International School of Biomedical Diagnostics

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Arizona State University and Dublin City University are joining forces to develop the International School of Biomedical Diagnostics, in collaboration with Ventana Medical Systems Inc. The school will be launched in August 2014 at ASU and September 2014 at DCU. Mara G. Aspinall, president and CEO of Ventana Medical Systems, and Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, will discuss the new school.

Ted Simons: ASU and Dublin city University are joining forces with Ventana Medical systems to develop an international school of biomedical diagnostics. The school will be launched this fall. Joining us now is Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, senior vice-president of ASU's office of knowledge enterprise development. And Mara Aspinall, president and CEO of Ventana Medical Systems. Good to have you here.

Mara Aspinall:, Nice to be here.

Sethuraman: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Panch we got a new school for biomedical diagnostics. Sounds great. What are biomedical diagnostics?

Sethuraman: I'll let MARA address that.

Ted Simons: Don't you know?

Sethuraman: Of course I know! It's anything that relates to, if you take blood or saliva, whatever it is, and you're able to understand the health condition of a person from the -- To analyzing the samples.

Ted Simons: We're talking diagnostics in what, a new way?

Mara Aspinall: Diagnostics in and of itself is an area that has tremendously progressed over the last few decades. It is no longer as simple as just understanding a blood test, but looking as Panch said, very articulately, a very different biomedical diagnostics and using those in a much more precise and exacting way.

Ted Simons: How critical to personalized medication which seems to be the focus and seems to be the way some much of medicine is going?

Mara Aspinall: It is everything. A patient has nothing if they don't have a timely and accurate diagnosis. Despite the huge influx of great drugs that really can make a difference, if the patient does not understand their clear diagnosis, there is no way that those drugs can truly make a difference to work towards a cure.

Ted Simons: As far as getting a school, an international school, how did ASU hook up with Dublin City University?

Sethuraman: ASU has been looking at partnerships around the globe. We understand that when you look at our students and they're going to be playing in the global arena, it means they need the exposure. They need to be able to immerse themselves in environments other than just only ASU. So this is enabled by the fact we can establish strategic partnerships with certain Universities around the globe. Dublin City University, which is a reasonably young University, is about the kind of University that ASU is. Young, high aspirations, entrepreneurial, and moving forward at rapid speed. So this exemplifies the same qualities. Therefore it's a natural partner for us.

Ted Simons: The global classroom model, what does that mean?

Sethuraman: Which means that students who are enrolled in ASU, are able to get access to courses that are from DCU. They're able to move from here to DCU to be physically present and take classes there being part of that experience. Being able to engage in projects not only at ASU, at the global leader in biomedical diagnostics, Ventana Medical Systems, we're fortunate to have them in Arizona, but also have internships in pharmaceutical firms in Europe. And the same is also for students from DCU to immerse themselves in ASU in courses as well as internships at Ventana Medical Systems.

Ted Simons: Talk about Vantana's situation here, your collaboration. How did that happen?

Mara Aspinall: I had the chance when I moved to Arizona just three years ago to meet president Crow and to meet Panch and I learned a lot about Arizona State University. I saw what ASU had in terms of tremendous assets in the area of diagnostics and life sciences broadly. One of my dreams was to have diagnostics as an independent discipline.

Ted Simons: Why? I read about this, and it seemed like that was a very big focus here. Why is that?

Mara Aspinall: It is critical because diagnostics has always been the asterisk. It's always been a piece of pharmaceutical science. It's always been a piece of device science. But the industry has moved to a level of sophistication, and importance with personalized medicine that it deserves an independent discipline, and true research and academic study in and of itself.

Ted Simons: And that would separate in the future what's happening now as far as this research, as far as this education?

Mara Aspinall: It will take what's happening now and bring it to a new level of sophistication and we believe at Ventana that there's no better University to do that than with ASU and that was only enhanced by the partnership with DCU, one of the leaders in life sciences in Europe.

Ted Simons: How do you get a partnership between industry leader, a University in Arizona, and a University in Dublin? How do you get everyone on the same page, and keep them on the same page?

Sethuraman: So this is a very good question. What we have done, because of the alignment of our vision and mission, between Dublin City University and ASU, we have been looking at many different areas of collaboration. When we met with Mara, we immediately struck a chord. Clearly there is an intersection of interest and capacities within ASU and DCU that aligns very well with what Ventana is doing and where they're heading into the future. So when Mara talked about biomedical diagnostics and said this is the future that we're moving into, we need more qualified people in this area, we also need to take people who are already in the work force and reorient them, retrain them to be focused into biomedical diagnostics. It became a natural collaboration for us to work together.

Ted Simons: You mentioned people already in the work force. Arizona is a leader in diagnostics, is it not?

Mara Aspinall: It is one of the top cities in the U.S. Certainly with Ventana's leadership, but I'm pleased to say we have more and more companies coming to Arizona to set up their headquarters here and bring that strength with them. And this is critical for what we see as employment opportunities for the students graduating with this Master's degree.

Ted Simons: So if I'm watching the program right now and I'm saying this, sounds great, how does it affect me? How can this affect anyone here in Arizona, the Phoenix area, in the next five, 10 years?

Mara Aspinall: Two things -- From a literal point of view, we're accepting applications right now. And we would love the strongest possible group of students to start in the fall of 2015. Excuse me, 2014. But in addition, in the long run, we see Arizona as a core place, a center for excellence for diagnostics that allows us to strengthen our health care institutions, and be a place that companies want to come to access the key people and the technologies that we have in Arizona.

Ted Simons: In order to teach something, you have to be ahead of the curve on that something. How fast is the field of diagnostics changing?

Mara Aspinall: Pretty fast. So we have a number of experts, as Mara was saying, if you look at our school of life sciences bio design institute, college of health solutions, engineering, informatics, policy, all of these components are exceedingly important, if you want to have a holistic education and having a real impact on biomedical diagnostics area. We already have faculty members working on this area. We will hire more, and there is a crying need from the perspective of the industry, but there is also interest in the students in wanting to be engaged in this area. So this is really very exciting.

Ted Simons: Again, it sounds from a distance this is a way to push wellness as opposed to fighting illness. Is that fair?

Mara Aspinall: Absolutely. And when we look at diagnostics today, it's not just about diagnosing disease. It's about every part of the health care continuum. So it really starts with screening people for disease to look at risk, diagnosing them, monitoring them, and then in the future, predicting what diseases they're susceptible for and using lifestyle programs as well as potential medications to ensure that we have longer, healthier lives.

Ted Simons: And again, as far as developing pharmaceuticals, big factor there. We referred to that earlier.

Mara Aspinall: Without question. And that is a core to personalize medicine. When you look at personalized medicine the role of diagnostics is to help subsection disease, and with that sub sectioning, we can use medications in a very targeted way to increase cure rates.

Ted Simons: All right. Panch, were you right. She knows her stuff.

Sethuraman: She's fantastic. An amazing collaboration, we're fortunate to have Ventana Medical Systems in Arizona, fortunate to have Mara as a leader of that institution and it's a fantastic partnership.

Ted Simons: It does, it sounds very exciting. It's good to have you both here.

Sethuraman: Thank you.

Mara Aspinall: Thanks for having us here.

Mara G. Aspinall:President and CEO, Ventana Medical Systems; Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan:Senior Vice President, ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development;

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