TGen, longtime NAU partner, earns higher education award from regents

TGen accepts the Regents' award

A close research partner of Northern Arizona University was honored Thursday night by the Arizona Board of Regents with the Outstanding Service to Higher Education award.

Translational Genomics Research Institute, known as TGen, was presented with the award for its advocacy of higher education, and in particular, the success of its ongoing relationship with NAU.

Jeffrey Trent, TGen president and research director, and David Engelthaler, director of programs and operations at TGen North in Flagstaff, accepted the award. Trent is an honorary degree holder from NAU, and Engelthaler is a two-time alum with a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D.

“Since its founding in 2002, TGen has grown to become a cornerstone of Arizona’s influential bioscience sector, in no small part due to the vision and leadership of Jeff Trent,” said NAU President Rita Cheng. “I thank him for his foresight in appreciating the value of Arizona’s regents’ institutions as research assets and centers of knowledge.”

NAU and TGen began their formal partnership in 2007. That year, the NAU Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics—also known MGGen—was opened on campus, along with TGen North at the Flagstaff Airport Business Park.

Trent described the collaboration between TGen North and NAU as “a prime example of what can be accomplished through close, synergetic efforts that compliment the best attributes and expertise of each institute.”

Paul Keim, Regents’ Professor and Cowden Endowed Chair of Microbiology at NAU, directs TGen North and MGGen, and in both roles has established himself as a world-renowned expert in anthrax and other infectious diseases. Under his guidance, NAU undergraduates and graduate students have served as interns and gained invaluable experience on the way to launching their careers.

“This recognition by the Arizona Board of Regents is most welcome and reflects the hard work and ingenuity of countless researchers and students at both TGen and NAU,” Keim said. “Through our joint NAU-TGen research, we are continuing to develop tools and technologies that have a great impact on human health.”

In addition, three patents have been awarded jointly to NAU and TGen, and 26 are pending. One of the patents is for a set of genetically based tests that accurately identify fungal pathogens that threaten public health worldwide. These tests allow for real-time analysis in labs, clinics, physician offices, emergency rooms and even field settings. They have great potential for saving lives and lowering health care costs.

Another patent is for a test that can detect, and assist in the treatment of, the H1N1 pandemic flu strain. The test quickly informs doctors about the strain of flu that is present and whether it is resistant to anti-viral drugs.

“The recognition being given to TGen tonight is well deserved, and I am eager to see what benefits to the world our continued relationship will produce,” Cheng said.

The Regents’ award was created in 1996 and has since been bestowed upon 39 individuals and organizations. TGen was nominated on NAU’s behalf by former Regent Jack Jewett.