Arizona companies net federal grants, must seek local sources

June 8, 2005

By hammersmith

Several local companies have given Arizona’s growing bioscience sector a shove in the right direction with some lucrative federal grant dollars and leadership roles on national research projects. Even as the recent Meds and Eds report warned of relying too solely on federal grants for growing a biosciences hub in the desert, Intrinsic Bioprobes Inc., the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and Ribomed Biotechnologies have netted NIH dollars for research in diabetes and bio-warfare detection technologies.

In partnership with Yale medical school, Intrinsic Bioprobes Inc. of Tempe is using a $2.1 million grant to try to tease out indicators for Diabetes II that could be used to screen for the common disease before symptoms arise, according to the Phoenix Business Journal.

It has also received a $300,000 biodefense grant from the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to detect toxins in water and milk via its protein biomarker method, a small Phase I bioinformatics grant from the National Science Foundation, and a tech development $1.1 million “fast-grant” from the National Center for Research Resources.

Intrinsic Bioprobes is also working with three new contracts from private bioscience-related firms Amgen, Biosite, and OrthoClinical Diagnostics.

Laura Zeman, the company’s patent attorney, told the Business Journal that much of Intrinsic Bioprobes’ recent grant success comes from the industry catching up with their technologies. “At the time they came up with their core technology, it was so early and so before its time that when they filed for patent applications, the examiners who typically are supposed to be trained in that specialty had trouble understanding exactly what it was.” Zeman said.

And as part of a nationwide neurological research consortium, TGen just got word that it received a $7.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health as part of an ongoing neurological gene scanning project. The NIH Neuroscience Microarray Consortium, originally convened in 2002, includes TGen, Duke University in Durham, NC, and the University of California in Los Angeles; in the latest round of grants, the consortium it was expanded to include Yale University.

TGen’s award is part of a five-year, $25 million grant supported by the 15 NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Institutes, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 10,000 investigators from the 15 institutions involved will use the latest genome scanning technologies to look for causes for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and others. The initial 2002 grant was $9 million over three years.

Ribomed Biotechnologies is also garnering much federal attention of late. The Phoenix-based firm was recently awarded the 2005 Biological Detection Technologies Excellence in Research Award by Frost & Sullivan for its Abscription technology, according to the Business Journal. The RiboMaker, which can detect infectious biological agents in patients faster than older diagnostics, has been supported with grants from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Institutes of Health.

And another Arizonan was recently handed a major role in counter bioterrorism research. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Bio5 chemistry professor Vicky Wyosicki has been named to head the new Pacific-Southwest Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, a consortium of 16 research teams specializing in emerging diseases in the region comprised of Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada.

The center is being underwritten by a four-year grant from the NIAID of $40 million; UA expects to receive $822,000 of that.

In a report released in March outlining the medical and educational pillars needed to hold up a biosciences economy like the one Arizona is vying for, author Mary Jo Waits pointed out that “it’s not enough to say Arizona has to capture more federal research dollars .nearly every biotech wannabe in the nation has that game plan.” The Meds and Eds report recommends building a robust state-based research fund to supplement the federal research dollars coming into state universities and companies.

For more information:

Valley company taps millions in fed grants,” Phoenix Business Journal, 06/06/2005

UA scientist to lead effort to neutralize bioterrorism,” Arizona Daily Star, 06/02/2005

Ribomed wins Frost & Sullivan research award,” Phoenix Business Journal, 05/30/2005