Thursday, January 31, 2008

Helios Education Foundation Invests $6.5 Million in New Partnership With TGen

Partnership Extends Funding for Bioscience Summer Internship

01-29-2008

PHOENIX, AZ -- Helios Education Foundation today awarded $6.5 million to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) as part of a new partnership that extends the Helios Scholars Program at TGen for the next 25 years. The program helps cultivate new scientific and technical talent across the state of Arizona.
"Helios Education Foundation's commitment to develop a long term partnership with TGen for student training is an incredible boost for Arizona's future in the biosciences," Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano said. "Arizona is poised to become a world leader in cutting-edge medical education and health care, but only if we provide the necessary training and mentorship. These types of public-private partnerships hold the key to what must be the central goal of an Arizona education: giving our students the skills they need to succeed in the high-tech, high-knowledge world of the 21st century."

The Helios Scholars Program at TGen is an annual summer internship program for 45 high school, undergraduate and graduate students in Arizona. Interns receive a stipend, are paired with a TGen scientist/mentor and are actively engaged in research projects in disorders as diverse as cancer, diabetes, autism and Alzheimer's disease. The eight-week program supports students from all backgrounds in their efforts to develop foundational skills as they pursue careers in science or medical-related fields.

"Creating opportunities in education that have math and science at their core is very important to Helios Education Foundation," said the Foundation's Chairman Vince Roig. "We are excited to invest $6.5 million in this innovative and unique program at TGen because it opens new doors into the world of the biosciences for Arizona students. We're even more excited to be investing in a long-term partnership that will impact the future growth and development of the sciences in Arizona."

Helios Education Foundation provided funding for TGen's 2007 summer internship program, which included a stipend for students. This led to a sizable increase in the number of qualified student applications from around the State. The $6.5 million endowment enables TGen to extend its competitive internship program for 25 years and provide a stipend and other support for students. The Helios Scholars Program at TGen also encourages student diversity, with upwards of 20 percent of the interns coming from underrepresented populations.

"We are excited to continue and expand our partnership with the Helios Education Foundation," said TGen president, Dr. Jeffrey Trent. "Our shared commitment to training the next generation of researchers provides an unparalleled opportunity for Arizona and those students seeking hands-on training to augment their classroom experience. For many of these students, this experience will prove to be a defining moment in focusing their career choices across the biosciences."

Applications are now available on-line at the TGen website: http://www.tgen.org/intern. Interns must be a resident of Arizona or a full-time student at an Arizona-based high school, accredited college or university. The application deadline is March 14. Attributes that investigators consider in selecting students include a strong desire to conduct independent research, interests, academic achievement, curiosity, ambition, and aptitude for working independently and with a team. The application process is competitive, but many different backgrounds and abilities are represented among the students selected.

In addition to the stipends, Helios Education Foundation and TGen recognize each student as a Helios Scholar. The endowment also funds an end-of-the-summer symposium where students present their work to their peers, TGen staff, family and guests. Additionally, the endowment provides six merit-based scholarships and supports several extra curricular activities to encourage student interaction and learning.

TGen's past summer interns boast an array of impressive accomplishments, including publishing scientific abstracts and peer-reviewed articles, gaining acceptance into medical and graduate school and winning scholarships and prizes. In 2005, TGen interns Albert Shieh and Anne Lee took first place in the team category at the 2005-2006 Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology. The interns split a $100,000 scholarship.

About Helios Education Foundation
Helios Education Foundation is the largest nonprofit organization serving Arizona and Florida focused solely on education. The Foundation's endowment is in excess of $600 million. Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals in Arizona and Florida by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education. The Foundation’s community investments are made across three impact areas: Early Childhood Education, the Transition Years (grades 5-12) and Postsecondary Education. Since inception in 2004, Helios Education Foundation has invested nearly $42 million into education-related programs and initiatives in both states. For more information, visit the Foundation online at www.helios.org.

About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the performance of groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments for diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. TGen's vision is of a world where an understanding of genomic variation can be rapidly translated to the diagnosis and treatment of disease in a manner tailored to individual patients.




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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2007: A Watershed Year for Lupus Research and Education PR Newswire

2007: A Watershed Year for Lupus Research and Education PR Newswire (press
release) - New York,NY,USA The largest sources of funding for research on
lupus - the federal government and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology
industries - each boosted their ...
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See all stories on this topic:
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Biotech Has Senator's Support to Do Drug Research at USDA Site

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Biotech Has Senator's Support to Do Drug Research at USDA Site Washington Post - United States PharmAthene is one of several biotech companies vying to develop drugs under Project Bioshield, the federal government's $5.6 billion initiative to ...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/13/AR2008011302330.html

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Researchers Move Two Steps Closer to Understanding Genetic Underpinnings of Autism

Researchers Move Two Steps Closer to Understanding Genetic Underpinnings of Autism


Reports from three groups validate earlier finding

01-10-2008

Phoenix, AZ, January 10, 2008-Today's issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG), describes what might be a corner piece of the autism puzzle-the identification and subsequent validation of a gene linked to the development of autism by three separate groups of scientists. An accompanying commentary by Dr. Dietrich Stephan, Director of the Neurogenomics Division at the Translational Genomics Research Institute's (TGen), further explains the findings.
Autism is a perplexing disease whose cause remains unexplained. It has long been suggested that environmental factors, linked with genetics, play a role in causing the disorder. As recently as last week, researchers in California published a study that found no proof linking autism with a mercury-based preservative found in childhood vaccines. While there are no clear-cut answers, researchers are one step closer to understanding autism's genetic cause.

In March 2006, Dr. Stephan, Director of TGen's Neurogenomics Division, led a team of researchers at TGen and collaborators at the Clinic for Special Children (CSC) in Strasburg, PA, that identified a gene called CNTNAP2. When mutated, this gene indicated a predisposition to autism in a specific population of Old Order Amish children from Pennsylvania.

One of the most important principles in science is the ability to replicate results. Now, three groups of researchers from Yale University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Johns Hopkins University, have replicated the initial finding in the general population, unequivocally implicating this gene as causing the newly defined Type 1 autism. All three studies plus Dr. Stephan's commentary are published in the January edition of AJHG.

According to Dr. Erik Puffenberger, Laboratory Director of the Clinic for Special Children, "Our previous finding of association between loss of CNTNAP2 function and autistic behavior has been validated in the general population. This is a very exciting step for autism research. It also highlights the enormous potential of the 'small science' approach. Our initial work used only four affected Amish children. Careful study of these four patients uncovered the association between CNTNAP2 and autistic behaviors. From that small beginning, CNTNAP2 has now been implicated as a significant risk factor for autism."

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broadly used term for a set of developmental disorders that emerges in infants and young children. ASD impairs a child's intuitive thought, language and social development to varying degrees. Most individuals diagnosed with ASD require lifelong supervision and care; the most severely affected are unable to speak. ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S. Two decades ago, roughly one child in 10,000 was diagnosed with ASD; it now affects one in 150 births.

"The field of genetics is replete with examples where researchers are unable to reproduce results. Here we have independent confirmation in multiple groups using large samples sizes," said Dr. Stephan. "Now that the results of the initial CNTNAP2 gene finding have been replicated, it strongly supports the notion that the 'broken version' of CNTNAP2 is recognized as a cause of autism in the general population."

In collaboration with the Phoenix-based Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), a nonprofit community-based organization dedicated to research, education and resources for individuals with ASDs and their families, TGen will apply these research findings to children in Arizona who have been diagnosed with ASD.

"The heterogeneity of the disorder has frustrated our past efforts in the search for causes of autism," said Dr. Raun Melmed, medical director and co-founder of SARRC. "This exciting discovery will further our capacity to individualize approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of autism."

The next step, noted Dr. Stephan in the commentary, is to develop a diagnostic to test for the CNTNAP2 mutation. If physicians could implement behavioral interventions early enough, children with autism may have a better chance of developing normally.

The initial discovery of CNTNAP2 in autism was published in the March 30, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

# # #

About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine. The institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.

About the Clinic For Special Children
The Clinic for Special Children was established in 1989 to provide early diagnosis, affordable laboratory services, and comprehensive medical and nutritional care for Old Order Amish and Mennonite children that suffer from genetic disorders. The clinic mission encompasses four aims: 1) Make high-quality medical care for special children accessible, affordable, and culturally effective; 2) Develop comprehensive methods of newborn screening and follow-up care for genetic disorders prevalent among the Plain people; 3) Develop practical clinical applications for modern molecular genetic technologies; and 4) Elucidate disease mechanisms for the purpose of improving patient treatment and outcome. Clinical work at the CSC is funded by private donations from individuals, foundation contributions, and an endowment fund established for this purpose. Many collaborating scientists and laboratories donate specialized services. The CSC receives no money from state or federal sources and is a private non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable institution.

About SARRC
Founded in 1997, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to autism research, education and resources for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and their families. SARRC undertakes self-directed and collaborative research projects, serves as a satellite site for national and international projects, and provides up-to-date information, training and assistance to families and professionals about ASDs. For more information about SARRC, call (602) 340-8717 or visit www.autismcenter.org.

Media Contacts:
Amy Erickson, TGen: (602) 343-8522
Caroline Morton, Clinic for Special Children: (717) 687-9407
Stephanie Jarnagan, SARRC: (480) 201-7572



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