Thursday, May 28, 2009

$18 million awarded to TGen and University of Pennsylvania

$18 million awarded to TGen and University of Pennsylvania for pancreatic cancer research from Stand Up to Cancer

Scottsdale Healthcare at Shea Medical Center a primary clinical site

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) will receive $18 million to research pancreatic cancer, Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) announced today.
Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, TGen’s Physician-In-Chief, and Dr. Craig B. Thompson, Director of the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn, are co-leaders of SU2C pancreatic cancer "Dream Team," which will lead a three-year investigation into new approaches to treating pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

"We want to do something dramatic. It is going to take a tremendous amount of real thinking power to make that difference, so it is a dream come true to be able to put this team together to work towards this goal," said Dr. Von Hoff, who also is Chief Scientific Officer for TGen Clinical Research Services (TCRS) at Scottsdale Healthcare, a primary clinical research site for TGen and the SU2C grant.

The $18 million to TGen and Penn was the largest single grant among five awards, totaling $74 million, announced by SU2C, a philanthropic group created by cancer scientists and members of the entertainment industry a year ago today to quickly turn scientific discoveries into ways to care for cancer patients.

The goal of the pancreatic cancer Dream Team research project – "Cutting Off the Fuel Supply" – is to develop tests, using advanced imaging techniques, to determine what nutrients pancreatic cancer cells require to fuel their growth and survival. Understanding the cell’s fuel supply will help scientists develop more individualized treatments with fewer side effects.

TGen and its clinical partner at TCRS will launch a series of innovative clinical trials in advanced pancreatic cancer. These clinical trials will be designed to deprive pancreatic tumors of crucial nutrients, thereby cutting off the fuel supply.

TCRS is located at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center in Scottsdale. Other clinical sites in the study are at Penn in Philadelphia and at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The TGen-Penn team will combine translational methods developed at the University of Pennsylvania with individualized-therapies emphasized by TGen to rapidly move laboratory findings to bedside treatments, benefiting pancreatic cancer patients as quickly as possible. They will test the drugs in combination with existing standard chemotherapy, with the hope of improving quality of life while increasing the percentage of patients surviving beyond one year.

Since its inception in 2002, TGen has pioneered cutting-edge research in genomic medicine, enabling physicians to design targeted and individualized therapies for patients suffering from cancer and other debilitating diseases.

About Dr. Daniel Von Hoff

In addition to his positions at TGen and Scottsdale Healthcare, Dr. Von Hoff is Chief Scientific Officer for US Oncology, and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona. His major interest is in the development of new anticancer agents. Dr. Von Hoff’s work focuses on the development of molecularly targeted therapies for patients with pancreatic and other advanced cancers. He is serving a six-year term on the National Cancer Advisory Board and has served on the FDA’s Oncology Advisory Committee. Dr. Von Hoff is a past president of the American Association for Cancer Research, was on the AACR and the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Board of Directors, and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians.

About Dr. Craig Thompson

In addition to his position at the Abramson Cancer Center, Dr. Thompson is the Associate Vice President for Cancer Services at the University of Pennsylvania Heath System, director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute and the John H. Glick professor of medicine and cancer biology at the university’s School of Medicine. His research focuses on how alterations in the control of cell metabolism contribute to cancer cell development and survival. He has contributed to the development of new treatments for autoimmune diseases and leukemia.

About pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it remains one of the most deadly forms of cancer. Over 90 percent of patients die within the first year of diagnosis. Recent advancements have had little impact, and a new approach is desperately needed.

Using modern tumor imaging, it is possible to monitor a tumor’s glucose utilization and such tests are now routinely used in clinical practice. In most cases, the more glucose a tumor is using, the more advanced the tumor and the greater likelihood of spread. Similarly, if a tumor is using less glucose as a response to chemotherapy, then it is a good indication that the tumor is responding to treatment.

Pancreatic cancer presents a unique challenge because it is addicted to another molecule, glutamine, rather than glucose. Glutamine is an amino acid that helps build muscle mass and is used by some cells for energy. When cancer feeds or metabolizes excess amounts of gluatamine, it can lead to extreme weight loss by robbing other cells of this important nutrient, a condition from which many pancreatic cancer patients suffer. In addition, the waste that is a by-product of this process generates an intense reaction from surrounding normal cells, which then secrete growth factors that help tumor cells grow. Cancers that use excess glutamine are often resistant to standard forms of chemotherapy, another characteristic of pancreatic cancer.

About the Dream Teams

The five Dream Teams – culled from 237 submissions – are comprised of seven leaders, four co-leaders and 27 principal researchers from more than 20 leading institutions, with more than 300 individuals participating:

"Cutting off the Fuel Supply: A New Approach to the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer" – $18 million – Leaders: Craig B. Thompson, M.D., Director, Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., Senior Investigator and Physician in Chief at the Translational Research Genomics Institute (TGen).

"An Integrated Approach to Targeting Molecular Breast Cancer Molecular Subtypes and Their "Resistance" Phenotypes" – $16.5 million – Leaders: Joe W. Gray, Ph.D., Life Sciences Division Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Dennis J. Slamon, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Clinical/Translational Research at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"Targeting the PI3K Pathway in Women’s Cancers" – $15 million – Leader: Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D., Chief of the Division of Signal Transduction at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Co-Leaders: Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., Director of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Department of Systems Biology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of Circulating Tumor Cells Chip" – $15 million – Leader: Daniel A. Haber, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; Co-Leader: Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Harvard Medical School.

"Bringing Epigenetic Therapy to the Forefront of Cancer Management" – $9.12 million – Leader: Stephen B. Baylin, M.D., Deputy Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins; Co-Leader: Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Urology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Southern California.
Collectively, the research that will be done through the Dream Team projects could impact the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers in adults and children across ethnicities including, but not limited to pancreatic, breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine, brain, lung, prostate, rectal and colon. These represent two-thirds of all U.S. cancer deaths; 562,340 people are expected to die of cancer this year in the U.S., where on average 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Worldwide, cancer annually kills nearly almost 8 million.

"(S)cientists need more money for research and easier ways to work together; and the entertainment industry has unique resources that can be called upon to help make every American aware that each and every one of us has a role to play in advancing cancer research," said Sherry Lansing, Board Chair of the Entertainment Industry Foundation and a member of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council. "From the person who can give five dollars to the philanthropist who can give millions, we are all connected to the devastation that cancer causes in our families, and together, we can Stand Up to end it."

On behalf of Stand Up To Cancer, the 28,000-member American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will be responsible for administering the grants.

Major donors

Major League Baseball was the first major donor to contribute to Stand Up To Cancer. Other major SU2C supporters include: Jones Apparel Group Inc. founder Sidney Kimmel, Amgen, AARP, Bloomberg Philanthropies, GlaxoSmithKline, Revlon, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Wallis Annenberg & The Annenberg Foundation, Alliance for Global Good, New York Giants, Milken Family Foundation, Philips Electronics, Steve Tisch, and The Island Def Jam Music Group.

About Stand Up To Cancer
The Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) movement raises funds to hasten the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives. In 2007, a group of women whose lives have all been affected by cancer in profound ways began working together to marshal the resources of the media and entertainment industries in the fight against the disease. For more information about Stand Up To Cancer, please visit

About the American Association for Cancer Research
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the oldest and largest scientific organization in the world focusing on every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research from the bench to the bedside. Lauded internationally for its scientific breadth, innovation and spread of new knowledge about cancer, the AACR is on the front lines in the quest for the prevention and cure of cancer.

About the Entertainment Industry Foundation
The Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), as a leading charitable organization of the entertainment industry, has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support programs addressing critical health, education and social issues.

About Scottsdale Healthcare:
Scottsdale Healthcare ( is the not-for-profit parent organization of Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center, Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, Scottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peak Hospital, Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, Scottsdale Clinical Research Institute, TGen Clinical Research Services at Scottsdale Healthcare, Scottsdale Healthcare Home Health Services, Scottsdale Healthcare Community Health Services, NOAH Clinics and Scottsdale Healthcare Foundation. Scottsdale Healthcare ER wait times are updated every three minutes at

About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with 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 is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, visit:

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Monday, May 11, 2009

TGen intern named one of the nation’s Top 40 studentscoparomi

TGen intern named one of the nation’s Top 40 students

Source: TGEN

ASU student also awarded $2,500 scholarship for work at TGen

PHOENIX, Ariz. - May 8, 2009 - Eric Anderson, who has worked for three years as an intern for the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), has been named one of the nation’s Top 40 students by USA Today.
Anderson, a senior at Arizona State University, was named to the national newspaper’s prestigious annual All-USA College Academic Second Team of 20 students. The First Team of 20 students also included an ASU student. (Click here for related link).

In addition, Anderson was notified May 7 by ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that he has been awarded a $2,500 Arizona Power Authority Scholarship in the fall 2009 semester for his research under the supervision of TGen's Dr. Heather Cunliffe.

Anderson, who has worked in brain and breast cancer research at TGen, has investigated potential diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic targets.

"Eric is an extremely intelligent and self-motivated student. It has been a pleasure to play a role in his career development, and very satisfying to see him excel through strong collaborative mentorship from both TGen and ASU," said Dr. Cunliffe, head of TGen's Breast & Ovarian Cancer Research Unit.

Anderson, who also has worked in research projects at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, will remain at ASU one more year to complete dual majors in Bioengineering and Medicinal Biochemistry. He plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in biomedical research.

Anderson said he plans to "continue my clinical and translational research involvement throughout my undergraduate career and explore the intimate and vital process of translating scientific discoveries into bedside applications that will directly affect patient care."

Each year at ASU, he has won a fellowship in the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research program, and he is a past winner of the Goldwater Scholarship, considered the nation's highest undergraduate award in science, math and engineering.

Anderson also is enrolled in ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and ASU’s Barrett Honors College. He has been a hospice volunteer and volunteers at the Mission of Mercy Medical Clinic and the Migrant Health Education Program, providing care to homeless patients and the uninsured, finding funds and helping establish clinical partnerships.

A national team of judges selects USA Today’s top students based on grades, leadership, activities, and how students extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom.


About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with 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 is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, visit:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Big Web 2.0 Technology Challenges

Big Web 2.0 Technology Challenges: Moderating Biotech, Pharma and Medical User-generated Content (UGC)

I know this post has jumped ahead in order of my planned posts on the technology challenges created in by Web 2.0. However, I recently had a few inquiries in this area (from friends, analysts and colleagues.) As such, I thought it would be beneficial to move this topic up in my series.

In general, moderation of UGC is not a simple prospect. Moderation of UGC in a regulated space is even tougher – especially in the very highly regulated biotech, pharmaceutical and medical industries (where regulation compliance is essentially intended to protect human life). Based on the sensitivity of this topic, it is worth diverting a little of your attention to some disclaimers and background information:

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Arizona BIO 2009

BIO 2009 - Stop by the Arizona Pavilion (Booth 4601)

Again this year, the AZ Dept. of Commerce has coordinated a pavilion that will showcase our state's bioscience community. In the pavilion, AZBio will highlight the AZBio Bioscience Company Directory and the Interactive Biomap on our website (click here), both exceptional tools for locating bioscience organizations in Arizona. As BIO's recognized state affiliate organization in Arizona, AZBio works closely with BIO throughout the year, and we hope to see many of our Arizona colleagues at the world's largest annual gathering of the biotechnology industry. For more information and to register for BIO 2009, click here.

Highlighted events on the online calendar:

April 30th - Experience Your Future Day (Glendale)
Presented by, Experience Your Future Day is a one-day, experiential learning event designed for 8th grade students to be able to experience hands-on what it's truly like to work in a chosen trade, profession or industry. For complete details, click here.

May 4th - Donald K. Buffmire Lecture presents Fernando D. Martinez, MD (Phoenix)
Fernando D. Martinez, MD, Director of the Arizona Respiratory Center and Interim Director of the BIO5 Institute will present “Genes and Environment at the Onset of Asthma and Allergies”. Dr. Martinez will discuss the natural history of childhood asthma, and the role of genetic, physiologic, immunologic and environmental factors as determinants of the risk for asthma in early life. Please RSVP to Mindy Shields by April 29 to or 602-827-2076. For more information, please click here.

May 15th - AZBio/BIO-SA Breakfast - An Ounce of (Chemo) Prevention (Tucson)
Eugene W. Gerner, Ph.D. will discuss his research and findings regarding Colorectal Cancer (CRC) and how he and his team have recently demonstrated remarkable efficacy for the prevention of recurrence of colon polyps, which are the forerunners of colon cancer. Click here for more information and to register online.

May 18th - 21st - 2009 BIO International Convention
The 2009 BIO International Convention will deliver the partnering tools, licensing tips and other industry resources you need to meet current economic challenges and to strengthen your biotech business for the future. Join 20,000 senior level life science professionals in Atlanta to explore valuable partnerships and discuss financial and strategic practices. For more information and to register, click here.

October 11th - 13th - Annual BioPartnering Europe - EARLY REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!
BPE brings together decision-makers from leading biotechnology, pharmaceutical and investment companies from around the world for 3 days of focused networking, presentations, expert panels and one-to-one partnering. For more information and to register, click here.

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