put research into action

[Source: Inside NAU] - Northern Arizona University is launching a new initiative aimed at stimulating the local economy while speeding up the transfer of research findings into real-world applications.

The initiative, NAU Ventures, is a collaboration between the university and the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies to increase the patents, licensing opportunities and potential company spin-offs from NAU's $60 million in annual sponsored research projects.

"NAU Ventures will help Northern Arizona University in its vital role in promoting the state's economic development through companies and products arising out of innovative faculty research," said NAU President John Haeger.

Housed in NAU's Applied Research and Development building, NAU Ventures will oversee the university's technology transfer program, which works with the corporate sector to transfer discoveries into business endeavors.

NAU Ventures will help the university fulfill its goal to double its research expenditures by 2020, according to Laura Huenneke, NAU vice president for Research. "The awareness that we have local support for commercialization will be encouraging and supportive to faculty who are looking for opportunities to pursue commercial ventures within their academic careers," Huenneke said.

She added that the partnership will increase public awareness of NAU's level of innovation and creative research as well as its ability to attract financial support from private industries and corporations.

"NAU Ventures will definitely assist us in increasing our research portfolio," Huenneke said. "The next several years will be exciting and productive as we transfer more innovations from our laboratories and research centers to address compelling health, environment and other challenges."

The Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies is designed to help technology startup businesses succeed.

NACET also will operate the city of Flagstaff's new technology incubator facility under development at McMillan Mesa. The 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, scheduled to open in October, is designed to support the startup of life science, software and environmental technology business as part of the city's larger Flagstaff Innovation Park also under development.

"Our ultimate goal is to create much-needed high-quality job opportunities," said Tom Rainey, president of NACET, who will operate NAU Ventures for the university on a contract basis. "We understand the power of matching great ideas with the right resources. We not only link client companies to specialty labs and equipment, intellectual property and capital resources, we also create synergies through an extensive network of faculty, staff, interns and alumni from local academic institutions."

Stacey Button, director of the City of Flagstaff's new Economic Vitality Division noted, "The city of Flagstaff, NAU and NACET are working in tandem to nurture 'home grown' businesses for sustainable economic development throughout the region."

Al Poskanzer, a technology transfer professional with more than 30 years of industry experience, will manage the initiative. Poskanzer previously directed the licensing offices at Arizona State University and most recently served as director of technology at Boeing. He received the 1999 Arizona Governor's Strategic Partnership for Economic Development award for his contributions in creating and implementing the Intellectual Property Policy of the Arizona Board of Regents.

Monday, September 15, 2008

TGen investigators devise faster, cheaper way of analyzing the human genome

[Source: TGen] - Investigators at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today announced a faster and less expensive way for scientists to find which genes might affect human health.

Using bar-codes, not unlike what shoppers find in grocery stores, TGen researchers found a way to index portions of the nearly 3-billion-base human genetic code, making it easier for scientists to zero in on the regions most likely to show variations in genetic traits.

The findings were published today in the online version of the journal Nature Methods. The study will be published in print in the journal's October edition.

Dr. David Craig, associate director of TGen's Neurogenomics Division, said the new method should cost only one-tenth, or less, of the current cost of sequencing genes commonly done to analyze Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), and in performing Genome-Wide Association (GWA) studies.

"Our goal is to find the genetic basis of disease," said Craig, the study's lead author. "It (the new method) provides us a way to immediately use next-generation sequencing technology for studying hundreds to thousands of individuals."

John Pearson, the head of TGen's Bioinformatics Research Unit, said the new method would allow scientists worldwide to more easily tune their sequencing experiments, and conduct their experiments with greater speed.

"In many cases, rather than sequencing the whole genome for 10 people, researchers would rather sequence a dozen genes for 1,000 people," said Pearson, who contributed to the study.
TGen scientists adapted an exciting new technology known as "next generation sequencing" to allow samples to be run and analyzed using 15 well-characterized indexes.

"Moving forward, TGen scientists are now attempting to merge this indexing approach with sequence-capture methods currently under development in their laboratories, which would likely further improve the cost savings and speed," said Dr. Matthew Huentelman, an investigator in TGen's Neurogenomics Division, who also contributed to the study.

Depending on assumptions made in an experiment, the desired coverage -- and as a consequence, the cost -- can vary substantially, the study said, depending on whether the objective is:

Discovering genetic variants for genotyping by a separate method such as custom SNP genotyping.

Conducting polymorphism discovery and variant calling within one sequencing experiment.

Exhaustively resequencing for all common and rare variants.

The new method of analyzing human genetics should enable scientists at TGen and elsewhere to push ahead with key scientific research needed to prevent, diagnosis and treat a variety of diseases and conditions.

"Although whole-genome sequencing may be the primary motivator for improvements in sequencing technology," the study said, "it is clear that next-generation technologies are immediately useful for focused, hypothesis-driven sequencing of linkage peaks, groupings of candidate genes or sequencing the entire known coding sequence of the human genome."

International TGen-led team finds link between brain protein and Alzheimer's disease

[Source: TGen] - Investigators at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today announced a link between the brain protein KIBRA and Alzheimer's disease, a discovery that could lead to promising new treatments for this memory-robbing disorder.

The new discovery builds on a previous TGen-led study published in the prestigious journal Science, which showed a genetic link between KIBRA and memory in healthy adults.

In the new study, TGen researchers found that carriers of a memory-enhancing flavor of the KIBRA gene had a 25 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The findings were reported Saturday in the online edition of Neurobiology of Aging, a Philadelphia-based peer-review journal that generally focuses on how aging affects the nervous system.

"This research suggests that KIBRA, and possibly some of the proteins with which it interacts, may play a role in Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Matthew Huentelman, an investigator in TGen's Neurogenomics Division and the paper's senior author.

The critical difference found in KIBRA, a protein so named because it is commonly found in the kidneys and brain, was that those individuals with the T-allele gene were less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those with the C-allele. Alleles are those genetic markers – A, C, G or T – that determine such inherited traits as eye and hair color, or susceptibility to disease.

"We are now beginning to dig deeper regarding the genetic sequence of KIBRA in individuals carrying, and not carrying, the T-allele. We believe this variation causes a potential lifelong difference in the total levels of KIBRA in the brain, and that this may influence one's risk for Alzheimer's," said Huentelman, who led a team that worked with several Arizona institutions, as well as other national and international universities and research institutions.

Dr. Eric Reiman, clinical director of TGen's Neurogenomics Division and executive director of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute, said, "This study suggests a link between the inherited genes involved in normal human memory and the predisposition to Alzheimer's disease."

"It provides promising new targets at which to aim new treatments to stave off Alzheimer's and improve memory," said Reiman, who also is director of the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium and a contributor to the study.

The findings announced today are built on a 2006 study led by collaborative teams from Arizona and Zurich, Switzerland, and published in the journal Science. That pioneering TGen research revealed a link between KIBRA and memory, in which healthy adults with the KIBRA T-allele performed better on memory tests than those without this gene.

In the most recent analysis, Huentelman's team confirmed a link between KIBRA and Alzheimer's in three different ways:

Using TGen's powerful analytic tools to find a genetic association between the KIBRA gene and Alzheimer's disease, comparing more than 1,700 living and deceased people, with and without the disorder.

Using gene expression tools to find that KIBRA, and genes for other molecules that interact with KIBRA, were significantly altered in the neurons of people who had Alzheimer's disease, but not in individuals without the disorder.

Using a brain imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET) to find that cognitively-normal, late-middle-aged people lacking the protective T-allele gene had reduced activity in parts of the brain usually affected by Alzheimer's.

Genetic association studyIn a study of 702 deceased persons diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and 1,026 living and deceased persons with and without Alzheimer's, researchers found that non-carriers of the KIBRA T-allele had increased risk of late-onset Alzheimer's.

The genotyped samples came from five centers, including three European organizations representing German, Dutch and Norwegian populations.

Gene expression studyThe gene expression study examined tissues from six regions of the brain among 47 deceased individuals. The brain tissue samples were provided by three Alzheimer's disease centers: Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.; Duke University in Durham, N.C.; and Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Ariz.

KIBRA, and a subset of other molecules directly interacting with it, were significantly altered in regions of the brain involved in Alzheimer's disease pathology. The regions investigated included the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, middle temporal gyrus, and superior frontal gyrus. However, they were not altered in a region of the brain typically unaffected by the disease -- the primary visual cortex.

Positron Emission Tomography scans

PET scans of 67 non-carriers of the KIBRA T-allele, and 69 carriers -- all with close relatives diagnosed with Alzheimer's -- showed that non-carriers exhibited, on average, similar alterations in the metabolic activity of key brain regions known to be altered in the earliest stages of the disease. All 136 individuals were mentally-normal, late-middle-aged Phoenix-area volunteers solicited from newspaper advertisements. They ranged in age from 47 to 68, with an average age of 55.

Scans showed that individuals without the KIBRA T-allele -- those with only KIBRA C-alleles from their mother and from their father -- had less metabolic brain activity when compared to those individuals carrying the T-allele -- from either their mother or father, or both. These differences were found in the precuneus and posterior cingulated regions of the brain affected in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's.

Previous work led by Reiman illustrated a similar finding when individuals were grouped according to whether they carried the most powerful genetic indicator for Alzheimer's -- the epsilon 4 allele of apolipoprotein E. In the current study, the effects of this allele were controlled for, yet similar observations were made. This suggests that KIBRA may play a role in a convergent biological risk pathway for the disease.


ParticipantsTGen's Jason Corneveaux and Dr. Winnie S. Liang were the paper's first authors.
Other Arizona participants in the study were: Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium, Banner Alzheimer's Institute, Sun Health Research Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital, Arizona State University, Mayo Clinic Arizona, and the University of Arizona's departments of Psychiatry, Radiology, and its Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.

Other U.S. participants included: University of Miami, the National Institute on Aging, and the Mayo Clinic Rochester.

International collaborators included: the Netherlands Institute for Neurosciences, Netherlands; the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and St. Olav's Hospital, Norway; the University of Bonn, Germany; and the University of Basel, Switzerland.

Developer floats cancer center in suburbs

[Source: Jahna Berry and Edythe Jensen, The Arizona Republic] - An influential developer wants the University of Arizona to consider putting a sought-after cancer center in a suburb, not downtown Phoenix.

Officials from UA, which would oversee the future cancer center, have downplayed the developer's queries in Chandler and Surprise. Patients need a center in a sprawling, resort-like setting, and Phoenix doesn't have enough room for that, said the developer, Tom Hornaday.

But Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon isn't taking any chances and wants UA to reaffirm its commitment to build the center in his city.

Gordon has reasons to be worried:

• Last year, Phoenix lost to Goodyear on a $70 million cancer center that was to be built near Loop 101 and Thomas Road. This year, talks collapsed for a Banner teaching hospital on UA's fledgling downtown Phoenix medical-school campus.

• Chandler and Surprise are jockeying to be players in the state's bioscience scene.

• There are new Valley political players, and leaders at UA, who were not part of the early planning for Phoenix's 28-acre biomedical hub.

Eventually the area, bounded by Garfield, Monroe, Fifth and Seventh streets, would share a hospital, researchers, and the three state universities. Already, UA's medical school and Translational Genomics Research Institute and a unit from the ASU engineering college have taken root there. State lawmakers recently approved $470 million for future campus construction.

Gordon wants UA to reaffirm its four-year-old commitment to put a branch of the Arizona Cancer Center in Phoenix.

"While outsiders are trying to put together a speculative real-estate deal, it risks slowing down and diverting the attention necessary to continue the momentum to build the biomedical campus," Gordon said, noting the state Legislature and other groups have committed more than $1 billion to the downtown project.

UA hasn't changed its mind, said Judy Bernas, a university associate vice president.

"That which was envisioned on the Phoenix campus is what we will do," she said. Hornaday is a well-intentioned supporter who's talking to cities on his own time, she said. He does not represent the university, she said.

Unique commitment

But Hornaday is no ordinary developer.

The 67-year-old businessman is a longtime board member of the Arizona Cancer Center, a center donor and he's bankrolled a 110,000-square-foot medical facility at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.

He's also a player in bioscience circles: he sits on a key Flinn Foundation committee, and a fund named in honor of his daughter helps to fund skin-cancer research at TGen. Hornaday lost his mother to breast cancer and his daughter died of skin cancer.

Chandler could be an ideal place for the Arizona Cancer Center, said Hornaday, who talked to Chandler officials about putting a facility near Kyrene Road and Loop 202. Chandler owns 56 acres in the area and has an option to buy 31 additional acres.

And if Banner goes through with plans to put a cancer hospital in central Phoenix, Arizona Cancer Center should go in the East Valley, he said. The West Valley and Scottsdale already have cancer facilities or have plans to build them, he said.

Hornaday stressed he's made only a few early inquires to suburban cities. The regents haven't formally approved the proposed Valley center, which is a few years off, he added.

"My commitment is to cancer and the cancer patient," said the businessman. "I am sort of doing it on my own."

Powerhouse plans

Like Phoenix, other Valley cities want to be a biotech powerhouse.

"We're letting the world know, we're letting the universities know, that Chandler is interested in biomedical development," Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said.

Chandler officials, including the mayor and a spokeswoman for the city manager, confirmed they discussed the project with Hornaday but said talks are "very preliminary."

In 2007, the East Valley city aggressively went after biotech.

A pro-business group founded by former Chandler Mayor Jim Patterson organized a biotech conference at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort.

Two years earlier, the city met with and lured Covance Inc., a global drug-development company that is building one of its largest facilities near the Chandler Municipal Airport.

Surprise wants to get into the biotech game, too.

Economic Development Director John Hagen said he has had conversations with Hornaday but would not comment on discussions involving Arizona Cancer Center.

Surprise wants to lure biotech and medical employers to an 80-acre area surrounding the city's spring-training stadium near Greenway Road and Civic Center Drive.

Republic reporter Erin Zlomek contributed to this article.

Tucson-created cancer drug advances

[Source: Dan Sullivan, Arizona Daily Star] - A local drug-development company with links to the University of Arizona got a boost from a drug-licensing deal with a South Korean company — even before the cancer drug is approved by U.S. regulators.

Tucson-based AmpliMed Corp. said Wednesday that it has entered into a license agreement with a leading South Korean-based pharmaceutical company for exclusive rights to its developmental cancer drug Amplimexon in the Asian nation.

Under terms of the agreement with Seoul-based Handok Pharmaceuticals, Handok will receive marketing and distribution rights for all cancer uses for Amplimexon in South Korea.

The company will pay AmpliMed an upfront fee, plus additional payments based on certain development and regulatory milestones. Additional financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

AmpliMed CEO Robert Dorr said deals like these don't usually happened until results from randomized trials are returned, but Handok came looking to make an investment in the drug.

"Handok was willing to make a substantial investment before the trials were over," Dorr said. "It's a real vote of confidence in the technology."

A local biotech industry official said the deal is a big step for AmpliMed's technology.

"The drug's going to move forward through this relationship," said Nina Ossanna, director of business development for the UA's Bio5 Institute. Bio5 is the UA's cross-campus genetics institute.

Ossanna, who also chairs the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona, said such early licensing deals provide "third-party validation" of a drug's potential.

Dorr said AmpliMed — founded in 1989 by UA cancer researchers — will retain the drug's rights in the United States but may look to sell similar rights to its drug in the European Union and Japan.

So far, the company said it has raised $29.3 million since 2004 to help fund its research.

The drug has undergone rigorous trials and is making progress toward approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Dorr, who is a UA professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of pharmacology for the Arizona Cancer Center.

Amplimexon, a spinoff from UA research, has shown results in fighting melanoma, breast, lung, prostate and pancreatic cancer, the company said.
Representatives from Handok noted the drug's potential in the fight against cancer.

"Amplimexon is poised to be a leading product in Handok's cancer pipeline, and we anticipate this promising agent will improve the quality of life for cancer patients," Handok CEO Young-jin Kim said in a press release.

Currently, Amplimexon is in Phase II clinical trials combined with gemcitabine to test for use against pancreatic cancer.

Dorr said that Phase II trials should be completed by the second quarter of 2010, with Phase III trials to wrap up by 2013.

Phase III trials are typically the last step before a drug is submitted for final approval.

The company also plans to start a Phase II trial of Amplimexon in combination with the chemotherapy drug taxotere in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer later this year.

More tests for other cancers, as well as potential further deals with Handok are in the works.

AmpliMed plans to hold trials of Amplimexon in South Korea to combat gastric cancer, Dorr said.

"I foresee further interaction with Handok in the future," he said.

Find the latest news on the local biotech industry at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ovarian cancer drug tested at Scottsdale site

[Source: Julie Janovsky, East Valley Tribune] - A new cancer drug being tested at Scottsdale Healthcare is the latest weapon medical researchers are using in their fight against ovarian cancer.

Often called a "silent killer," ovarian cancer strikes approximately 20,000 women in the U.S. annually, claiming the lives of roughly 15,000 per year, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, a national cancer education and advocacy group.

As health advocates help women learn what they need to know about the disease this month - designated national ovarian cancer awareness month - Scottsdale Healthcare, in partnership with TGen Clinical Research Services, is spreading the word about the new cancer treatment drug that is showing promise in preliminary testing.

The experimental drug, CBP501, in its first phase of testing, is helping make tumors more susceptible to chemotherapy treatment, especially in women with ovarian cancer, said Dr. Raoul Tibes, director of the hematologic malignancies program and assistant investigator at TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare.

Tibes said ovarian cancer patients who have taken part in early clinical testing of the drug have responded so well that Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen Clinical Research Services are expanding the trials to accommodate an additional ten qualified patients with ovarian cancer.

"If it holds true in additional patients, (the drug) could potentially become a treatment option for patients with ovarian cancer," said Tibes regarding the first wave of early trials which began at Scottsdale Healthcare a little more than a year ago.

Scottsdale Healthcare and TGen Clinical Research Services are the only medical entities in Arizona to offer the experimental drug in trials to ovarian cancer patients, said Tibes.

Meanwhile, as national ovarian cancer awareness month is in full swing, health advocates are alerting the public to the symptoms of ovarian cancer - symptoms that can easily mimic other common ailments.

The key, said Michele Avery, an ovarian cancer survivor and administrative assistant at Scottsdale Healthcare, is how persistent the symptoms are.

"Women need to be their own advocates and know what is not normal for them," said Avery, 40, stressing early detection, as in her case, is the best way to have the greatest chance of survival.

Drug may help cancer survivors

[Source: Arizona Republic] - A drug trial aims to help cancer survivors feel stronger, no matter the type of cancer.

More than 65 percent of cancer patients survive at least five years after diagnosis.

That success has generated a new focus:improving life for cancer survivors.

The Scottsdale drug study by TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare takes the issue to the bedside.

Scientists led by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff are testing a drug developed by Eli Lily and Co. that may help cancer patients get their muscle strength back.

The new drug is believed to stop muscle deterioration by blocking a body protein called myostatin that naturally diminishes muscle growth.

"This is a treatment for people who have already been treated for advanced cancer," said study coordinator Joyce Ingold, who is enrolling study participants.

People interested in participating may contact her at 480-323-1339 or

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Laurence Hurley has been awarded one of 38 NIH grants for research projects that could have an extraordinary impact on many areas of science.

[Source: University of Arizona Communications] - Laurence Hurley, professor of pharmacy at The University of Arizona and associate director of the BIO5 Institute, has been awarded one of 38 National Institutes of Health grants for exceptionally innovative research projects that could have an extraordinary impact on many areas of science.

The grants totaling $42.2 million are the first made in a new program called EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration), which helps investigators test novel and often unconventional hypotheses or tackle major technical challenges.

Hurley is designing a molecular system that permits the design of simple drugs that turn off cancer genes.

Each EUREKA researcher will receive approximately $200,000 per year for up to four years, subject to the availability of appropriations.

"EUREKA projects promise remarkable outcomes that could revolutionize science," said NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni. "The program reflects NIH's commitment to supporting potentially transformative research, even if it carries a greater than usual degree of scientific risk."

"EUREKA is an experiment in how to attract, identify and support particularly creative approaches that, if successful, could move science forward dramatically," said Jeremy M. Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, or NIGMS, which led the development of the EUREKA program. "One way EUREKA does this is through a specialized application and review process focusing on the significance and innovation of the proposal."
In addition to NIGMS, the other NIH divisions funding EUREKA projects are the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.