Representatives from Translational Genomics Research Institute and Northern Arizona University, along with a host of dignitaries and elected officials, gathered last week to celebrate the formal opening of TGen North, a new pathogen genomics and biodefense research facility in Flagstaff.
The facility, a unique partnership between TGen and NAU, joins the ranks of a number of facilities across the country whose research centers on the detection and prevention of biological threats.
“This new facility is serving the nation in a real niche,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, whose support was key to planning and launching TGen North. “The unique work done at TGen North is dedicated to improving public health and biosecurity for our nation.”
TGen North researchers are using the latest in genomic technology to develop smarter and faster diagnostics for infectious diseases, including the use of new analytical tools to create better therapies and new vaccines.
Initial research activities are focused on common infectious diseases like influenza and valley fever, hospital infections like drug-resistant staphylococcus, and a number of bioterrorism agents, including tularemia and plague.
“The advances being developed at TGen North will help doctors—from our local hospitals to the battlefield—to not only quickly identify dangerous pathogens but to better characterize the nature of those pathogens by identifying genetic markers that cause antibiotic resistance or increased virulence,” said NAU researcher Paul Keim, who is the director of TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division and professor of biology and Cowden Endowed Chair in Microbiology at NAU.
Although operational for the past year, the event marked the move to TGen North’s permanent facility that contains more than 4,500 square feet of state-of-the-art research laboratories and office space.
“You’ve heard a lot about the biomedical corridor,” Keim said. “I’d like to welcome you to the northern Arizona on-ramp.”
Former state Rep. Art Hamilton, who was master of ceremonies, recognized NAU President John Haeger’s “unwavering commitment” to bioscience research and TGen. “Dr. Haeger gets it,” he said.
“The partnership continues to strengthen the ties between TGen and NAU,” Haeger said. “It is my hope that TGen North will further establish northern Arizona as a premier site for pathogen research.”
As a collaborative effort between TGen and NAU, several joint and adjunct TGen-NAU faculty members staff the facility. TGen North also has access to the advanced Biosafety Level 3 facilities on the NAU campus as well as the comprehensive genomic research capabilities of TGen Headquarters in Phoenix.
Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson acknowledged NAU’s support and Haeger’s commitment to keep biosciences at the forefront.
“Today, TGen North opens the door to discovery in Flagstaff,” Donaldson said. “To go from a virtual lab to a bricks and mortar facility in just under a year speaks to the remarkable pace at which the bioscience economy is taking root in Flagstaff and all across Arizona.”