Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reliability Of Cognitive Assessment Tool Varies Widely, Study Suggests

[Source: ScienceDaily] - A new suggests the reliability of the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale – Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) may vary and possess the ability to affect clinical trial outcomes.

Moreover, this study further suggests that ADAS-Cog rater training and experience are factors that contribute to variances seen in this assessment tool.

The importance of a reliable diagnosis of the Alzheimer's disease (AD) is critical as new pharmacotherapies are being developed. The ADAS-cog is considered the gold-standard and the most popular cognitive testing instrument used in clinical trials to detect changes in the core symptoms of AD.

This study critically looks at various factors that might influence the way the ADAS-cog is administered and therefore may lead to and yield unintended outcomes. The study found factors such as rater training, rater education, variance in time allotment during testing as well as rater experience and individual judgment may contribute to variance in scoring when using this assessment.

"Clinical trials for the possible treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are becoming more expansive and being run in many countries. The necessity for the primary outcome instrument to be administered consistently in different countries, cultures and between different clinical trials is critical if we are to determine which treatment works better than others. Any variability in how the instruments are administered can adversely affect the ability to detect positive outcomes," says Donald Connor PhD, PhD, director of neuropsychology at Banner Health's Sun Health Research Institute.

Rater experiences were not the only factors that contributed to variances in ADAS-cog scoring. The study also suggested that test materials changed over time including large ranges in the quality of naming materials, word card decks, instruction manuals and worksheets, all factors that can affect outcomes.

"Even as we try to develop better instruments for the detection of meaningful change we must make sure that our current instruments are utilized as effectively as possible," Dr. Connor says. "As the population continues to age rapidly and new Alzheimer's medications are being developed, it is critical that all who are involved in clinical evaluation and testing does so with precision and consistency."

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (Volume 15:3).

Gasping Helps Cardiac Arrest Victims Survive, New Research Shows

[Source: ScienceDaily ] - People who witness an individual collapse suddenly and unexpectedly should perform uninterrupted chest compressions even if the patient gasps or breathes in a funny way, research from the Resuscitation Research Group at The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center shows.

When an individual breathes abnormally or gasps after collapsing from sudden cardiac arrest there is a greater chance of surviving, the researchers report. Gasping can be thought of as a survival reflex triggered by the brain.

Each day, about 500 Americans collapse because their hearts suddenly stop beating. Data collected by Sarver Heart Center researchers show that in more than half of witnessed cardiac arrest cases, the patient gasped.

"Gasping is an indication that the brain is still alive, and it tells you that if you start and continue uninterrupted chest compressions, the person has a high chance of surviving," said Gordon A. Ewy, MD, corresponding author of the study, professor and chief of cardiology at the UA and director of its Sarver Heart Center. "We need people to promptly recognize sudden cardiac arrest, to call 9-1-1 and to start chest compressions right away."

Gasping has been described as snoring, gurgling, moaning, snorting or agonal or labored breathing. However, bystanders often misinterpret gasping and other unusual vocal sounds as normal breathing and don't call 9-1-1 or begin lifesaving chest compressions quickly enough, Dr. Ewy said.

The authors hope their findings lead to greater willingness of untrained bystanders to jump in and perform continuous chest compressions. Bystander-initiated CPR has been shown to be a cardiac arrest victim's only chance of survival until an automated external defibrillator or the paramedics get to the scene.

Many bystanders are hesitant to perform mouth-to-mouth ventilation, and in a case of a witnessed (seen or heard) collapse, so-called rescue breathing is not necessary and may be harmful, Dr. Ewy said. "When the patient gasps, there is a negative pressure in the chest, which not only sucks air into the lungs but also draws blood back to the heart. In contrast, mouth-to-mouth breathing creates overpressure in the chest and actually inhibits blood flow back to the heart. Gasping during cardiac arrest is much better than mouth-to-mouth breathing."

But what about choking? "That's very different," Dr. Ewy said. "Someone who is choking will be seen to grasp their throat and struggle to breathe, which means they're responsive. These individuals need the Heimlich maneuver." A primary cardiac arrest is the witnessed unexpected collapse of an individual who is not responsive, Dr. Ewy said. "Cardiac arrest will cause the stricken individual to pass out and collapse to the ground within seconds."

The Arizona researchers examined data from two sources. Transcripts from the Phoenix Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center included information on gasping in patients found by bystanders, whether their collapse was witnessed or not. The department's first-care reports on 1,218 witnessed patients provided the incidence of gasping upon or after the arrival of emergency medical service (EMS) personnel. Among the 481 patients who received bystander CPR, 39 percent of gaspers survived, but only 9.4 percent of those who didn't gasp survived.

Performing uninterrupted chest compressions (a technique developed at the UA Sarver Heart Center and endorsed by the American Heart Association as "Hands-Only CPR" for lay individuals) may cause a person who has stopped gasping to resume gasping. "This scares many people and they stop pressing on the chest," Dr. Ewy said, "This is bad because gasping is an indication that you're doing a good job."

The study is set to publish in the Nov. 24 online issue of Circulation, the official journal of the American Heart Association.

The authors of the study are: Bentley J. Bobrow, MD; Mathias Zuercher, MD; Gordon A. Ewy, MD; Lani Clark, BS; Vatsal Chikani, MPH,; Dan Donahue BS, NREMT-P, Arthur B. Sanders, MD; Ronald W. Hilwig, DVM; Robert A. Berg, MD; and Karl B. Kern, MD.

Experts continue to promote a combination of rescue breathing and chest compressions for victims of cardiac arrest due to non-cardiac causes, like near drowning or electrocution, and all victims of pediatric cardiac arrest.

The study was funded in part by a grant from the Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.

HTG Names Fredrick Pollock VP of Corporate Development

[Source: BUSINESS WIRE] - HTG, Inc., provider of the quantitative Nuclease Protection Assay (qNPA(TM)) system and service partner for the life sciences industry, today announced it has appointed Fredrick L. Pollock to Vice President of Corporate Development. Pollock will be responsible for leading commercial sales efforts in the academic and research markets, spearheading efforts for bio-marker and signature discovery collaborations and supporting commercialization efforts for the company's mid-density array product line.

Over the past eight years, Pollack has served in management, sales and business development roles most recently as Director of Strategic Businesses and Translational Medicine at Affymetrix, Inc., a leading microarray technology vendor. His accomplishments include implementing a global alliance management program, developing strategies for sales expansions, launching several partner clinical laboratory improvement amendments (CLIA) certified clinical tests, and securing multi-millions in additional sales.

"Fred brings a wealth of industry knowledge and expertise to our leadership team and he will help us accelerate our commercial and corporate development efforts," said TJ Johnson, President and CEO, HTG. "HTG's portfolio strategy is to leverage the precision of the qNPA assay into the mid-plex market and establish the assay as a new standard for gene expression based diagnostics. Fred's background is perfectly suited to help us in these specific areas."

"I am eager to work with the HTG management team and build on the proven success of HTG's platform to further expand the company's customer base," said Fred Pollock. "With my biotechnology and translational medical industry experience this was an ideal fit. I look forward to contributing to HTG's future success in my new capacity."

Prior to Affymetrix, Pollock worked at Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, now part of GE Healthcare, for 11 years. He most recently served as a business unit manager where he was responsible for managing sales in the central United States. He also held positions at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Photon Marketing.

Pollock earned a B.A. in Molecular Biology from the University of North Texas.

HTG's qNPA technology is used to carry out quantitative multiplexed, gene-based drug discovery programs, including target validation, HTS lead optimization, metabolism, toxicology and clinical development. HTG's platform allows scientists to test any sample, including fixed tissues, while avoiding the need for extraction or target amplification. The platform provides high-quality quantitative test results enabling clients to compress drug discovery and development program timelines, increase program success and reduce costs.

Arizona Heart Innovative Technologies Licenses New Endovascular Device

[Source: Biospace.com/PRNewswire] - Arizona Heart Innovative Technologies, LLC (AHIT) announced the license of a new medical device for endovascular use to a publicly traded medical device company. "This is the second AHIT-developed product that we have licensed in the past ten months. We continue to demonstrate our ability to bridge the gap between good ideas from the medical community to commercially viable products for medical device companies. This confirms the viability of our business model to serve as a cost-effective supplementary research and development resource for companies," says AHIT President and CEO, Bill Colone. "We have additional products that have completed the development process and we are continuing to discuss options with many device companies."

AHIT licensed the endovascular product in July of 2007 from Hani Shennib, MD, a cardiovascular surgeon formerly at the Arizona Heart Hospital. The product was prototyped, tested and marketed to multiple medical companies immediately following positive clinical test results. The product should reach both the U.S. and international markets by the first quarter of 2009.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New small-business center ready to hatch

[Source: Joe Ferguson, Arizona Daily Sun] - The first home for what Flagstaff officials hope will be the next generation of businesses focusing on clean energy and technology officially opened Tuesday on McMillan Mesa.

The 10,000 square-foot, state-of-the art facility, known as the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies, will serve as a small-business incubator for entrepreneurs and startups. NACET will focus on high-tech, science-based businesses as well as renewable energy firms.
Gov. Janet Napolitano was one of several politicians who hailed the incubator as a step to diversify the local economy and support fledgling businesses. She touched on the current economy, saying Arizona needs to reduce its dependence on industries like home construction prone to boom and bust cycles.

“I think in Arizona we have seen why it is that we must continue to plant the seeds of diversifying ... so that we are not overly dependent on one industry such as construction. We have been through several construction cycles now since I’ve been governor, each one worse than one before. We always come out, but they are very difficult to go through,” Napolitano told reporters.

She said she was pleased to see a new incubator that will benefit communities in northern Arizona.

“One of our chief goals is to keep improving education, workforce development and projects such as NACET right here in Flagstaff. To keep diversifying the economy and to do it outside of Maricopa County,” Napolitano said.

One of the incubator’s first tenants is SenesTech, a fledgling biotechnology company started six years ago by NAU alum Loretta Mayer.

The company has one of the largest presences in the incubator, with several employees working out of a total of seven labs and offices.

The company is working on manufacturing a nontoxic alternative to the poisons currently used to keep rice-field rats under control.

The company recently signed a contract with the Australian government to produce the compound. Senestech hopes to have a marketable product with the next two years, according to NACET.

Local businessman Lavelle McCoy said he has been working on establishing a business incubator in Flagstaff for eight years. He currently serves as the chairman of NACET’s board of directors.
McCoy was proud of the new building but said it’s the companies that are the future of northern Arizona.

“This is more than just a facility. The facility is an instrument. What really matters is what we are going to accomplish going forward,” McCoy said.

The incubator was nearly scrapped by NAU a few years ago when increases in the cost of construction materials caused the university to scale back the project to half its originally planned size — 5,000 square feet.

The Flagstaff City Council then stepped in to take the lead on the incubator using a federal grant from the Economic Development Administration to help build the facility on city land adjacent to the USGS campus.

NACET will also be the home to Northern Arizona University’s tech-transfer office, which will help the school develop and commercialize inventions made by NAU faculty.

The agreement will be more efficient than the previous agreement NAU had with the Valley-based Arizona Science and Technology Enterprises.

NAU President John Haeger said NACET will be “economic breadbasket” for the local economy in the future.

Andy Kruse, a co-founder of Southwest Windpower, said he could have used the support now offered by NACET back in 1987. Back then, he and co-founder David Calley were tinkering in his garage with a prototype wind turbine using a modified Ford alternator.

At the time, the closest place the would-be entrepreneurs could go for help was the Small Business Administration in Phoenix.

“When we started out, the SBA was the place to go for small businesses to try and get advice and to build your businesses. But it was in Phoenix,” Kruse said. “It was really difficult starting out because we didn’t have any of the tools and we probably made more mistakes than we would have if we had NACET here back then. We would have probably been bigger by now.”

Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or jferguson@azdailysun.com.

Companies currently at NACET
— Ambature LLC, is developing a new class of materials that improve the efficiency of power distribution while reducing electricity consumption.
— Algae Biosciences Corporation discovers, develops, produces, manufactures, and markets products that originate from marine and fresh water organisms.
— Foresight Wind Energy develops wind energy sources throughout the West.
— Keya Earth focuses on sustainable development strategies for Native American communities.
— SenesTech specializes in reproductive physiology. Specifically, nonsurgical methods for controlling reproduction in rodent and wildlife populations.
— Quantance, a semiconductor startup, has developed and patented technology innovations in radio frequency transmission efficiency that significantly increases signal power while requiring less battery power.
— SunWind Solutions produces web-based software for designing renewable energy systems.
Companies affiliated with NACET
— Abineau Communications is a boutique digital communications company that develops fixed and mobile wireless applications.
— Arizona High Spirits Distillery/Mogollon Brewing Company has launched a number of sustainable-technology initiatives related to the production of beer and high-end, distilled consumer products.
— Density Investments develops planning strategies that are designed to address urban sprawl using unique products.
— Motor Excellence is developing a disruptive electric motor and generator technology with broad potential applications.
— Visible Energy provides customer-friendly monitoring services that reduce energy usage and costs.
— Source: Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies

Stopping Germs From Ganging Up On Humans

[Source: ScienceDaily] - Keeping germs from cooperating can delay the evolution of drug resistance more effectively than killing germs one by one with traditional drugs such as antibiotics, according to new research from The University of Arizona in Tucson.

John W. Pepper proposes a new strategy in the arms race between humans and germs-- targeting the teamwork within gangs of germs.

Most drugs used to fight infections kill the vulnerable disease-causing organisms, or pathogens, but the resistant ones survive. The next generation will all carry the resistance to the drug.

"We know that the pathogen is causing the disease. The obvious solution is to kill the pathogen. It makes perfect sense, and that's what we've always done," said Pepper, a UA assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "But there's one big flaw with that -- and that is the evolution of resistance."

Pepper's mathematical models show it takes longer for a group of cells to develop resistance to drugs that attack the teamwork factors than for individual cells to become resistant to a traditional antibiotic.

He advocates developing drugs that attack the pathogens' methods and resources for cooperation. Pepper said once the teamwork is disrupted, the immune system can combat any remaining infection.

He said this new approach will work against "old enemies and some new ones" that are becoming drug resistant, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (MRSA), HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, avian influenza and cancer.

Pepper is also a member of UA's BIO5 Institute and an external professor at the Sante Fe Institute in New Mexico. His paper, "Defeating Pathogen Drug Resistance: Guidance from Evolutionary Theory," is scheduled for publication in the December issue of the journal Evolution.

Pepper began investigating cooperation by studying parrots and dolphins. Now he studies cooperation among individual cells.

Most cells such as a bacterium produce materials that ensure their own survival and maintain infections by helping both themselves and their fellows.

For pathogens, there's strength in numbers. As they form groups, they become a greater threat.
For example, MRSA produce more than 50 resources essential for the group.

Where others may see an unconquerable defense, Pepper sees 50 opportunities.

The number and type of materials produced within a gang of pathogens varies. However, if one material is eliminated, none of the cells will survive. Neither will the infection.

He is currently collaborating with cancer biologists to attack chemicals that allow cancer cells to gang up on normal cells.

One type of chemical, the angiogenesis factor, is secreted by cancerous cells to stimulate the growth of blood vessels into tumors. Blood vessels carry oxygen and nutrients to the cells in the tumor.

Some doctors currently use angiogenesis blockers, such as the anti-cancer drug Avastin, to inhibit the signal. Without blood vessels, tumors suffocate and starve.

As opposed to toxic drugs that poison and kill cancer cells, Pepper said these new types of anti-cancer drugs will stay potent longer.

"The basic point I'm making is in order to save the patient, we don't have to have a drug that kills the cancer cells," Pepper said.

If drug development continues to focus on killing individual cells, he said, "We're always going to keep running on the same treadmill.

"We're going to be in this situation where we desperately need a new antibiotic by tomorrow, or maybe by yesterday," Pepper said. "That's not going to be a temporary emergency -- it's going to be a permanent emergency, unless we take a new approach."

Environmentalists, developers on same team in planning future

[Source: Joe Snell, Special to the Arizona Daily Star] - A visually attractive, highly functioning community is an important competitive advantage in economic development. Unfortunately, Tucson's development history is often marred by perceptions that progress is slow.
The key to overcoming these perceptions and improving the region's development processes is community agreement on which areas to develop and which areas to preserve.

We must act now so opportunities do not pass us by. Coordinated planning and responsible stewardship of the region's land resources are important to balancing growth with environmental objectives.

Often land developers and environmentalists are seen as opponents in land use planning. But what we all need to realize is that we are on the same team in planning for the future of our community. We must act as a metropolitan community and realize that we are stronger together than the sum of our parts.

Labor drives economic development, and it is increasingly in short supply. Talent today values a community with beauty, recreational opportunities, an adequate transportation system, sustainable principles and sound environmental practices.

If we can agree on where to grow and what to preserve, then we can attract and retain the jobs and talent we all want for ourselves and future generations.

An emerging example of where to grow — and how — lies in packaging our regional assets in a way that is attractive to potential regional employers. For example, the biosciences industry, anchored by companies like Ventana Medical Systems and Sanofi Aventis, and supporting regional assets like C-Path and BIO5, can be marketed together as a bioscience corridor.

Another example is our 150-plus strong transportation and logistics providers who care deeply about where they operate and how they market themselves to take advantage of billions of dollars of freight that come across our rail lines each year.

TREO's Economic Blueprint has identified 10 quality growth zones in the Tucson region that are important areas for commercial and industrial activity. These areas are targeted for master planning and strategic investment.

Successful development of commercial and industrial employment and investment in these zones is critical in attracting and creating high-wage jobs for our residents. For maps of these areas, go to www.treoaz.org/QGZ-Maps.aspx online.

In order to compete in the global economy, a community must have it all – the work force to attract and retain business, and the community assets and jobs that attract that work force.

TREO's regional approach to development involves a strategic focus on four targeted industries that will increase the number of high-skilled and high-wage jobs in our region:

● Aerospace and defense (top 5 region in the United States).
● Bioscience (regional assets are growing, state strategy is strong).
● Solar (an emerging industry and a natural fit).
● Transportation and logistics (building on an already strategic location).

As we begin to attract these kinds of companies and jobs to our region, we must all work together to ensure that we grow strategically in a way that preserves our natural landscape while utilizing the developable land.

You vote in elections once a year. But when you engage in community issues, you are voting every day about the community you want to live in.
Don't miss this chance to cast your ballot for the future of the region by participating in "A Community Conversation on Regional Land Use" on Dec. 3.

Contact Joe Snell at Joe.snell@treoaz.org

Sky's the Limit for High Tech in the Grand Canyon State

[Source: Jenny Vickers, BusinessFacilities.com] - Arizona's tech sector is heating up the sun-kissed state due to a number of unique university programs and government economic development initiatives, as well as a growing biotech hub.

Businesses interested in expanding and relocating to Arizona will find one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation, a skilled, knowledge-based workforce, and a competitive business climate and tax structure. Phoenix, the state's capital, is now the fifth most populated city in the country.


Population (2006): 6,166,318Largest Cities (2005): Phoenix, 1,461,575; Tucson, 515,526; Mesa, 442,780; Glendale 239,435Targeted Industries: Biotech, environmental technology, food, fiber and natural products, optics, advanced composites, metal fabrication, transportation and distribution, software Key Incentives: Commerce and Economic Development Commission grants; R&D Tax Credit Program; Enterprise Zones; Governor's Strategic Plan for Economic Development; Arizona Technology Incubator; Small Business Innovative Research Loans

The Grand Canyon State is well known for its technology-related industry specializing in semiconductors, aerospace and defense, navigation and controls, and business information services. One of the largest portion's of the state's high-tech industry is semiconductor manufacturing, which produces chips for a myriad of consumer electronic products such as MP3 players, cell phones, and computers.

The industry was recently enhanced when ASIC North, a Vermont-based semiconductor design company, announced plans to expand its operations to Tempe in September, creating 25 new jobs with an annual payroll of $1.75 million. Its location in Tempe puts the company in close proximity to other major semiconductor producers such as Intel, Freescale, Microchip Technology and ON Semiconductor.

After looking at many locations, including the Pacific Northwest, North Carolina and Austin, TX, ASIC North selected metro Phoenix because of its large semiconductor industry, good transportation and proximity to Silicon Valley, where many of the firm's customers are located.

Investment Activity

• Abraxis BioScience CEO, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, announced a $14-million letter of intent to establish Catapult Bio, a non-profit that will accelerate research to commercialization.
• Science Foundation Arizona is committed to investing $100 million over the next four years to strengthen the region's existing scientific, medical and engineering research infrastructure.
• The $20-million TRAC fund finances early-stage life science companies located in Arizona or those planning to move to the state.
• Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale received a $49-million grant to accelerate cancer research and treatment.
• The Angel Investment program is a state tax credit to expand early-stage investments for targeted.

"ASIC North is growing into new markets," says ASIC North president Mike Slattery. "After surveying many cities it was apparent metro Phoenix was the best choice to provide the new business opportunities and skilled workforce needed for our expansion."

Arizona also is home to a burgeoning bioscience industry. According to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, bioscience employment and number of establishments has outpaced nationwide growth since 2002. Between 2002 and 2006, employment in Arizona's bioscience industry increased 18.5 percent (compared to 4.7 percent nationally), adding more than 12,600 jobs totaling 80,909. The number of bioscience establishments in the state increased 16.7 percent during the same time period, rising from 639 to 745. In addition, through three-quarters of 2007, Arizona already had recorded its most successful year in attracting bioscience venture capital ($77 million) since 2002.

Earlier this year, Abraxis BioScience, a Los Angeles pharmaceutical company that uses nanotechnology to kill cancer cells, announced plans to locate in Phoenix. The now- opened 200,000-square-foot-facility will create 205 jobs with an average annual salary of $72,200. Its location in Phoenix puts the company in close proximity to global bioscience leaders such as the Mayo Clinic, Covance, Barrow Neurological Institute and Medtronic Microelectronics Center, as well as world-class research establishments, such as Arizona State University, Translational Genomics Research Institute, and Sun Health Research Institute.

The new facility allows Abraxis to expand its manufacturing capabilities and provide the necessary infrastructure for worldwide growth of the company. In 2005, Abraxis received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a drug called Abraxane to treat metastatic breast cancer with nanoparticles. The drug accounted for $78.7 million in revenue during the second quarter of 2007.

For businesses locating and expanding in Arizona, the state offers one of the largest workforce footprints in the West, a myriad of unique government programs, as well as targeted incentives that produce some of the lowest effective tax rates in the nation.

One such program helping to train workers in the state is Arizona's Job Training Program. Considered one of the best cash grant job training programs in the country, it has been successful in helping businesses train, create new jobs and help increase the skill and wage levels of employees. Qualified businesses can receive up to 75 percent of the cost to train new employees and up to 50 percent of the cost to train incumbent employees.

This program is helping Victory Industrial Products, a company which designs and manufactures equipment for power generators, train new employees at their new 30,000-square-foot facility in Tolleson, AZ. Victory is making an initial capital investment of $3 million and expects to have an annual payroll of $3.5 million with 100 new jobs.

The state also has launched two new programs to attract and retain new businesses. Arizona's new R&D tax credit program provides income tax credit for qualified research and development done in the state, including company-funded research at a state university. Qualified companies can receive up to $2,500,000. The Arizona Innovation Accelerator Program offers a unique combination of grants, tax credits, seminars and other tools to help businesses develop technologies for the marketplace.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ventana buys Integrated Biomolecule Corp. facility

[The Explorer Newspaper] - Up until yesterday, Nov. 18, the small Oro Valley biotech firm operated somewhat in the shadow of its multi-national neighbors.Integrated Biomolecule Corp., which specializes in laboratory analysis and synthesis, on Wednesday sold its lab space off Innovation Park Drive to Ventana Medical Systems, the Roche-owned diagnostics firm that stands directly across the street."IBC began in my garage and operated at the University of Arizona Tech Park for years, until we became successful enough to build a facility of our own," IBC founder and president Robert S. Green said in a statement. "IBC will continue to provide many of its services directly and through its affiliates."The biotech firm, however, can operate out of other venues and no longer needs its own facility, Green said.Ventana will use the IBC labs for its own purposes.Terms of Ventana's purchase of the IBC facility were not disclosed. Green says he will remain as IBC's president, and the firm will continue providing analytical and synthesis services to a variety of companies."Acquiring the existing IBC facility allows for immediate expansion of our research and development capabilities," Ventana spokeswoman Alana Bolton said in a statement. "This purchase underscores our commitment for further growth in the community."In February, Swiss-based drugmaker Roche Holdings bought Ventana for $3 billion. The conglomerate has since made known its plans to aggressively expand Ventana's presence in Oro Valley, including hiring about 250 additional employees.By the end of 2009, Ventana wil employ more than 1,000 people, Roche CEO Severin Schwan told local leaders during a recent visit to Oro Valley.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Integrating Genomics Technology and Information into Toxicology Studies Benefits Development

[Source: Gail Dutton, Genetic Engineering News] - Whether toxicogenomics—gene-expression profiling—can be said to have lived up to its potential depends upon how it is used. The tool is applied mainly to determine mechanisms of action and, to a lesser extent, as a predictive tool. The key is to place the data into a contextual framework, according to many leading researchers.

“Toxicogenomics reflects an integration of genomics technologies and information into toxicology studies,” explained Cindy Afshari, Ph.D., scientific director, Amgen. Dr. Afshari hosted the “ILSI Health and Environmental Sciences Institute Genomics Applications in Safety Studies—Case Study Workshop” held last month.

Salah-Dine Chibout, Ph.D., global head of investigative toxicology at Novartis, said that toxicology identifies whether a drug is or is not toxic. Toxicogenomics, on the other hand, “takes you to another level of complexity, which could provide mechanisms of toxicity.”

“Proper execution and interpretation requires specialized expertise and training that not all toxicologists have,” Dr. Afshari emphasized. Consequently, many toxicogenomic studies occur in investigative or discovery toxicology groups. The move a decade ago to develop special toxicogenomics departments has largely fallen by the wayside as the technologies used in toxicogenomics such as microarrays have become mainstream.

Bruce Carlson, analyst for Kalorama Information, noted “there are no good market numbers on toxicogenomics.” The market for gene-expression profiles, however, a cornerstone of the field, was $1.1 billion globally in 2007. Over time, Dr. Afshari predicted, it is likely that toxicogenomics and standard toxicology assessments will become integrated.

Predictive Toxicogenomics

Lilly Research Laboratories is at the forefront of predictive toxicogenomics work. This area was the focus of intense interest when the field emerged a decade ago. Since then, it has been slow to fulfill its promise.

Craig E. Thomas, Ph.D., senior research advisor, investigative toxicology, suspects the barriers are as much cultural as technological. “As safety assessment in the pharma industry has traditionally been initiated in the latter stages of the discovery process, overcoming the natural fear of failure associated with anything new or unproven is even more daunting.”

“Our feeling is that one of the primary barriers to using transcriptomics predicatively is an inability to put the data into a context that allows decision-making,” said Dr. Thomas.

The challenge for researchers is that with more than 30,000 data points for each microarray, “scientists will undoubtedly see expression changes relative to the controls. What was lacking for many years, however, was an ability to attach toxicologic significance to those changes. For example, is the pattern of gene-expression changes representative or associated with an adverse event?”

Addressing those changes, explained Dr. Thomas, requires developing a large chemogenomics database. During the past three years, Lilly has leveraged DrugMatrix®, a contextual database from Entelos.

“A key feature of having a large database of expression changes integrated with traditional toxicity endpoints is mathematically derived gene signatures that are predictive or coincident with toxicologic endpoints,” he continued. Because the gene signatures are often composed of genes that are not readily associated biologically to outcomes, “you have to believe in the numbers.”

Dr. Thomas said that Lilly’s experience with toxicogenomics has been positive largely because of the contextual database that helped Lilly scientists move beyond purely retrospective studies to study the mechanism of toxicity.

He added that Lilly is unique in focusing much of its toxicogenomics work on in vitro studies, in which gene signatures are used to predict outcomes in animal studies. By addressing toxicology at the hit-to-lead stage, scientists can look across the structure/activity relationship to consider multiple chemical scaffolds.

“Researchers, historically, haven’t considered drug safety at this early stage because the tools were lacking,” he emphasized. The result was often a drug candidate optimized around one scaffold without any toxicology assessment.

“It’s still the early days,” he cautioned, and so the outcomes in long-term toxicology studies of molecules prioritized using genomics in the early preclinical studies remain to be seen. That said, that approach has contributed to a growing pipeline that currently features an all-time high of 50 distinct compounds in clinical development.

The biopharma industry as a whole, however, has experienced less success with predictive toxicogenomics. Only a few validated markers have emerged from this research.

Mark Fielden, Ph.D., senior scientist, Roche, pointed out that the problem reported by the broad industry is that “the biomarkers that have been identified haven’t been robust enough,” for this to be used predictively. But the issue may be with the models used. Roche has experienced success here, said Dr. Fielden, and this remains a ripe area of research.

Other issues outlined by Russell S. Thomas, Ph.D., director of the Center for Genomic Biology and senior investigator at the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, included questions of reproducibility, how to interpret the data, and how to build a profile to allow it to become clinically useful.

Mechanistic Actions

“Predictive toxicogenomics is taking longer to materialize than mechanistic applications but has promise,” according to Dr. Thomas. “It may take five to seven years to be broadly applied and accepted by the FDA, which has a consortium looking at this.”

More companies have focused upon toxicogenomics as a way to better understand mechanism of action than to predict toxicity. “Application of toxicogenomics has provided insights into mechanisms driving particular target organ toxicities and has provided viable hypotheses for further testing,” Dr. Afshari explained. “We have also found that genomic analyses provide useful information around discrimination compounds to support decisions for ranking molecules” to advance through lead optimization.

Novartis is using known toxic compounds to develop the techniques to understand the mechanistic actions of toxicity. Such screening led to the recent validation of biomarkers for kidney toxicity. “There is a lot of demand,” Dr. Chibout said, particularly for kidney, liver, heart, and vascular systems.

Novartis has developed an internal database to identify toxicity that is used routinely. Such information allows a more accurate risk/benefit analysis, helping companies determine the relative value of advancing compounds through the developmental pipeline.

Its strength, Dr. Fielden said, is as a hypothesis generator. When used to screen particular drugs, the technology generates thousands of expression changes at a time, allowing many hypotheses to be tested. Cell-based assays, in contrast, generate perhaps a half-dozen endpoints at most when multiplexed, and thus can test a smaller number of hypotheses. Roche therefore uses toxicogenomics to generate hypotheses when trying to understand mechanisms of toxicity, which then are tested more thoroughly using other assays.


“One of the challenges for scientists in toxicology is that sometimes genomics that are not fully sequenced and/or annotated are used,” said Dr. Afshari, which “presents a challenge to network and pathway analyses.” For example, a study undertaken by the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute found that although pathway analyses were consistent among labs and platforms, gene-to-gene comparisons were more problematic.

Consortiums currently are addressing that issue by cross-validating many of the biomarkers that have been linked to various diseases. “There’s a decade of literature,” Dr. Fielden noted, “but a majority of the information is not well-understood.”

The C-Path Predictive Safety Testing Consortium (PSTC) is trying to leverage that work by identifying promising biomarkers from the literature and therefore allow testing on smaller arrays or on individual genes that provide results comparable to or better than those of larger arrays, he said.

The Microarray Quality Consortium, on the other hand, is working to standardize microarrays to “give researchers confidence that the assay they are running is both accurate and precise,” said Dr. Fielden. That has the benefit of allowing researchers to better compare results in the literature and among labs, and thereby access a larger, more relevant body of data. That group also is establishing a set of best practices for the derivation and validation of multiple gene biomarkers or signatures.

Work also is under way to develop a database of carcinogenic chemicals and their specific effects in rats. Dr. Fielden and the PSTC are examining published toxicogenomics signatures and trying to validate those signatures across laboratories.

Results, he noted are “fairly robust and show promise” for predictive or rodent carcinogenicity. Other work is under way to rederive the carcinogenicity signature on a real-time PCR platform containing 20–30 genes in order to standardize the measurement platform.

Interest in toxicogenomics is predicated upon the ability to more accurately and more quickly identify toxic compounds to select the best drug candidate. “By doing so, you save a lot of money, as well as time,” said Dr. Chibout.


“The field is still maturing, so lessons from use and applications are still emerging,” explained Dr. Afshari. Toxicogenomics has the potential to revolutionize the way drugs are developed if it is integrated with other disciplines, including pathology, molecular biology, physiology, bioinformatics, and clinical development. “If you do that, it is successful,” Dr. Chibout asserted. If not, it’s just more data.

It’s important to augment toxicogenomic data with other information for decision-making such as histopathology researchers agree. “Sometimes the inference from the information can be used as a guide to understand drug effect,” noted Dr. Afshari. Any inference or key hypothesis directly resulting from toxicogenomics, however, should be followed up with other analyses to help bridge the gap between preclinical models and humans.

Right now, the information isn’t fully integrated with other disciplines. “For example,” added Dr. Chibout, “currently, we look at the gene. In the future, we are likely to look at proteins, and metabolites and epigenetics.” That broadening will come sooner rather than later, he predicted, as data is emerging from those fields to make them more amenable to toxicogenomics.

The key to the successful deployment of toxicogenomics is to understand when to use it, and when to use something else. “Gene-expression profiling is just another tool in the toolbox,” emphasized Dr. Fielden. “Pick the right tool for the right problem.”

Can An Ant Be Employee Of The Month?

[Source: ScienceDaily] - Ants specializing on one job such as snatching food from a picnic are no more efficient than "Jane-of-all-trade" ants, according to new research.

The finding casts doubt on the idea that the world-wide success of ants stems from job specialization within the colony. Ants are found on every continent besides Antarctica.

"The question is, why is job specialization a good thing?" said Anna Dornhaus of The University of Arizona in Tucson. "We thought that the fact that ants have specialists was one of the things that made them so successful and live all over the world in all habitats in great numbers.
"It turns out that the ones that are specialized on a particular job are not particularly good at doing that job."

Dornhaus studied the rock ant, known by scientists as Temnothorax albipennis, that lives in cracks in rocks in Europe. In ant colonies, all the workers are females.

She videotaped individual ants as they performed four typical ant tasks: brood transport, collecting sweets, foraging for animal protein and nest building. The videotape allowed her to compare how long it took each ant to do a particular task.

Dornhaus, a UA assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is publishing her paper, "Specialization Does Not Predict Individual Efficiency in an Ant," in the Nov. 18 issue of the online journal PLoS Biology. The German Science Foundation (DFG) funded some of the research.

Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, wrote in 1776 that specialized labor provided benefits to human industry.

Dornhaus, who studies social insects, wanted to see if this applied to ants because efficiency in ants had rarely been tested.

The workers of rock ants, like those of most ant species, all look the same and do not appear physically specialized for any particular task. Nevertheless, they do specialize.

She expected rock ants that specialized would work more efficiently, but that's not what she found.

To identify the individual workers, which are half the size of a grain of rice, Dornhaus color-coded them with model airplane paint in colors such as rally green and racing red using hair-thin wires as paintbrushes.

She crafted nests for the ants by sandwiching cardboard squares between two glass slides. A tiny tunnel in the cardboard let the ants leave the nest.

Dornhaus tested 1,142 workers from 11 colonies that ranged in size from 27 to 233 workers.

To watch ants in action, Dornhaus put individual colonies in a square arena that was 22 centimeters (about eight-and-half inches) on a side and recorded workers' job performance with two video cameras.

For example, in the brood transport test, she placed a colony and an empty nest 10 centimeters (4 inches) apart. Then she took the roof off the colony's nest by taking off the top slide. Once their nest was destroyed, Dornhaus recorded how long the ants took to find the empty nest and move the eggs and larvae to it.

She measured how often and how readily an individual ant performed each task and considered an ant more specialized the more it concentrated its work on one task.

Dornhaus said some go-getter ants eagerly worked in all of the tasks, but other ants seemed lazy. Although the specialists were not more efficient, they put in more hours of work.

It's not known why ants choose the jobs they do, or why some are slow to begin work.

She said it might be explained by how quickly an individual detects work to be done, like noticing dirty dishes in the sink.

A person with a lower threshold will notice and wash the dishes as soon as there are one or two in the sink. However, a person with a higher threshold doesn't notice the dishes until there are at least 10 piled up. The dishes will still be washed, just not as frequently.

"You get division of labor that way just because they have differences in their sensory systems or somehow in the way they interpret the world without consciously wanting to divide labor," Dornhaus said.

The ability to sense work also varies in ants, she suspects.

Dornhaus found that specialists and generalists work equally fast, but the question of employee of the month is still unanswered.

Even though putting in longer hours might seem like the way to success, it wastes colony resources.

"Speed does matter because every minute they spend outside is dangerous and energy costly," she said. "They burn fuel, and they risk dying."

Her next step is investigating "switching costs," such as the time it takes to walk from one side of the nest to the other or the break in concentration when switching between tasks. Dornhaus suggests specialization might minimize such costs.

"I do science because I think it's cool to find out how the world works, specifically how social insects works," Dornhaus said. "Isn't it cool to know that there are little societies underground everywhere you walk?"

Potential 'Green Collar' Job Growth In US

[Source: ScienceDaily] - During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama proposed an economic plan that would create 5 million jobs in environmental industries. These so-called "green collar" jobs do, in fact, present the next frontier for U.S. manufacturing, says a new report from Duke University.

Highlighting the direct linkages between low-carbon technologies and U.S. jobs, Duke researchers say U.S. manufacturing is poised to grow in a low-carbon economy. Their report, "Manufacturing Climate Solutions," provides a detailed look at the manufacturing jobs that already exist and would be created when the U.S. takes action to limit global-warming pollution.
"Until now, there was no tangible evidence of what the jobs are, how they are created and what it means for U.S. workers. We are providing that here," said Gary Gereffi, a Duke professor of sociology and lead author of the report. "We don't guess where the jobs are; we name them. Our report uses value chains to show that clean technology jobs are also real economy jobs."

Led by Gereffi, researchers at Duke's Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) assess five carbon-reducing technologies with potential for future green job creation: LED lighting, high-performance windows, auxiliary power units for long-haul trucks, concentrating solar power, and Super Soil Systems (a new method for treating hog wastes).
They conclude that hidden economic opportunities exist within the supply chains that provide parts and labor for these five industries. The report includes a snapshot of the opportunities for U.S. manufacturing jobs, with a detailed breakdown of the supply chains and maps highlighting the location of companies positioned to support green jobs. States that stand to benefit most from jobs in these sectors include Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

"Meeting the challenge of climate change will ramp up the supply chains that wind their way through the heart of American manufacturing," said Jackie Roberts, director of sustainable technology at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), one of the report's sponsors. "It's concrete evidence of the link between U.S. jobs and climate solutions."

"While some seek to pit the environment against economic growth, we see economic opportunity in the solutions to the climate crisis," added Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, another one of the report's sponsors. "But, to succeed it means making certain that, from production to construction, these green investments are made in the U.S. That is the best way to assure that their positive ripple effects are felt throughout the entire economy."

"This report shows that each climate solution creates significant positive ripple effects throughout the economy in the labor and materials needed to supply low carbon technologies and products," said Abraham Breehey, director of legislative affairs for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, also a report co-sponsor. "It demonstrates the real economic opportunity in the solutions to the climate crisis."

A copy of the study is available at http://www.cggc.duke.edu/environment/climatesolutions/.

The report was sponsored by Environmental Defense Fund, the Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO), Industrial Union Council (AFL-CIO), International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, and United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters.

DFMO May Affect Barrett's Esophagus

[Source: ScienceDaily ] - "While there was a suggestion that DFMO may influence the extent of Barrett's dysplasia, this finding is very preliminary and further study of this agent in a larger number of patients is needed," said Frank A. Sinicrope, M.D., professor of medicine and oncology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Sinicrope presented his findings at the American Association for Cancer Research's Seventh Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

The single-arm study included 10 patients with Barrett's esophagus and low-grade dysplasia. The patients received 0.5 g/m2/d of DFMO for six months. Using an endoscope, the researchers examined esophageal biopsies at enrollment and at three, six and 12 months (where available). A gastrointestinal pathologist who was blinded to the clinical/biomarker data graded the dysplasia.

Sinicrope conducted this study while at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. He collaborated with colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, and the Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson.

After six months of DFMO treatment, one patient's dysplasia regressed, one patient's progressed, and eight patients had stable disease. At six months, two patients in the stable group who started with extensive low-grade abnormal cells had only limited or focal dysplasia based on four or more biopsies. These improvements remained at 12 months.

DFMO lowered the level of the polyamine putrescine, a target of the drug and a possible cancer risk marker. The agent works by inhibiting an enzyme in polyamine synthesis called ornithine decarboxylase (ODC). "ODC activity in Barrett's mucosa has been shown to be significantly higher in Barrett's than in normal adjacent mucosa from the same patients," Sinicrope said.

"Since DFMO inhibits polyamine synthesis, the fact that putrescine levels were decreased at six months and later returned to baseline after being off the drug for six months suggests that the drug is affecting its target."

Interestingly, DFMO also reduced expression of Kruppel-like factor 5 (KLF5) gene, an important marker of abnormal cell proliferation in the esophagus that may represent a novel drug target.

"The results are encouraging because they identify KLF5 as a potential target of DFMO, which suggests a potential mechanism contributing to the chemopreventive effects of DFMO," Sinicrope said. "KLF5 has been shown to regulate proliferation, apoptosis and invasion in esophageal cancer cells."

Generally, DFMO was well tolerated. One patient had hearing loss and balance-related problems related to treatment.

"DFMO warrants further evaluation as a chemopreventive agent in patients with Barrett's esophagus and mucosal dysplasia," Sinicrope said. Currently, the Mayo Clinic researcher and his colleagues are planning a placebo-controlled chemoprevention trial in this patient population.

Science Foundation Arizona Invests to Increase Regional Biomedical Capacity

[Source: SFAz] - Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), an Arizona nonprofit, private/public partnership helping strengthen the state's research infrastructure to spur new technology sector growth, awarded a $9 million investment grant to the Critical Path Institute (C-Path), a Tucson-based nonprofit coalition that works to streamline and accelerate the development of crucial drug therapies for major diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

C-Path was formed as part of the FDA's Critical Path Initiative of 2004 calling for safer and more rapid U.S. drug development. The organization is seeking to reduce the high failure rate of bringing lifesaving new drugs to market along with the billions in excess dollars spent each year in the current bottleneck process. Today, only 5 percent of new medicines entering clinical testing ever succeed; C-Path plans to lift that success rate to 95 percent saving significant dollars and lives.

Globally, the need for efficiently introducing new pharmaceuticals is urgent. "Without breakthroughs, we face a medical tsunami of healthcare costs posing immense economic and social threats," stated Dr. Raymond L. Woosley, C-Path's president and CEO. "In the United States alone, the cost of coping with one debilitating disease, Alzheimer's, is $170 billion and is projected in the near future to reach $1 trillion or 8 percent of today's total U.S. economy. C-Path acts as the neutral third party between the FDA, private industry and the public resulting in decreased time, costs, and failure rates in pharmaceutical product development."

In southern Arizona, the SFAz grant is expected to have a continued impact on the state's rise as a center for medical and pharmaceutical sector growth as industry collaborators are slated to match an additional $18 million over four years. Three of the fifteen companies that C-Path has partnered in this consortium including Roche Ventana, Sanofi-aventis and Merck - through its affiliate High Throughput Genomics - now have major research facilities in southern Arizona. In addition, C-Path has formed alliances that include nearly all the major drug corporations in the United States and Europe.

"This initiative is the first of its kind in the U.S. and represents a major strategic move in positioning Arizona to be highly competitive and of interest to the pharmaceutical community. With C-Path's success, the Tucson area, in particular, has potential to increase substantially its biomedical capacity with innovation, spin-off companies and a growing base of knowledge workers," added Dr. William C. Harris, president and CEO of SFAz."

(SFAz), established in 2006, supports communications technology, sustainable systems including renewable energies, and biomedical infrastructure development to capitalize on the state's growing research base by spurring business opportunities, attracting investment, and creating new technology sector growth.

Tim Bee, Arizona State Senate President summarized the impact of the grant, "C-Path is providing the infrastructure and scientific expertise to provide a faster and less expensive pathway to market for crucially important drugs. And, this benefits not only Arizonans and the state's economic diversity, but helps a lot of people in combating diseases around the world."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Potential in Malaysia's optics industry: Expert

[Source: By Rupa Damodaran, Business Times] - DR Robert P. Breault, an expert on the science of optics or light, is convinced of Malaysia's potential in the sophisticated high-end technology.
However, the country must prepare its workforce and address what is lacking at learning institutions. And this must be done fast as other countries around the world are also aiming at the same economic pie.

Malaysia wants to focus on light-emitting diodes (LED) and solar photovoltaic, the technology of changing solar energy into electricity, as two potential key industries in Malaysia.

LED lights are 10 times more efficient that the normal incandescent light. Both LED and solar energy are likely to be lucrative markets as the world turns to ways to save energy and to increase the use of cleaner energy.

Breault is chairman of Breault Research Organisation Inc, an international optical engineering firm. He was in Malaysia for a week at the invitation of the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) to help Malaysians build competitiveness in photonics, LED and solar clusters.
Penang could turn out to be an LED Valley for Malaysia, he said, in the same mould as what Silicon Valley has done for the US IT industry.

"Malaysia is gaining prominence as a centre of gravity for LEDs, especially in Penang which has the attributes of an LED Valley."

There are plans to turn Kulim High Tech Park into a hub for solar panels besides its current speciality in wafer fabrication.

First Solar Inc is the first US solar module maker to invest in the park with an initial investment of RM2.2 billion. Two other American multinationals may also invest in Kedah.

Malaysia also has a significant number of highly educated people, who are vastly under utilised, he said.

"They are proven high-tech researchers who can start new companies. In Penang they are doing this in the geophysics technology although it does not seem to feature on Mida's radar screen.

"My feeling is that Malaysia and the industry have taken a modest pace when these programmes could be executed much faster. The government should get serious about education and work with the industry to tailor specific programmes to fill their engineering and technician level needs."

Breault has suggested that Mida sponsors a multi-technology award ceremony at local universities like Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Malaya, highlighting their successful spin-offs in any technological field.

"What Malaysia does not have is state-of-the-art LED/semiconductor equipment in the universities. This will be worth investing in. Give tax write-offs for companies that give near state-of-the art equipment to universities."

Breault, who is also chairman of the Arizona Optics Industry Association, is keen to link the Malaysian optics industry to the US.

"Malaysia is building a solar manufacturing industry while the Arizona governor Janet Napolitano wants to make Arizona the solar state in the US."

Lighting in the US represents 27 per cent of the US consumption of energy.

Shared interests in nanotechnology and bioscience between Arizona and Malaysia will also enable Malaysia to create jobs through optics clusters.

A University of Arizona study showed that the total number of employees in the Arizona optics and nanotechnology clusters grew from 2,555 employees in 1996 to 25,635 employees in 2006.
Breault, who recently joined the Emerging Technology and Research Advisory Committee under the US Dept of Commerce, is also helping to build clusters in many countries including Mexico, South Korea and Africa.

In South Korea, there are now close to 300 small optics companies in the cluster which is making about US$1 billion (RM3.59 billion).

Monday, November 17, 2008

UA Researchers Studying Little-Known Genetic Sequences

[Source University Arizona Communications] - University of Arizona researchers are among a group of scientists 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, said Vicki Chandler, a UA Regents' Professor and director of the UA's BIO5 Institute. Some small RNA molecules help the genes in cells 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 that is 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 said.

She also said 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 said.

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 said. The 22-nucleotide RNA molecule, she said "is one example of a pathway that – once it's worked out – could be targeted to address them."

World Diabetes Day means a lot to UA scientist

[Source: Anthony Cabrera, KVOA Tucson] - November 14 is World Diabetes Day. It's a day meant to bring awareness to the alarming rise in this disease, which some say is an epidemic.

Researchers continue to find new treatments for diabetes, including here in Tucson.
At the University of Arizona's College of Medicine there is one scientist who has an emotional connection to her research. Betsy Dokken is a principal investigator in diabetes research.

She's working on a treatment that will one day help diabetes patients who also have heart problems. Reaching that goal means a lot to Betsy because last year she lost her mother who battled the same condition.

"She had a history of heart problems related to her diabetes, so yeah, that provides me with a lot of ammunition," says Dokken.

Armed with that ammunition Betsy is ready to fight the disease that led to her mother's death and affects many more.

"Patients with diabetes are two to five times more likely to have a heart attack than patients without diabetes. And when they do have a heart attack, their heart attacks are worse," she says.

Through her research, Betsy hopes to decrease the heart damage that's done. But heart disease is just one aspect of the complex epidemic of diabetes that has many scientists looking for answers.

"So some of us are working on diabetes prevention, some of us are working on treatment for diabetes, some of us are working on trying to figure out exactly what causes the different defects in diabetes," says Dokken.

And they're all on the 4th floor at the medical research building.

"This concept of an open lab really promotes more collaboration. I think we would collaborate anyway, but it makes it easier to collaborate when our labs are right next door to each other," says Dokken.

A strategic set-up for a complicated disease.

"We know that diabetes is an epidemic and it is a worldwide epidemic. It's not just here in the United States. And to have the United Nations set aside a day to increase awareness of diabetes around the world, is important to us, of course," she says.

Because even Betsy, a diabetes researcher, has been touched by it and knows it could be in her future.

"We already have defects in our muscle metabolism and there are other defects that can be detected, even in someone like me, right now, because I have a family history of type 2 diabetes, so it does hit home for me," says Betsy.

Diabetes is the sixth-deadliest disease in the country according to the Diabetes Research Institute. Nearly 8 percent of Americans have diabetes.

Arizona Non-Profits Engouraged to Apply for Susan B. Komen STEP Grants

[Source: EVliving] - The Phoenix Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® continues to accept applications from Arizona non-profit organizations for its annual STEP (Screening, Treatment, Education Programs) Grants Program through next week. The application deadline is Friday, Nov. 21.

Earlier this year, the Komen Phoenix Affiliate was proud to award 30 community STEP grants totaling more than $1.8 million to support breast cancer screening, treatment and education programs in central and northern Arizona. These grants are in addition to the more than $519,000 funded for the national Komen Research Grants and Awards Program, bringing the total of its 2008-2009 grants to nearly $2.4 million. Since its beginnings in 1993, the Phoenix Affiliate has raised and granted more than $13.4 million to fight breast cancer.

“The collaboration between the Phoenix affiliate and the organizations to which we grant funds is critical to meeting the goal of eradicating breast cancer forever.” says Candyce Lindsay, Grants Director for the Komen Phoenix Affiliate. “These organizations reach women in rural and urban areas alike, helping to raise awareness and provide valuable services to thousands of people throughout the state. They play a huge role in helping us carry out our mission.”
Funding raised during the 2008-2009 fiscal year - from events such as the Komen Phoenix Race for the Cure® - will be used to award grants for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The grant cycle will run from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

Applications are being accepted from tax-exempt non-profit organizations for innovative projects in the areas of breast health and/or breast cancer education and outreach, screening, treatment support and treatment to the medically underserved and/or underinsured or uninsured populations. All grant applications must be located in and/or provide services in the Komen Phoenix Affiliate service area, which includes Apache, Coconino, Gila, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal and Yavapai Counties. The actual number of awards will depend on the amount of funds available.

For more information about applying for a STEP Grant, call (602)544-2873 or visit http://www.komenphoenix.org/.

UA Pharmacy Researcher To Study the Adverse Effects of Street Drug 'Ecstasy'

[Source : Karin Lorentzen, UA School of Pharmacy] - The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded a researcher at The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy $1.7 million for a nearly five-year study of the long-term adverse effects of the street drug ecstasy, also known as the “hug drug.

Terrence J. Monks, PhD, head of the college’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and a BIO5 member, is a specialist in the study of drug toxicology, or the “bad” effects of drugs. He will be the principal investigator on the ecstasy project.

“Most research on ecstasy focuses on the pharmacological, or nontoxic effects of the drug,” says Monks. “My interest lies in learning how the drug negatively affects the brain.”

Classified as a Schedule I substance, ecstasy has been controlled in the United States since 1985. Ecstasy (also known as MDMA, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that is chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine. It produces an energizing effect as well as feelings of euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time perception and tactile experiences.

These effects of MDMA have contributed to its popularity as a “party drug” among adolescents and young adults who frequent weekend-long “raves” or “techo-parties.” However, the drug has a serious down side.

“A number of adverse effects are associated with the use of MDMA,” says Monks. “MDMA use and abuse therefore has the potential to give rise to a major public health problem.”

According to the U.S. Department of State, the short-term negative effects of ecstasy can be nausea, dilated pupils, dry mouth and throat, and lower jaw tension. Use of the drug often leads to dramatic increases in body temperature exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which in turn can lead to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure. This hyperthermic response can therefore result in fatal blood clotting, heart attacks and strokes.

Scientific studies have found that ecstasy use also produces long-term damage to the brain’s ability to release serotonin, which regulates mood, body temperature and memory.

“Ecstasy may be the only amphetamine-based drug that attacks the serotonin system,” says Monks. “There is little doubt that it has the potential to be toxic to the human nervous system. The question is how.”

Monks’ research will focus on the process by which ecstasy is metabolized by the body. When the drug enters the body orally in pill form (the manner in which it is usually taken), enzymes in the body convert it either to harmless metabolites or into toxic metabolites. Predicting which people process ecstasy into toxic metabolites more readily than other people is the challenge.

“Individuals metabolize ecstasy differently,” says Monks. “If 100 people take ecstasy, perhaps five will metabolize the drug very efficiently, whereas five others will metabolize the drug poorly. Since metabolism of ecstasy is required for it to produce neurotoxicity, the individual who efficiently metabolizes the drug will likely be more susceptible to the long-term adverse effects.”

The UA professor is believed to be the only researcher in the U.S. studying the role of metabolism in the neurotoxicity of the drug.

The results of Monks’ research will help people understand which individuals are more likely to suffer long-term negative effects of ecstasy.

“The multitude of adverse effects resulting from the misuse of ecstasy necessitates a complete understanding of the neuropharmacology and neurotoxicology of this unusual amphetamine derivative,” says Monks. “We hope to help define important factors that contribute to individual susceptibility to the long-term adverse effects of this drug.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

ThirdBiotech rebuffed in merger effort

[Source: Angela Gonzales, Phoenix Business Journal] - A relatively new biotechnology networking group is proposing a merger with the Arizona BioIndustry Association, but so far it hasn’t gained any ground.

ThirdBiotech has been offering networking events for the past year, and last summer it created a research group to help biotech startups build their businesses. Founder Jeff Morhet wants to broaden the scope of the organization and merge with the Arizona BioIndustry Association.

“In this type of market and this type of economy, this is the way to be able to put together a movement that ensures the public and private sectors are working together and are focused on job growth and fueling the life sciences economy,” said Morhet, who also is president and CEO of InNexus Biotechnology Inc.

He has been corresponding in person and by e-mail and phone with AZBio President and CEO Bob Eaton as well as board members, but so far the association hasn’t expressed any interest in merging.

Because ThirdBiotech has not submitted a proposal in writing, the association won’t consider the merger, Eaton said.

“As always, AZBio remains open to collaborating with ThirdBiotech or any other organization if such a collaboration would advance the interests of our member companies,” Eaton said.
AZBio has about 120 dues-paying member organizations, while ThirdBiotech has about 300, charging $49 a year for individual membership dues.

AZBio charges annual membership dues based on the number of employees, ranging from $100 for a biotech company with one employee to $2,500 for a company with 200. The range for institutional members, such as universities and nonprofit organizations, is $100 for those with one employee to $1,000 for those with 50. Associate members — for-profit, nonbioscience companies — pay up to $3,000.

ThirdBiotech is beginning to offer annual sponsorships rather than membership packages to corporations, ranging from $500 to $10,000. Tiered sponsorships would include admission to a certain number of ThirdBiotech events, recognition on the organization’s Web site and other benefits.

“We have not received any specific proposals for any kinds of collaborations or anything else,” Eaton said. “If we do, our board will review it and decide how they want to deal with it.”

Morhet said he is frustrated because he has sent numerous e-mails outlining his proposal, and has sat down with board members to discuss the matter.

“I still keep that hope open,” Morhet said. “Given what’s happening in our economy, there’s no better time for people to think outside their own organizations and find ways to collaborate and move our overall movement forward.”

In an e-mail response to one of Morhet’s requests, Mike Mobley, chairman of AZBio and associate director of The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, wrote: “AZBio has always been open to collaborations that will advance the interests of our more than 120 member organizations. However, recognizing the disparity between the resources, membership and affiliations of AZBio and ThirdBiotech, the AZBio board would not be inclined to consider the integration of AZBio into ThirdBiotech at this time.”

Mobley’s e-mail went on to invite ThirdBiotech to become a dues-paying member of AZBio.

When Mobley was contacted for comment on this story, Eaton responded on behalf of the board.

Despite the association leadership’s desire to remain separate organizations,
AZBio board member and Flinn Foundation Vice President Saundra Johnson said she applauds ThirdBiotech’s commitment to the state’s biotech industry.

“The group brings diverse talents and resources to the table that can make a difference,” she said.

AZBio was created in 1997 as the Arizona Bioindustry Cluster. It changed its name in November 2003, and in July 2005 it secured a three-year grant from The Flinn Foundation to support its statewide educational outreach efforts.

Johnson said Flinn is considering a second round of financing for AZBio.

Its first president and CEO, Jon McGarity, who declined to comment, left the association in May 2007 to run a biotech company. Eaton took his place in October 2007.

In February, the association merged with the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona in Tucson, creating a statewide association. The group offers mixers, workshops and advocacy, as well as purchasing power via its affiliation with the national Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Morhet said the state’s growing biotech industry could benefit from merging the two organizations, rather than duplicating services.

ThirdBiotech’s research group is working with venture capital groups to connect them with biotech companies in Arizona.

“Companies need to be fueled with investments,” Morhet said. “We want to find ways to connect Arizona-based companies with investors.”

Arizona BioIndustry AssociationFounded: 1997 (as Arizona Bioindustry Cluster)President and CEO: Bob EatonHQ: PhoenixMission: Seeks to unify, empower and advance its member organizations, which collectively form Arizona’s bioscience communityMembers: 120 companiesdues: Range from $100 to $3,000 a year, depending on the size and scope of the businessWeb: www.azbio.org

ThirdBiotechFounded: 2007President and CEO: Jeff MorhetHQ: ScottsdaleMission: Started as a networking group; now includes ThirdBiotech Research Group, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the development of science, technology and intellectual property to drive the formation, advancement and growth of Arizona-based biotech companiesIndividual Members: 300Annual dues: $49Corporate sponsors: 12Web: www.thirdbiotech.com

TGen's Dr. Von Hoff is named Arizona's Community Service Leader of the Year

[Source: TGen] - Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, a world-renowned cancer scientist and Physician-In-Chief of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), was named Arizona's Community Service Leader of the Year today at the 2008 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

Dr. Von Hoff, who also is Chief Scientific Officer of TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare, won the William F. McWhortor Community Service Leader of the Year award, presented annually to an individual or organization from industry, government or academia that contributes to Arizona's technology industry through relentless community involvement, leadership, visibility and excellence in economic development activity.

"Dr. Von Hoff has devoted a lifetime toward advancing the understanding and treatment of cancer. He shared the vision for the establishment of (TGen) a premier center for the application of the understanding of the human genome to the treatment of diseases," according to the presentation made by the Arizona Technology Council in partnership with the Arizona Department of Commerce and the Honorable Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona.

"The quality and diversity of this year's award recipients is a positive indication that technological innovation in both large established and emerging small companies is thriving in Arizona," said Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.

The prestigious awards ceremony, celebrating excellence in innovative technological advancement, was emceed at the Dodge Theatre by author Jane Poynter, one of eight people who lived sealed for two years in the early 1990s inside the artificial environment near Tucson known as Biosphere 2. She now is President of Paragon Space Development Corp., which develops technologies for extreme environments, such as space, under water and hyper-efficient buildings.

Other winners included:

-- Paolo Soleri – Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his many contributions in addressing environmental sustainability. Soleri is an internationally recognized Paradise Valley architect, artist and philosopher, and creator of the innovative city Arcosanti.

-- Jeff Morhet – Ed Denison Business Leader of the Year Award. Morhet is President and Chief Executive Officer of InNexus Biotechnology Inc., a drug development company at the Mayo Clinic Collaborative Research Building in Scottsdale.

-- Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, "Representative of the Year."
-- Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, "Senator of the Year."
In addition to his work at TGen, Dr. Von Hoff is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona, and a member of the Mayo Clinic's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Von Hoff is a founder of TGen, a founder of the non-profit International Genomics Consortium based in Phoenix, and has helped bring countless other jobs to this community. His commitment was instrumental in helping establish the Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute, a hospital-based research institute that serves as a bridge between cure and care. It is one of the finest programs in the nation in its ability to help patients with advanced cancer. It is emblematic of the translation of discoveries in genomic science to specific treatments for individual patients.

Dr. Von Hoff earned his medical degree at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1973. Following an internship and residency at the University of California, San Francisco, he spent four years at the prestigious National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md.

After experience at the forefront of cancer research at NCI, he joined the faculty of the University of Texas in San Antonio, where during the next 20 years he expanded the knowledge of cancer biology and tumor growth factors.

Dr. Von Hoff moved to Arizona in 1999, serving as Director of the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, and as Professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, before joining TGen.

In addition to his other duties, Dr. Von Hoff is serving a six-year presidential appointment (June 2004-March 2010) on the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Advisory Board. He also is past president of the American Association for Cancer Research, which with more than 28,000 members is the world's largest cancer research organization. He has published more than 540 scientific papers, more than 130 book chapters, and nearly 950 scientific abstracts. He is the holder of a dozen patents for new anti-cancer agents and medical devices.

For more than 35 years, Dr. Von Hoff has been devoted to advancing the understanding and treatment of cancer. His programs have two main goals:

-- Applying new knowledge to identify the best new targeted anti-cancer agents to treat individual cancer patients.
-- Curing pancreatic cancer.

The William F. McWhortor Community Service Leader of the Year award is named in honor of the late co-founder of the Arizona Innovation Network and its successor professional groups in Arizona, including the Arizona Technology Council, which have supported creative technological thinking. McWhortor, a Fountain Hills resident who died in 1997, patented a pattern recognition device in 1989 to help stop counterfeit checks.

Past winners of the McWhortor award include:

-- Ira A. Fulton, chairman and chief executive officer of Tempe-based Fulton Homes Inc.
-- Former Arizona State University President Lattie Coor.
-- Richard Mallery, partner and founding director of the Phoenix law firm Snell & Wilmer, for his successful efforts to bring the Translational Genomics Research Institute to Arizona.

First Alana’s Champs 5K to fund TGen brain cancer efforts

[Source: TGen] - The first Alana's Champs 5K, a run and walk to benefit brain cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), is set for Dec. 6 at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.

The event is named for Alana Lysholm-Bernacchi, a TGen neurogenomics researcher who studied hearing loss, Down syndrome and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. She died as the result of a brain tumor on Dec. 3, 2007.

Alana's Champs 5K is coordinated by the TGen Foundation, Arizona Road Racers and by Brett Bernacchi, a TGen volunteer and the husband of Alana.
If you go

Where: Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, just east of the Arizona State Capitol, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix.

When: Dec. 6. Event-day registration starts at 7 a.m.; the 5-kilometer run starts at 8 a.m.; the 5K walk at 8:10 a.m.; and the 1-mile run/walk at 8:45 a.m., followed by a kids dash and raffle.
Participation Fees:-- Ages 13 and up: $20 if pre-registered by Nov. 16; $25 from Nov. 16-Dec. 5; and $30 on Dec. 6.-- Ages 5-12: $5 if pre-registered by Nov. 16; $10 from Nov. 15-Dec. 6.-- Children ages 4 and younger are free.

Details: Please visit the TGen Foundation at www.helptgen.org or call Erin Massey, assistant director of development, at 602-343-8470.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Survey Highlights Support For Nanotech In Health Fields But Disapproval Elsewhere

[Source: ScienceDaily] - A landmark national survey on the use of nanotechnology for "human enhancement" shows widespread public support for applications of the new technology related to improving human health. However, the survey also shows broad disapproval for nanotech human enhancement research in areas without health benefits. A team of researchers at North Carolina State University and Arizona State University (ASU) conducted the study, which could influence the direction of future nanotechnology research efforts.

The "Public Awareness of Nanotechnology Study" is the first nationally representative survey to examine public opinion on the use of nanotechnology for human enhancement. The survey found significant support for enhancements that promise to improve human health. For example, 88 percent of participants were in favor of research for a video-to-brain link that would amount to artificial eyesight for the blind. However, there was little support for non-health research endeavors. For example, only 30 percent of participants approved of research into implants that could improve performance of soldiers on the battlefield.

Nanotechnology is generally defined as technology that uses substances having a size of 100 nanometers or less (tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair), and is expected to have widespread uses in medicine, consumer products and industrial processes. Human enhancement is a sweeping term that applies to the use of such technologies to alter human capabilities.

NC State's Dr. Michael Cobb, one of the leaders of the study, says the survey's findings are important because "what the public wants could drive the direction of future research." Cobb, an associate professor of political science, explains, "The public should have input into where the government invests its research funding." Dr. Clark Miller, an associate professor of political science at ASU and another leader of the survey, adds, "One of the most important findings is the difference in support for different applications of human enhancement. Research and public policies will need to reflect this differentiated view, recognizing that there are some applications the public supports and some that the public is quite skeptical of."

While the survey shows strong public support for research into nanotechnology applications in the health field, those findings are tempered by a similar concern from the public about the scope of that research. The study found that 55 percent of participants felt that researchers should "avoid playing God with new technologies." Similarly, the public expressed little confidence in the government and mass media to inform people about potential risks from new technologies. Rather, participants said they had the greatest confidence in university scientists and environmental groups to protect the public.

Leaders of the study were NC State's Cobb, ASU's Miller, Sean Hays, doctoral student in political science at ASU, and Dr. David Guston, professor of political science and director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS). The study was funded by CNS under a cooperative agreement from the National Science Foundation to conduct research, training and outreach on the societal aspects of nanotechnology. The study's findings complement earlier findings of the CNS National Citizens' Technology Forum, organized by Cobb and NC State researcher Dr. Patrick Hamlett in April 2008.

The survey was conducted between July and October of 2008. The survey included 556 participants, had a 28 percent response rate, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Light-speed computer connection will slash the time it takes TGen-ASU to transfer huge amounts of genetic data

[Source: TGen] - Hot on the heels of a new supercomputer, plans for a new light-speed data line between the Translational Genomics Research Institute and Arizona State University could slash the time is takes to transfer genetic information.

Accelerating the flow of information could help speed discoveries that eventually could help produce treatments and cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's, autism, diabetes and various cancers.

Because of the huge amounts of data generated by TGen's experiments, it now take as long as 12 days using conventional cables to transmit 7 terabytes of information from a typical experiment 10 miles between TGen's downtown Phoenix labs and ASU's new Saguaro 2 supercomputer in Tempe.

But through a partnership between ASU and Obsidian Strategics Inc., an Edmonton, Alberta-based defense-intelligence contractor, the same voluminous data – the equivalent of 3.5 million iPod songs – soon could be transmitted in as short as 1 hour.

The difference is something called "dark fiber," unused fiber optic cables installed years ago throughout the nation in anticipation of future growth and development.

"The primary advantage of a link like this is it will allow us to move data faster from the instruments at TGen to the computation and storage at ASU," said Dan Stanzione, director of the High Performance Computing Initiative at ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.
"This particularly applies to the next-gen sequencers," said Stanzione, referring to TGen's deployment of ever-faster tools for analyzing DNA in its quest to discover the causes, treatments and possible cures of various diseases.

Dr. Edward Suh, TGen's Chief Information Officer, said such capabilities will help expedite the translation of biomedical research from TGen labs into clinical drug treatments.
"The proposed high-speed data communication link, using Obsidian's network, will significantly reduce the time it takes to run complex data analyses and systems simulations on TGen's supercomputer systems," Suh said.

James Lowey, TGen's Director of High-Performance Biocomputing, said, "The high-speed link between TGen and ASU will enable TGen scientists to transfer data between their labs and the computational resources at ASU at an unprecedented rate, accelerating the pace of discovery.

"With the ever-increasing amount of data being generated by both proteomics and next-generation sequencing, it is critical to have state-of-the-art communications networks between locations where data is generated, and where it is analyzed," Lowey said. "Having this very high-speed link helps position TGen as being a leader in biomedical data analysis."

Stanzione said ASU still is looking for a partner to provide the fiber optic cable, but that a planned pilot dark-fiber link would be between ASU and TGen.

A single experimental run from DNA sequencers can generate 7 terabytes, or 7,000 gigabytes, of data, Stanzione said. Existing ASU-TGen connections can move about 30 gigabytes an hour, he said, meaning the transfer of scientific experimental information can take more than a week.
The proposed system using Obsidian Strategics technology is expected to hit 8,000 gigabytes per hour, or about 8 terabytes, reducing the time it takes to move data between TGen scientific instruments and the ASU supercomputer to as little as 1 hour, Stanzione said.

Reducing transmission time will be come more critical in the future, with TGen’s next generation sequencers easily producing as much as 30 terabytes of data, or the equivalent of an iPod with 15 million songs.

Obsidian Strategics is the leading developer of InfiniBand range extension, routing and encryption technology. ASU and Obsidian will join with others in a venture supported by the Canadian Consulate-Phoenix to advance the capabilities of the optical network, linking higher education facilities in Arizona, as well as in adjacent states.

Obsidian's Longbow technology leverages existing optical networks, and originally was designed to meet the demands of the U.S. Department of Defense’s next generation large data communications architecture.

Saguaro 2, the TGen-ASU supercomputer dedicated Oct. 3 at ASU's Barry M. Goldwater Center for Science and Engineering, is capable of 50 trillion mathematical operations per second.

Science Foundation Arizona Invests to Increase Arizona Biomedical Capacity

[Source: BUSINESS WIRE] - The Critical Path Institute (C-Path), a Tucson-based nonprofit that works with the FDA and the biomedical industry to streamline the development of crucial new medicines, has been awarded a $9 million investment grant from Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz). These funds will result in better testing methods that accelerate the development of therapies for major diseases, including lung cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

C-Path was formed as part of the FDA's 2004 Critical Path Initiative that called for safer and more rapid U.S. medical product development. The organization is seeking to reduce the high failure rate in bringing lifesaving new drugs to market by improving the current slow and often unreliable process, thereby saving lives and billions of dollars each year. Today, even after extensive laboratory research, only 5 percent of new medicines that enter human testing ever reach the market. C-Path plans to lift that success rate to 95 percent and shorten the process to less than three years.

Globally, the need for efficiently introducing new pharmaceuticals is urgent. "Without breakthroughs, we face a medical tsunami of healthcare costs posing immense economic and social threats," stated Dr. Raymond L. Woosley, C-Path's president and CEO. "In the United States alone, the annual cost of caring for patients with just one disease, Alzheimer's, is $150 billion, a staggering figure that is projected to reach $1 trillion, or 8 percent of today's total U.S. economy. C-Path, acting as a neutral third party between the FDA and private industry, enables the sharing of knowledge that can decrease time, costs, and failure rates in pharmaceutical product development."

The SFAz grant is expected to have a continued impact on the state's rise as a center for biomedical and pharmaceutical sector growth. C-Path has formed partnerships that include nearly all the major drug corporations in the United States and Europe. Three of the 18 companies that C-Path is working with -- Roche's Ventana Medical Systems, sanofi-aventis and Merck (through its affiliate High Throughput Genomics) -- now have major research facilities in southern Arizona.

"C-Path is the first initiative of its kind, and represents a major strategic move in positioning Arizona to be highly competitive and of interest to the global pharmaceutical community. With C-Path's success, the Tucson area has the potential to increase substantially its biomedical capacity with innovation, spin-off companies and a growing base of knowledge workers," added Dr. William C. Harris,president and CEO of SFAz.

Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) is a public/private partnership established in 2006 that supports communications technology, sustainable systems including renewable energies, and biomedical infrastructure development to capitalize on the state's growing research base by spurring business opportunities, attracting investment and creating new technology sector growth.

Critical Path Institute (C-Path), headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, was established in 2005 as a publicly funded, nonprofit research and education institute to enable and lead collaborations among scientists from the FDA, industry and academia. C-Path's mission is to help implement the FDA's Critical Path Initiative by developing faster, safer and smarter pathways to new medical products.