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'TGen North' a significant step in Arizona's biosciences corridor expansion

Flagstaff, AZ, May 30, 2006-Imagine going to the emergency room because you are feeling ill with flu-like symptoms. Do you have the flu, a bacterial infection or could it be something caused by a biological attack? Although there are tests currently available, they take 48 hours to yield results. In the future, the genetic analysis of pathogens will lead to advanced diagnostics that will allow physicians to rapidly identify disease and chart the best course for therapy.

Congressman Rick Renzi (far left), Dr. Jeffrey Trent (center) and Dr. Paul Keim (right) announce that the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), in partnership with the Northern Arizona University (NAU), is opening a new facility in Flagstaff dedicated to the development of pathogen diagnostics.

Delivering on the promise to build a statewide biosciences corridor, Congressman Rick Renzi today announced that the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), in partnership with the Northern Arizona University (NAU), is opening a new facility in Flagstaff dedicated to the development of pathogen diagnostics.

"Today's launch of TGen North fulfills the goal we set out when TGen was established four years ago," said Congressman Renzi. "And that was to bring new bioscience jobs and opportunities to the people of northern Arizona and contribute their unique work to improve the public health and biosecurity for our nation."

The new facility, called TGen's Center for Pathogen Diagnostics, or TGen North, will be located in Flagstaff. The scientific focus of TGen North will be to use the genomic technology and tools TGen typically applies to disease and apply them to biodefense, pathogen diagnostics and microbial forensics, thereby continuing TGen's mission of developing earlier diagnoses and smarter treatments.

TGen North will be led by nationally recognized biosafety expert Dr. Paul Keim, who is currently the Director of the TGen's Pathogen Genomics Division and is a professor of biology and Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology at NAU.

"We're incredibly excited to establish a footprint for TGen in Flagstaff, and expand our partnership with NAU," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, president and scientific director of TGen. "Dr. Keim is unique in the field of pathogen genomics, and the growing opportunity has led us to this expansion effort to launch TGen North, which contributes both to the nation's biosecurity work and our efforts to make Arizona a premier center for biotechnology excellence. Through Congressman Renzi's efforts, we have been able to leverage additional federal funds that give us the ability to expand to Flagstaff."

The new facility is an expansion of Dr. Keim's work with highly-regulated pathogens. In June 2005, Dr. Keim was appointed to the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), a group of 25 experts who will assess issues of biosafety in life sciences research. Dr. Keim's current work includes several projects funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the first of which aims to improve the understanding and management of sepsis and community acquired pneumonia (CAP). This multi-year project is expected to further progress toward more rapid and accurate tools for treating patients afflicted by these deadly pathogens.

Dr. Keim, who will direct efforts at TGen North notes, "This is an incredible opportunity for us to improve upon the diagnosis of infectious diseases, which hasn't changed all that much since the techniques pioneered by Louis Pasteur 150 years ago. The most promising new techniques in terms of preparing for possible pandemics or bioterrorism are the translation of genomic analysis into advance diagnostic devices. This will lead to rapid and comprehensive investigations of diseased patients. Genomic information can be garnered from both the pathogens and in the victims. The mission of TGen North will be to accelerate the development of pathogen diagnostics from the laboratory bench to clinician in the area of infectious diseases."

The new Center is funded by multiple federal agencies that support medical diagnostics, forensic analyses and biodefense-related work including the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security and others.

Support from Congressman Renzi was especially key to planning and launching TGen North. Congressman Renzi actively supports TGen's research goals and provided key leadership at the national level to bring visibility to TGen and Dr. Keim's work in Washington, D.C.

The partnership continues to strengthen ties between TGen and NAU. In addition to Dr. Keim, Dr. Stephen Beckstrom-Sternberg and Dr. Rich Posner have joint appointments with TGen and NAU. A fourth joint faculty position is currently under active recruitment.

"This venture exemplifies what NAU and higher education are all about. We are about knowledge and discovery to benefit quality of life, and with this partnership, perhaps even saving lives. NAU has a proud tradition of promoting scientific excellence and supporting the economic vitality of our community. This partnership will help us build on that tradition," said Dr. John Haeger, president of NAU.

In 2002, the Flinn Foundation funded a comprehensive study by the Battelle Memorial Institute that outlined a 10-year roadmap to "fast track" Arizona on a path to achieve national bioscience stature and a diversified economy. The study highlighted Arizona's existing research strengths and emphasized the need for increased public- and private-sector collaboration.

The launch of TGen North in Flagstaff is significant step for both establishing a biosciences corridor in Arizona and furthering economic development in Flagstaff.

"The City of Flagstaff is pleased to welcome TGen North to northern Arizona and is proud that our city in partnership with Northern Arizona University is contributing to scientific excellence for all of Arizona and bringing real benefits to local citizens as part of Flagstaff's efforts to create a bioscience economy," said Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson.

Construction of the new facility is about to begin and TGen North is scheduled to be operational in the fall of 2006.

"The launching of TGen North is the first step of what we hope will be a continuing effort to create new jobs in bioscience for citizens of Flagstaff and serve as a centerpiece of our efforts for a development corridor in Flagstaff," said Stephanie McKinney, president and CEO of the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council.

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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 Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University (NAU) has a student population of about 18,000 at its main campus in Flagstaff and at 30 sites across the state. NAU has earned a solid reputation as a university with all the features of a large institution but with a personal touch. NAU carefully balances teaching, scholarship and service with a faculty and staff dedicated to each student's success. While our emphasis is undergraduate education, we offer a wide range of graduate programs and research that extend to such national concerns as forest health and bioterrorism.

Media Contacts:
TGen-Amy Erickson (602) 343-8522
TGen-Galen Perry (602) 343-8432
NAU-Lisa Nelson (928) 523-6123, cell: (928) 255-0251
Congressman Renzi's Office-Joe Brenckle (202) 226-8273, cell: (202) 593-2994


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