Sale of Clarion BMW Nets $125,000 for TGen Research

Clarion’s modernized classic 1974 BMW raises $125,000 for TGen cancer research

First ‘Clarion Builds’ restoration vehicle auctioned by Barrett-Jackson to support early diagnosis and treatment

CYPRESS, Calif. —  Clarion Corporation of America announced today that the sale of its first Clarion Builds vehicle restoration, an iconic 1974 BMW model 2002, raised $125,000 for cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

The fjord-blue Beemer sold April 9 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Palm Beach, Fla., with all proceeds donated to the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen, in Memory of Russ and Brian Jackson. The fund, established in 2010, is a salute to auction Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson’s father, Russ — one of the founders of Barrett-Jackson — and brother, Brian, whose lives were cut short by colon cancer.

“We are beyond pleased with the generous donation earned from Barrett-Jackson’s charity auction sale of Clarion’s fully restored 1974 BMW 2002,” said Michael Bassoff, President of TGen Foundation. “All $125,000 received from the sale of the car will go toward advancing our research in applying translational genomics to the early detection and treatment of cancer. We are grateful to Clarion and their Clarion Builds partners for recreating such an iconic piece of automotive history and donating it to benefit the patients we serve.”

Clarion’s next Clarion Builds project car, a beautifully restored and tastefully modified first-year Acura NSX will be on display at Clarion’s booth during Barrett-Jackson’s January 2017 auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is scheduled to cross the block at a subsequent Barrett-Jackson auction later next year.

“Barrett-Jackson began as a charity fundraiser and giving back to the community has long been a pillar of our company,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. “We’ve helped raise more than $89 million for deserving charities over the years and we couldn’t do it without the help of partners like Clarion. TGen has had a longstanding relationship with Barrett-Jackson and is a cause very close to my heart. I’m proud that the sale of the 1974 BMW 2002 went to benefit the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund at TGen and I’m excited to further our relationship as the official auction partner for the Clarion Builds program.”

“From the beginning, we were determined to develop the Clarion Builds program into an industry benchmark. It is especially rewarding to look back at our achievements of the past two years as we have irrevocably delivered upon all our goals,” stated Allen H. Gharapetian, vice president of marketing and product development for Clarion Corporation of America and chief of the Clarion Builds program.

“From bringing a true automotive legend back to life and pulling millions of fans and followers together across the globe who celebrated this amazing project, to raising a significant sum of money for a worthy cause, Clarion Builds has set a new standard. None of this would have mattered without the support from Barrett-Jackson, who shares our passion of philanthropy, and the avant-garde life saving research being conducted at TGen. Both Barrett-Jackson and TGen were indisputably instrumental in delivering a grand finale worthy of our iconic BMW 2002,” Gharapetian said.

To learn more about the Clarion Builds program, or to follow the build of iconic classic cars, visit Clarion Builds at or watch the latest Clarion Builds videos at


TGen TEDx Presents Hope for Brain Cancer

TGen Deputy Director presents “A Visit to the Brain” at TEDx Talk in Arizona

Dr. Michael Berens among a dozen speakers April 30 urging ‘Act Today … Change Tomorrow’ at first TEDxArrowheadRanch event

GLENDALE, Ariz. —Dr. Michael Berens, Deputy Director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), will present “A Visit to the Brain” at the first TEDxArrowheadRanch, part of the TED Talks series that enable unique ideas and passions to be shared worldwide.

Dr. Berens will join a dozen other speakers under the theme “Act Today … Change Tomorrow,” emphasizing the power and lasting effect that one person, one voice, one action, one choice, one question today can have on our society and our world tomorrow.

TEDxArrowheadRanch is set for 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 30 at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, AT&T Auditorium, 59th Avenue and Greenway Road in Glendale, Ariz. Tickets are $45-$60.

“We believe spreading worthwhile ideas and sharing unique stories have the power to inspire and connect us to our communities and beyond,” said Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, lead organizer and curator of TEDxArrowheadRanch.

Dr. Berens will speak about: “A visit to the brain, its structure and composition, and what happens when brain cells turn malignant. What are better ways to control brain tumors? By acting today, how can affected individuals and their families help change tomorrow for future victims of this disease?

“This is certainly a unique opportunity for us at TGen to inform the world about advances being made in our laboratories, and how they are quickly being translated to patients in the form of new diagnostics and treatments for neurological disorders, pathogens, and the many types of cancer that plague humanity,” said Dr. Berens, who also is Professor and Director of TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division.

Dr. Berens’ research focuses on how cancer spreads. Specific projects include: accelerating drug discovery and development for glioblastoma, a lethal form of brain cancer; use of genomic profiling for treatment planning in cancer patients, also known as Precision Medicine; and biomarkers of tumor response to therapy. Dr. Berens holds four patents, has launched two biotech companies, and is active in the entrepreneurial and business development community in Arizona.

What are TED and TEDxArrowheadRanch?

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It was started in 1984, and has become an annual event bringing together the world’s leading thinkers and doers, shaping our lives and ideas ever since. Over the years, TED has grown to include scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, social activists, adventurers, and leaders in all disciplines, all sharing their ideas and passions with the world through the TED stage. The most inspiring and powerful of these TED Talks can be found online at

In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading,” TED created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, live speakers and TED Talk videos, combined with musical and artistic performances, offer a setting and opportunity to learn, discuss, and connect.

TEDxArrowheadRanch is a non-profit, independently organized TED event.

“I am extremely proud of the program my team and I have put together for the first TEDxArrowheadRanch. The hope is that it becomes a local forum for ideas within the Arizona community that inspires people to change their lives, their futures and, ultimately, their world. There is an abundance of valuable ‘ideas worth spreading’ right here in Arizona,” said Dr. Tipirneni, an emergency physician and Scientific Review Officer at SRA International. “Our local TEDx Talks eventually will be available online, and may even be selected to be posted on”

TGen Begins Grand Slam Cancer Study

TGen researchers go to bat for cancer patients in two innovative clinical trials for pancreatic cancer patients

Mattress Firm-funded trials seek to shrink tumors in advanced cases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pairing new combinations of drugs to shrink pancreatic cancer tumors, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and HonorHealth Research Institute have launched a pair of groundbreaking clinical studies.

The two studies, which are being funded in part thanks to a $1.5 million contribution to TGen from Mattress Firm, are relying on cutting-edge approaches to how new therapies are combined to determine the best way to treat the disease.

One of the two studies, known as the Grand Slam, opened for enrollment today for its first group of patients. Grand Slam is a unique five-drug regimen that blends a combination of chemotherapy, immunotherapy and a special form of Vitamin D. It builds upon the positive findings from TGen Triple, the first of the two clinical trials, which paired three drugs and resulted in high percentage shrinkage of tumors for the patients that were treated.

“Both of these clinical trials are new stepping stones, building on previous TGen-led studies that have produced the current FDA-approved treatments for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer,” said Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen Distinguished Professor and Physician-in-Chief, and Chief Scientific Officer for the HonorHealth Research Institute. Dr. Von Hoff is the architect of both studies. Dr. Erkut Borazanci and Gayle Jameson, N.P., both of HonorHealth and TGen, are the principal investigators for the studies.

TGen Triple uses two anti-cancer agents, gemcitabine and (albumin-bound) nab-paclitaxel, the current standard of care for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. It adds a third drug, platinum-based cisplatin, to boost its effectiveness.

Grand Slam, also known as the NAPPCG clinical trial, relies on those three chemotherapy drugs plus two additional elements: nivolumab, an immunotherapy drug designed to inhibit proteins that block the body’s immune system from attacking cancer cells, and paricalcitol, which is a Vitamin D derivative that researchers hope will extend patients’ survival. Dr. Von Hoff hopes this new trial will prove to be a significant next step in the treatment of this devastating disease that strikes so quickly and aggressively.

The clinical trials are taking place at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, and could expand to other facilities, including Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Bristol Myers Squibb is providing the immunotherapy drug nivolumab, plus other partial support, for the Grand Slam clinical trial. Nivolumab, initially approved by the FDA in 2014 for treatment of advanced melanoma, and more recently lung cancer, works by inhibiting a protein called PD-1, which otherwise blocks the body’s immune system from attacking cancer cells.

Both studies are supported by funding from Mattress Firm, the nation’s largest bedding specialty retailer based in Houston, Texas, which is dedicated to stopping pancreatic cancer. This year, pancreatic cancer will kill nearly 42,000 Americans, surpassing breast cancer as the third-leading cause of cancer-related death. By 2020, it is predicted to surpass colon cancer to become the second-leading cause of cancer death; second only to lung cancer. Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent, the lowest among all cancer types in the U.S.

“Many of our colleagues, their families and friends have been affected by this terrible disease,” said Steve Stagner, Executive Chairman of Mattress Firm. “We are backing TGen in this extraordinary effort because we have a duty to be part of their incredible journey toward improving lives and finding a cure for pancreatic cancer.”

Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation, voiced high praise for Mattress Firm’s commitment to TGen research: “Steve Stagner, Ken Murphy, and the entire Mattress Firm team are bringing hope to thousands of patients and their families across the nation and around the world. Their latest contribution, and the launch of the Grand Slam trial, adds to the incredible legacy that this extraordinary company is building through its fight against pancreatic cancer.”

Patients seeking information about research studies may contact the HonorHealth Research Institute at 480-323-1339 or toll free at 1-877-273-3713, or

TGen Pioneers RNA Sequencing For Patient Care

Beyond DNA: TGen points the way to enhanced precision medicine with RNA sequencing

Deeper genetic analysis with RNA sequencing provides better diagnostics and treatments for patients with everything from cancer to deadly viruses

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Uncovering the genetic makeup of patients using DNA sequencing has in recent years provided physicians and their patients with a greater understanding of how best to diagnose and treat the diseases that plague humanity. This is the essence of precision medicine.

Now, researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) are showing how an even more detailed genetic analysis using RNA sequencing can vastly enhance that understanding, providing doctors and their patients with more precise tools to target the underlying causes of disease, and help recommend the best course of action.

In their review, published today in the journal Nature Reviews Genetics, TGen scientists highlight the many advantages of using RNA-sequencing in the detection and management of everything from cancer to infectious diseases, such as Ebola and the rapidly spreading Zika virus.

RNA’s principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for the synthesis of proteins. Building on the insights provided by DNA profiling, the analysis of RNA provides an even more precise look at how cells behave and how medicine can intervene when things go wrong.

“RNA is a dynamic and diverse biomolecule with an essential role in numerous biological processes,” said Dr. Sara Byron, Research Assistant Professor in TGen’s Center for Translational Innovation, and the review’s lead author. “From a molecular diagnostic standpoint, RNA-based measurements have the potential for broad application across diverse areas of human health, including disease diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic selection.”

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequencing spells out —in order— the billions of chemical letters that make up the genes that drive all of our biologic make up and functions, from hair and eye color to whether an individual may be predisposed to cancer or other diseases.

RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequencing provides information on the genes that are actively being made into RNA in a cell and are important for cell function. While more complex, RNA holds the promise of more precise measurement of the human physical condition.

There simply are more forms, or species, that RNA takes, explains Dr. Byron. “RNA-sequencing provides an deeper view of a patient’s genome, revealing detailed information on the diverse spectrum of RNAs being expressed.”

One of the most promising aspects of RNA-based measurements is the potential of using extracellular RNA (exRNAs) as a non-invasive diagnostic indicator of disease. Monitoring exRNA simply takes a blood sample, as opposed to doing a tumor biopsy, which essentially is a minor surgery with greater risks and costs.

“The investigation of exRNAs in biofluids to monitor disease is an area of diagnostic research that is growing rapidly,” said Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, TGen Associate Professor of Neurogenomics, Co-Director of TGen’s Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics, and one of the review’s authors. “Measurement of exRNA is appealing as a non-invasive method for monitoring disease. With increased access to biofluids, more frequent sampling can occur over time.”

The first test measuring exRNA was released earlier this year, the review said, for use measuring specific exRNAs in lung cancer patients. And, the potential for using RNA-seq in cancer is expanding rapidly. Commercial RNA-seq tests are now available, and provide the opportunity for clinicians to more comprehensively profile cancer and use this information to guide treatment selection for their patients, the review said.

In addition, the authors reported on several recent applications for RNA-seq in the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases, such as monitoring for drug resistant populations during therapy and tracking the origin and spread of the Ebola virus.

Using examples from discovery and clinical research, the authors also describe how RNA-seq can help guide interpretation of genomic DNA sequencing results. The utility of integrative sequencing strategies in research studies is growing across broad health applications, and points to the promise for incorporation of RNA-seq into clinical medicine, the review said.

The paper, Translating RNA-sequencing into Clinical Diagnostics: Opportunities and Challenges, was published online today in the journal Nature Reviews Genetics.

This review was funded by The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation of Scottsdale, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and a Stand Up To Cancer–Melanoma Research Alliance Melanoma Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant.