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  • Posted Monday January 6, 2020

Applications start today for TGen summer programs sponsored by Helios Education Foundation

One 2019 Helios intern authors scientific paper that could help a disabled patient at TGen’s Center for Rare Childhood Disorders

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Jan. 6, 2020 — Applications opened today for two 2020 summer student programs — one for high school, and one for college — at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope.

Both TGen programs — Helios Scholars at TGen, and TGen Bioscience Leadership Academy — are sponsored by Helios Education Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education.

Kamawela “Kami” Leka, a sophomore at Arizona State University, where she majors in Biomedical Engineering, was one of last summer’s interns in Helios Scholars at TGen, a program designed exclusively for undergraduate and graduate college students, including those in medical school. Scholars are paired with TGen scientists who share research expertise and technical skills, bioethics, experimental design, and the translational process of quickly moving laboratory discoveries into new therapeutics to benefit patients with neurological disorders, infectious diseases and many types of cancer.

“TGen scientists trust the interns to do legitimate scientific investigations, not just busy work,” said Kami, who has continued as an academic-year intern at TGen, working with zebrafish on a rare mutation in the TUBA1A gene. This mutation has caused physical and intellectual disabilities for a patient at TGen’s Center for Rare Childhood Disorders.

“We believe we have created the first successful model for this disease in zebrafish,” added Kami, who is the lead author of a scientific paper about TUBA1A, along with her TGen mentors: Dr. Sampath Rangasamy, a TGen Research Assistant Professor; and Dr. Vinodh Narayanan, Medical Director of the TGen Center. “This model should help us understand the biological role of genetic mutation, which will aid in the development of novel genetic treatments for this patient, and hopefully, help us find treatments for other patients with this condition,” she said.

TGen Bioscience Leadership Academy

The other Helios program, TGen Bioscience Leadership Academy, begun in 2018, is designed exclusively for high school students who are looking to elevate their understanding of bioscience and precision medicine. TGen will select 20 high school students from across Arizona to participate in the 2020 BLA class. From June 15-26, students will spend two weeks with TGen’s world-class scientists, learning advanced scientific and professional skills.

This high school program builds on the success of Helios Scholars at TGen, which for 13 years has provided 45 students each summer with an eight-week paid internship, preparing the next generation of Arizona bioscience researchers and physicians. Since its inception in 2007, 551 students have participated in this program, which this coming summer starts June 10, and concludes Aug. 5 with the annual Helios Scholars Intern Symposium.

“It is a joy to witness the tremendous enthusiasm and inspiring progress made each summer by our Helios program participants,” said Kristen Kaus, TGen Education and Outreach Supervisor. “Thanks to the generosity of Helios Education Foundation, we are able to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students interested in a full array biomedical career possibilities.”

TGen receives hundreds of applications to both Helios Scholars at TGen and to TGen Biosciences Leadership Academy. Applications for both programs close Feb. 7.

“Both TGen Bioscience Leadership Academy and Helios Scholars at TGen provide creative, challenging and grade-appropriate paths for these students to advance to higher academic levels, prepared for success in college and career,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation.

Students selected for both programs will receive guidance in science communication skills, public speaking, workplace skills and networking. Both programs are designed to increase access to academic experiences for underrepresented populations, demonstrate TGen’s and Helios’ leadership in innovative bioscience education, and enable graduates to become peer models who can inspire other students to achieve.

Applicants’ basic requirements

Applicants for TGen Bioscience Leadership Academy must be 16 by the time the program starts, and in the fall be entering their junior or senior year of high school. Only one student will be selected from any one Arizona high school each year, ensuring participation from 20 schools. Each student receives a $1,000 scholarship.

Helios Scholars must be 16 by the time the program starts with plans to be a full-time college/university student during the Fall 2020 semester. Applicants must be a graduate of an Arizona high school or currently attending a college/university in Arizona. Each intern earns an hourly wage that varies with experience. 

Kami applied to TGen’s Helios Scholars based on the recommendation of an ASU alumna of the program, and Kami recommends it to others: “I had a lot of independence,” said Kami, who is considering a career in Biomedical Engineering. “And, I was allowed to fail, which I think helped me learn in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It helped me learn what I could do.”

For more information, please contact Kristen Kaus, TGen Education and Outreach Supervisor, at [email protected] or 602-343-8719, or go to

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About Helios Education Foundation
Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to achieve a postsecondary education. The Foundation’s work is driven by four fundamental beliefs in Community, Investment, Equity and Partnership.  Helios invests in programs and initiatives across the full education continuum — from early grade success through postsecondary education. In Arizona, where Latino students comprise the largest percentage of the K-12 public school population, the Foundation is implementing its Arizona Latino Student Success initiative focused on preparing all students — especially students in high poverty, underserved Latino communities — for success.  Through Helios’ Florida Regional Student Success Initiative, the Foundation is helping underserved, minority, first-generation students from the state's large population centers in Miami, Orlando and Tampa achieve a postsecondary education. Since 2006, the Foundation has invested more than $200 million in education programs and initiatives in both states. To learn more about Helios, visit us online at

Media Contact:
Rebecca Lindgren
Marketing Communications Director
Helios Education Foundation

About TGen, an affiliate of City of Hope
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life-changing results. TGen is affiliated with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases:  This precision medicine affiliation enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases through cutting-edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research toward patient benefit).  TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and complex rare diseases in adults and children.  Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: Follow TGen on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.

Media Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
[email protected]

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