Explorer staff report
A $2.2 million share of Arizona's federal stimulus funding is being directed toward a Southern Arizona effort to establish the state as "a national resource for setting standards and best practices for new diagnostic medical tests and clinical research," according to a Friday release from Gov. Jan Brewer.
The effort, to be led by Tucson-based Critical Path Institute, "translates science into healthcare," the release said.
C-Path, industry partners such as Roche's Ventana Medical Systems in Oro Valley, and other companies plan to focus on major diseases including lung cancer, Alzheimer's and kidney disease.
C-Path wants to create a "biosignatures" laboratory, accessible to scientists around the world, who can use the laboratory to learn how to perform and reliably interpret new diagnostic tests. C-Path and Ventana plan to work under a cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop "biosignature assay standards" that will serve to provide greater understanding of human diseases and speed the safe testing of new therapies, the release said. An assay is a procedure for testing a biological sample, such as blood or biopsy, taken from an individual.
Standards should allow more accurate identification of "biomarkers" in patients that are likely to respond to precisely targeted therapies. That should enable individual, patient-centered medical treatments, the emerging health care trend known as "personalized medicine."
"Bioscience industries are fast-growing employment sectors that have the potential to create high-quality jobs — the very kind we need in our state," Brewer said. The collaborative effort with education, industry and non-profit research entities "will put us on the international map as a leader in medical treatment breakthroughs and prevention of major diseases."
C-Path and Ventana "are both proven experts in their respective areas, and will lead much-needed efforts to significantly improve public health outcomes," Brewer said.
Raymond Woosley, MD, PhD, president and chief executive officer of C-Path, said biosignatures — multiple, combined tests and characteristics of patients — "hold the key to understanding diseases and how best to facilitate their effective diagnosis and treatment."
Hany Massarany, president of Ventana Medical Systems, said the company is "proud to work closely with C-Path in building a unique alliance within the Arizona bioscience community. This type of collaborative effort is key to advancing 'personalized' medicine that uses genetics to match patients to therapies for the best results."
Funds were provided to Science Foundation Arizona, which in turn reviewed applications and selected the C-Path biosignatures laboratory proposal. C-Path is also leveraging the $2.2 million award with additional in-kind support from pharmaceutical companies.
"Utilizing the many resources that already exist in our state, this cooperative effort has the potential to breed many more Arizona-born success stories in the treatment of cancer and other debilitating diseases," said William C. Harris, president and CEO of SFAz.