Arizona bioscience community honors two of TGen’s top scientists

Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff and Dr. Michael Berens receive awards recognizing lifetime contributions to biomedical-science leadership and innovation

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Oct. 3, 2018 — Two top scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of the City of Hope, will be honored today at the 2018 AZBio Awards at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen Distinguished Professor and Physician-In-Chief, will receive the Arizona Bioscience Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement. Dr. Von Hoff is being recognized for a career that includes pioneering new treatments for some of the deadliest cancers, his leadership of prestigious organizations, his mentorship of generations of physician researchers, and his work with innovative companies that share his passion for developing new treatment options for patients.

Dr. Michael E. Berens, TGen Professor, Deputy Director for Research Resources, and Director of the Cancer and Cell Biology Division, is the Jon W. McGarity Arizona Bioscience Leader of the Year. Dr. Berens is being honored for his leadership and his contributions to building the coalitions that have shaped Arizona’s bioscience industry.

“Without question, Drs. Von Hoff and Berens are worthy of this much deserved recognition from AZBio. In terms of patient care, Dr. Von Hoff is second to none. Their contributions to medicine and science over the decades, in particular their careers at TGen, have led the way in many areas of precision medicine, much to the benefit of patients everywhere,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director.

Presented by the Arizona Bioindustry Association and the Arizona Commerce Authority, today’s AZBio Awards and Life Science Fiesta brings together Arizona’s life science and leadership community to celebrate life-science innovation and innovators.

Joan Koerber-Walker, President and CEO of AZBio, praised both Dr. Von Hoff and Dr. Berens:

“The impact Dr. Von Hoff has made cannot be measured. It extends to every patient he has cared for and beyond, to the patients he may never meet, but who will benefit from the innovations that he has shepherded along the long journey of discovery and development, so that they have better options and more hope for a longer, healthier life.

“Dr. Berens was the first person to help me see the promise and potential of Arizona’s emerging bioscience industry. Great leaders are great communicators. He has spent countless hours advocating for our community, our bioscience industry, and for the patients who will benefit from the discoveries and innovations that translational research can deliver,” said Koerber-Walker.

Dr. Von Hoff, also is Senior Consultant-Clinical Investigator at City of Hope, Chief Scientific Officer at HonorHealth and US Oncology, a Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic, and a past director of the University of Arizona’s Arizona Cancer Center. He received the 2010 David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for his outstanding contributions to cancer research leading to significant improvement in patient care. He is a Fellow and past President of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the world’s largest cancer research organization; a Fellow of the American College of Physicians; and a Fellow and past board member of ASCO.

Dr. Von Hoff and his colleagues have helped develop more than 120 anticancer drugs, including many FDA approved agents now in routine use: mitoxantrone, fludarabine, paclitaxel, docetaxel, gemcitabine, irinotecan, nelarabine, capecitabine, lapatinib, vismodegib, nab-paclitaxel, nal-IRI, and multiple others. In recent years, his clinical trial work has led to the approval of three of the four treatments approved by the FDA for improving survival of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Berens has relentlessly pursued collaborations that have led to the expansion of Arizona’s bioscience infrastructure. Under the leadership of Bob Case and Dr. Berens, the Arizona Bioindustry Cluster was born in 1997. While at the Barrow Neurological Institute, Dr. Berens was the first to lead the cluster, and for over 20 years has been a leading voice in Arizona’s bioscience community. He was one of the first employees when TGen was founded in 2002, after playing a key role in rallying community support of the now world-class genomics institute.

As head of TGen’s Brain Tumor Unit, Dr. Berens leads projects seeking to uncover new treatment targets for glioblastoma and pediatric brain tumors, to discover and develop molecular signatures to match effective treatments to individual patients, and to accelerate drug development through correlative analysis of tumors and their response on clinical trials.

In addition, three recent TGen interns — Maggie Zheng, Joan Kwamboka and Hayley Sowards — who participated in this past summer’s 2018 Helios Scholars at TGen program, will be among the 50 Arizona high-school and college students showcased at the AZBio event’s Student Discovery Zone. All three attend Arizona State University. Zheng will present her study of drug evaluation to treat pancreatic cancer. Kwamboka will describe how to unlock the diagnostic potential of T Cell receptors. Sowards, who is a current academic year intern at TGen, will present her study of stress genes associated with corporal punishment.


About AZBio

For 15 years, the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) has supported life science innovation and life science innovators in Arizona. A key component in Arizona’s life science ecosystem, AZBio is the only statewide organization exclusively focused on Arizona’s bioscience industry. AZBio membership includes patient advocacy organizations, life science innovators, educators, healthcare partners and leading business organizations. AZBio is the statewide affiliate of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and works in partnership with AdvaMed, MDMA, and PhRMA to advance innovation and to ensure that the value delivered from life-changing and life-saving innovation benefits people in Arizona and around the world. For more information visit and http://www.AZBio.TV

About TGen

Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is affiliated with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and cancer and diabetes treatment center: This precision medicine affiliation enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes, and infectious diseases, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: Follow TGen on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.

Media Contact: 
Steve Yozwiak 
TGen Senior Science Writer 

Posted in AZBio News.