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TGen, George Mason University team on molecular medicine

George Mason University

George Mason University

By Angela Gonzales

When Angel Cabrera left Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2012 to become president of George Mason University in Virginia, he didn’t stop thinking about Phoenix.

He recently reached out to Jeffrey Trent, president and research director of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, to see how their scientific teams could work together.

Now, the university and TGen are announcing an alliance to benefit cancer patients and those with other life-threatening illnesses. Together they are seeking $12 million in grants to help fund what they are calling the TGen-George Mason Molecular Medicine Alliance.

Michael Berens, deputy director for research resources at TGen, said George Mason focuses on proteomics, while TGen’s expertise is in genomics. Working together, they are stronger and will be able to secure national federal grants that they otherwise would not achieve on their own.

“Genomics is like the blueprint of information and proteomics is the actual construction site,” Berens said. “Blueprints, as long as they’re rolled up and sitting in a cubicle of an architect’s offic, are interesting and exciting, but nothing gets done until somebody reads the blueprints and goes to work.”

In many ways, the proteins are receiving truckloads of material and getting that material to the right places, as well as assembling materials so they can become new cells, he said.

“It’s the wave of collaboration,” Berens said. “Working together, we can do more.”

The alliance will focus on four areas of research, including new treatments for patients with breast cancer or melanoma, treatments for patients with breast cancer that has spread to the bone and brain, biomarkers that can help diagnose traumatic injuries, and developing a better understanding of infectious diseases and the human immune system, leading to new vaccines.

“This is a major achievement for science and health care,” Cabrera said. “By joining forces, researchers can understand disease at a more refined level and more people can be helped. This is the level of research that all universities and companies strive to achieve.”

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