AZBio honors Arizona bio leaders

September 29, 2008

By hammersmith

AZBio LogoSome of the brightest stars, greatest inspirations, and most reliable champions in Arizona’s bioscience enterprise were honored Sept. 18 at the annual awards dinner of the Arizona BioIndustry Association (AZBio). More than 400 people attended the event in Tempe, which featured a keynote address by James C. Greenwood, president & CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the nation’s largest bioscience trade association.

Provista Life Sciences LLC of Phoenix, which was only founded in 2006, was named the Bioscience Company of the Year. The firm concentrates on the development of medical diagnostic technologies, widely recognized as crucial to cheaper, quicker, and more personalized disease intervention. In March, Provista brought to market the BT Test, a blood test to aid in the early detection of breast cancer. Clinical research has found that using the BT Test–which works by identifying cancer-related proteins in the blood–in conjunction with a mammogram can achieve an 80 percent accuracy rate in early diagnosis of breast cancer.

“We are extremely proud to receive this award from AZBio, as it demonstrates the success of our efforts to improve diagnostics, and our commitment to technology, innovation and saving lives,” said Will Gartner, Provista’s president and CEO.

Rod Wing, director of the Arizona Genomics Institute at the University of Arizona, won AZBio’s Research Excellence Award. Dr. Wing has led research teams that have mapped the genomes of rice and corn, and his work has laid the groundwork for strains of both critical crops that might be more drought- and disease-resistant.

Michael Cusanovich, director of the UA’s Arizona Research Laboratories, an organization that orchestrates interdisciplinary research, received the Jon W. McGarity Leadership Award, in recognition of his career-long effort to build the bioscience sector in southern Arizona. A former vice president for research at UA, Dr. Cusanovich also founded the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona (BIOSA), which recently integrated with AZBio.

AZBio selected Margaret Wilch as the Bioscience Educator of the Year. A biology teacher at Tucson High Magnet School (THMS), Wilch has collaborated with faculty from the BIO5 Institute at UA to develop new high-school biotechnology curriculum that has now been implemented in many districts across Arizona.

Wilch also directs the BLAST lab (Biotechnology Laboratory for Arizona Students and Teachers), a state-of-the-art genomics laboratory housed at THMS. Using UA equipment, high-school students participating in the BLAST program have conducted original DNA-sequencing research; during the summer of 2008, students worked on sequencing the genomes of species of the Hymenoptera order, which including insects such as wasps and bees.

“She’s the leading science teacher in the Tucson Unified School District,” said Leslie Tolbert, UA vice president for research, graduate studies and economic development. “This was a fantastic outcome for Tucson and the UA.”

Gov. Janet Napolitano received AZBio’s Public Service Award, in recognition of her support for legislative initiative that strengthen funding for Arizona’s research institutions and bioscience companies, and for her work to build a more robust STEM (science, technology, mathematics, and engineering) education program.

AZBio’s Fast Start Award, for a company founded since 2005, was given to Dedicated Phase I of Phoenix, a company that conducts clinical trials for a variety of pharmaceutical companies. Since its establishment in October, 2006, Dedicated Phase I has grown from four to 60 employees.

The awards dinner was hosted in partnership with Arizona CURE, formed in 2006 to educate the public about the broad, positive impacts of biomedical, biotechnology and bioagricultural research.

Additional finalists for the awards included:

  • Bioscience Educator of the Year: Teresa Clark, Hamilton High School, Chandler; Andrew Lettes, Pueblo High School, Tucson.
  • Public Service Award: State. Sen. Timothy Bee; State Rep. Michele Reagan.
  • Award for Research Excellence: Laurence Hurley, BIO5 Institute, UA, Tucson; Stuart Lindsay, Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, Tempe.
  • Jon W. McGarity Leadership Award: Carol Bender, UA, Tucson; Michael Berens, Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix.
  • Fast Start Award: Apthera, Inc., Scottsdale; bioVidria, Inc., Tucson.
  • Bioscience Company of the Year Award: Clinical Research Advantage, Inc., Tempe; SenesTech, Inc., Flagstaff.

For more information:

Provista Life Sciences LLC news release, 09/19/2008

AZBio news release, 09/19/2008

UA news release, 09/23/2008

Interview with Rod Wing (YouTube), 03/29/2008