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TGen names Head of new Center for Proteomics

New technologies position TGen, ASU and Seattle cancer center to play key roles in international medical efforts

PHOENIX, Ariz. - May 27, 2009 - The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has hired a key player in Arizona's efforts to become a world-premier center for personalized medicine.

Dr. Konstantinos "Kostas" Petritis is the first Head of TGen's new Center for Proteomics. The new center will play a significant role in the Partnership for Personalized Medicine (PPM), and in the PPM's development of specifically targeted treatments for individual patients afflicted with cancer and other debilitating conditions.

The PPM is an alliance founded in 2007 between TGen, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute and Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

"Establishment of the Center for Proteomics at TGen is integral to the success of the Partnership for Personalized Medicine," said Dr. Lee Hartwell, a 2001 Nobel laureate and Executive Committee Chairman of PPM.

"The selection of Dr. Petritis adds a completely new capability to the already extraordinary capacities of TGen to do complex studies across the spectrum of disease-related biological molecules," said Dr. Hartwell, President and Director of the Hutchinson Center.

Proteomics is a branch of molecular biology involving the study of proteins and how they affect the structure and functions of DNA, cells, tissues and organisms in the cause and prevention of disease.

TGen's new Center for Proteomics is an industrial-scale proteomics biomarker discovery, verification and validation facility. This cutting-edge laboratory will work with world-recognized experts to translate our understanding of genomic variation and proteins into new diagnostics and treatments.

Dr. Petritis most recently was a senior research scientist for a federal laboratory in Washington that promoted energy independence, environmental protection and technological innovations.

"Biomarker discovery efforts of the last 10-plus years have, thus far, failed to produce an FDA-approved biomarker that was discovered and validated through proteomics. I envision that TGen's new Center for Proteomics will be able to accomplish this task," Dr. Petritis said. "All of the exceptional scientists chosen to be part of this exciting venture will work together to identify a research path that will guarantee the success of PPM's goals."

The naming of Dr. Petritis as Head of the Center for Proteomics follows the appointment of Dr. Joshua LaBaer as Director of the new Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics at ASU's Biodesign Institute. Dr. LaBaer most recently was Director of the Harvard Institute of Proteomics.

"Arizona is assembling a powerhouse of talent in proteomics, an area of science that is allowing us to better identify distinct molecular variations in diseases, so that we can more quickly arrive at the right diagnosis and the right treatment for each individual patient," said Dr. Alan Nelson, Executive Director of ASU's Biodesign Institute. "We are confident that our collaboration will have a profound impact on people's health."

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen's President and Research Director, said the hiring of Dr. Petritis is a milestone in the development of the PPM.

"We are excited about Dr. Petritis joining our TGen family. His addition helps complete the building blocks of personnel and facilities needed to create the Partnership for Personalized Medicine," Dr. Trent said. "With Dr. Petritis on board, TGen's Center for Proteomics is poised to make a substantial and positive difference in the lives of patients with cancer and other devastating diseases."

TGen's Center for Proteomics initially will focus on the discovery and validation of biomarkers in support of Luxembourg Project Lung Cancer, one of three programs TGen has initiated with the nation of Luxembourg to help turn that country into Europe's premier biomedical center. The other two projects are: the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg, which will create a repository for tissue samples; and the Center for Systems Biology Luxembourg, which will track the genetic basis of disease and develop health tests based on proteins. TGen will provide support, core expertise and training to enable Luxembourg to establish its genomics and proteomics capabilities.

The Center for Proteomics - located at TGen's downtown Phoenix headquarters - also will provide a core resource to support collaborative proteomics studies within the TGen community. TGen also has facilities in Scottsdale and Flagstaff, and is pursuing a major alliance with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The center's construction is nearly complete. Equipment installations will begin in June. The center will be operational this summer.

Dr. Petritis started his career in Analytical Chemistry in the biotechnology department of VIORYL Inc., a chemical and agricultural firm based near Athens, Greece. Dr. Petritis received his Doctorate and Master's degrees in Analytical Chemistry from France's University of Orleans.

Most recently, Dr. Petritis worked as a senior research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., specifically in the Biological Separations and Mass Spectrometry/Proteomics group at PNNL's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a branch of the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dr. Petritis' areas of expertise include proteomics, metabolomics and the development of mass spectrometry-based analytical methods for the analysis of biomolecules from a variety of sample types, including agricultural and biological fluids. In addition, he has worked on methods that significantly accelerate biospecimen/biofluid sample preparation, which is a current bottleneck in proteomics. Dr. Petritis has played an integral role in developing tools that increase the confidence of proteomic identifications through auxiliary metrics, integrating top-down and bottom-up proteomics, and developing new ways for performing proteomic measurements.

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About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a 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. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

Press Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
[email protected]

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About the Biodesign Institute
The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University pursues research to create personalized medical diagnostics and treatments, outpace infectious disease, clean the environment, develop alternative energy sources, and secure a safer world. Using a team approach that fuses the biosciences with nanoscale engineering and advanced computing, the Biodesign Institute collaborates with academic, industrial and governmental organizations globally to accelerate these discoveries to market. For more information, go to: www.biodesign.asu.edu.

Press Contact:
Joe Caspermeyer
Media Relations Manager
Biodesign Institute
480-727-0369
[email protected]

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About Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit www.fhcrc.org.

Press Contact:
Dean Forbes
Media Relations Manager
206-667-2896
[email protected]

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