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TGen finalizes alliance with Van Andel Research Institute

PHOENIX, Ariz. Feb. 5, 2010 The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today announced the completion of a strategic alliance and affiliation agreement with the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) that will maximize the research capabilities of both non-profit institutes.

TGen expects the agreement to create a robust basic-science-to-translational delivery platform aimed at developing new tests and treatments for patient benefit.

"We are excited to align with a prominent institute like Van Andel, a partnership that I fully expect to yield greater scientific and economic returns for both Arizona and Michigan," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen's President and Research Director, a title he also now holds at VARI.

TGen remains an Arizona-based 501(c)(3) non-profit biomedical research organization, headquartered in Phoenix with an Arizona-centric board. VARI, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will be the organization's sole member.

Since making an initial alliance announcement in February 2009, TGen worked with key Arizona partners to ratify any needed changes to funding or research agreements, including the Flinn Foundation, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the Arizona Board of Regents, a number of the Valley's health care providers, and the State of Arizona.

"As one can imagine with a process of this scope, there were a number of technical and legal points to address," Dr. Trent said. "I can't thank our Arizona-based partners and members of our Board of Directors enough for their willingness to see the process through to completion. It was gratifying that the leadership of all organizations we worked with fully saw the long-term scientific and medical benefit the alliance and affiliation would offer."

TGen's final contract revision, signed January 15, enabled the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission (ABRC) to continue funding TGen through state tobacco-tax revenues. The new state contract, facilitated through ABRC leadership and the Arizona Attorney General's Office, ensures continued state funding through fiscal year 2012.

"TGen is critical not only to our ability to find cures to cancer and other diseases, but also to diversifying Arizona's economy and helping our state attract high-wage, cutting-edge, bioscience jobs. I am pleased that my office helped bring the parties together to secure TGen's future in Arizona," said Attorney General Terry Goddard.

VARI is the research arm of the Van Andel Institute (VAI), established in 1996 as a philanthropic research and educational organization by the late Jay and Betty Van Andel. There are over 250 scientists and staff in 18 laboratories who study the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases. VARI recently opened a 240,000 square-foot building expansion in downtown Grand Rapids, which will allow it to broaden its efforts to include additional neurological disorders and chronic illnesses.

"This agreement provides TGen and VARI a research platform from which to tackle many of today's leading diseases with greater strength of resources, and as important, redefines collaboration in a way that should enhance the biomedical sectors and provide economic benefit to both Arizona and Michigan," said David Van Andel, VARI Chairman and CEO.

Economic Benefit

The TGen-VARI alliance already has yielded significant benefits for Arizona by helping TGen secure a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). TGen's 12 ARRA grants total $18.9 million. Based on U.S. Department of Commerce economic models, TGen's economic-stimulus funding could result in as much as $41.9 million in new business activity.

The economic impact includes projects at TGen's headquarters in Phoenix, its operations in Scottsdale and Flagstaff, its partners at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, as well as collaborating research institutes and universities across the U.S., including VARI.

"Considering that according to NIH Director Francis Collins only 2-3 percent of the more than 22,000 submitted applications were funded, TGen has been extremely competitive in securing grants that will help create jobs, advance medical science and provide new treatments for patients with cancer and other serious diseases here in Arizona and beyond," Dr. Trent said. "Having TGen's research recognized after external review as among the top few percent of all applications says a lot about our outstanding physicians and researchers."

According to TGen Physician-in-Chief Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, TGen's success in securing stimulus and other grant funding is evidence that the institute can succeed in a tremendously competitive environment for research and clinical funding. It's a partnership strategy that helps bring funds to Arizona that otherwise might be lost to institutions in other states.

"TGen is poised to translate the discoveries generated in laboratories from both organizations into real solutions for patients," said Dr. Von Hoff. "This is a terrific opportunity to work together and increase our chances of making a difference for our patients."


Contact: Steve Yozwiak
The Translational Genomics Research Institute

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