T-Gen collaboration

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Dr. Jeffrey Trent, Director of T-Gen, a local consortium searching for genetic cures to human diseases, talks about the recent announcement by T-Gen to collaborate with its Mexican counterpart.

>> Jose Cardenas: Good evening and welcome to our inaugural edition of "Horizonte" where we view the week's top issues through an Hispanic lens. Tonight we kick off our show with Governor Janet Napolitano, who will tell us about her recent trips to Mexico. Then we'll talk to the leader of our local genetic research organization about efforts to collaborate with its Mexican counterpart. Finally, we'll show you an awards ceremony honoring local Hispanic leaders. Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. Earlier I interviewed Governor Janet Napolitano about two trips she recently took to Mexico. The governor focussed on a broad range of issues during her trips to Mexico City and Hermosillo where she met with President Fox and the new governor of Sonora. Here is that interview. Governor, thank you for joining us today on "Horizonte." You've made two trips to Mexico within the last three weeks. I want to talk about them beginning with your most recent one to Hermosillo which was on Monday of this week, is that right?

>> Governor: Yes, it was. I went to meet with the new governor of Sonora. I was the first United States governor to meet with him. He was just sworn into office last weekend and, of course, Sonora and Arizona have a long and important relationship. So it's important for the two of us to get to know one another.

>> Jose Cardenas: What's your impression of him? I have heard him described as very dynamic, very action oriented.

>> Governor:He is. In fact, he was sworn in on Saturday and had his cabinetworking by 2:00 Saturday afternoon. I think Eastman of action. He clearly has an aggressive agenda for Sonora based on developing jobs, jobs, jobs, which is a great agenda for the two of us to work on because we also need to develop jobs in Arizona. So it was a good start to -- I think it will be a productive relationship.

>> Jose Cardenas: What other things did you talk about while you met with him?

>> Governor: We talked about some of the issues that have been worked on for quite a while now, the development of a CANAMEX corridor, use of the port of Guaymas and the use of that bringing trade into the United States by rail through Arizona. The agricultural commerce between our states, the possibilities for educational exchanges between our states. The possibility that we can increase tourism between our states. So the conversation you touched on a lot of different areas.

>> Jose Cardenas: I also understand that there's some discussion of the upcoming plenary sessions, is that right?

>>Governor: That's alright, we have an upcoming plenary, which is a meeting of the joint Arizona-Mexico commission. This one will be in Mexico in Sonora in November, and that will give us a couple of days to delve into some of the things the governor and I were unable to touch upon in greater depth.

>> Jose Cardenas: What do you consider to be your number one priority for the Arizona-Sonora relationship?

>>Governor: I think where we should be focusing on is commerce and trade and what I would loosely call cultural and tourism exchange. There is always a temptation to focus on solely the immigration issues, but those are controlled primarily by the federal governments of our respective countries, so we need to focus on the areas where we can do the most good and have the most positive impact.

>> Jose Cardenas: Did you talk about immigration issues?

>> Governor: We did. We touched on it briefly. We touched on the possibility of a guest worker program, which is a concept I've endorsed and we touched upon the need to operate the port so that those who have proper identification, proper visas or what have you, can cross quickly through the ports and aren't held up for hours at a time.

>> Jose Cardenas: This week Mexico is celebrating its independence day. I understand you got involved a little bit in one of the ceremonies.

>> Governor: Yes, I was involved. It's called the GRITO and I was just learning about it myself, but there was an elaborate kind of lowering of the flag that we just happened upon while we were in Hermosillo, we stopped to watch, and they noticed that the governor of Arizona was watching and all of a sudden I was in the middle of the flag ceremony. It was neat.

>> Jose Cardenas: Now great. Now, a few weeks later towards August you ventured further south.

>> Governor: It was my first trip to Mexico City as governor, and it was for an official visit with President Fox but also with a number of members of his cabinet and members of some of the other governors of Mexico, and members of the Mexican legislature. So it was kind of an action-packed set of days.

>> Jose Cardenas: Let's start with your meeting with President Fox. What were the principal subjects you discussed?

>> Governor: We talked again a lot about trade. We talked in particular about the CANAMEX corridor which is a transportation corridor that would come from Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, all the way through Canada, kind of an offsuit of the N.A.F.T.A. agreements and of course, President Fox would like the corridor to go to Pueblo and Panama city. We got into so much detail on that that we both pulled out our maps and were drawing where different things ought to go. I invited President Fox to come to Arizona to continue not only those discussions but to meet business leaders here and others who might be interested in doing some joint ventures in Mexico, some joint commercial arrangements, and he accepted the invitation. Now we have to figure out a possible date.

>> Jose Cardenas: I understand the president also expressed some concern about the decline in tourism at the border.

>> Governor: Yeah, very much so, and we talked about what could be done at Penasco or some other places to facilitate tourism and that was something I talked about with the governor, and we know that is a very good tourism corridor for Arizona. So we have an interest in getting our respective offices of tourism together, which we will and are, to kind of bring that back up.

>> Jose Cardenas: There was also some discussion about a media campaign to dissuade people from crossing the border into Arizona --

>> Governor: Yes, President Fox and I did talk about immigration and I expressed again my interest in some sort of worker program. He expressed his interest in that again as well. This is something that will have to be negotiated between the Fox administration and the bush administration and the Congress. But we also talked about the deaths in the desert, which we've had so many this year and last year. Every year it goes up. It's just a tragedy what's happening down there. They had been running -- there have been campaigns run with signs right at the border saying don't cross now, don't cross without adequate water, warning people of the incredible harsh conditions that exist when you are crossing illegally into Arizona. Those warnings are not effective, in part because people have already traveled a long way to get to the border, they've already made that investment, and they're desperate to cross. For work -- >>

>> Jose Cardenas: They're going to cross no matter what.

>> Governor: The thinking is let's do that education and awareness campaign further south in the states from which many of the people come to see if we can -- if the Mexican government can deter at least some of the traffic from starting off in the summer in particular.

>> Jose Cardenas: You started your day with a meeting with the Mexican secretary of health. What was the focus of those meetings?

>> Governor: Talked about a lot of different things in a remarkable room with murals by Diego Rivera around the ceiling, but there were two focuses. One was to witness the signing of a joint basically research agreement between the Translational Genomics Institute and also basically an equivalent -- a form of their national institutes of health or part of their national institutes of health to do research on certain things that affect the Hispanic community at higher rates than other communities, stomach cancers, certain childhood cancers, and so the institution is going to do research together and jointly participate in the products of that research, kind of a first of its kind agreement in many respects. The second thing we talked about was kind of a health week, and it's something that the government of Mexico participates in in California. It's a really public health education campaign that focuses on residents of Mexico who are living in California and there's some interest, a great deal of interest on my part on doing something similar in Arizona.

>> Jose Cardenas: With a do you see the benefits coming out of the T-GEN agreement you talked about?

>>Governor: I see several. One is hopefully they will be able to identify genetic markers and others that will help better diagnose childhood -- certain childhood cancers at an earlier stage, and for stomach cancers, perhaps develop some better treatments for stomach cancer because, again, that cancer apparently is at a much higher rate in the Hispanic population than in other populations.

>> Jose Cardenas: So this is something of benefit to the Hispanics on both sides of the border.

>>Governor: Absolutely.

>> Jose Cardenas: You had separate meetings with a group of senators. I understand it's the border issues committee of the Mexican Congress. Then a separate meeting with several of the governors from Mexico. With a did you talk about in those meetings?

>> Governor: The same complex of issues, Jose. We talked about trade. We talked about how traffic needs to move through the ports. And we talked about immigration.

>> Jose Cardenas: I understand there was some discussion with the governors about the possibility of taking professionals in Mexico and easing their licensing and other travel arrangements across the border to fill areas of need in Arizona, for example, nurses.

>> Governor: Right, there was a discussion about that. That apparently has been under discussion for some time, so if we're going to do something, it's time to do something. The governor also brought it up with me on Monday. So it's something that I think clearly is on the table and we can pursue.

>> Jose Cardenas: What do you see as the next steps in that area?

> Governor: I think what we need to do is get the people who are actually engaged in those fields together from both sides of the border to look at what the joint accreditation issues are, the licensing issues and what can be streamlined and accommodated to each other.

>> Jose Cardenas: You also met with a couple of other cabinet officials, the Secretary of State and the secretary of governance, which I understand is their equivalent of our combination of homeland security and of the interior.

>> Governor: Right.

>> Jose Cardenas: What did you talk about to them?

>> Governor: With the Secretary of State we talked primarily immigration and what has happened with immigration between our countries, and with the last secretary, we talked about homeland security and a project we're involved in to do some homeland security exercises, really, at the border jointly. For example, we could easily have an incident at the border, doesn't have to be terrorism related, it could be a big chemical spill, for example, where we need to be using ambulance people and firefighters and police officers from both sides of the border. We'll have to use hospitals and clinics from both sides of the border. We'll need a way to communicate with each other. We need a way to make sure that people are getting properly treated and triaged, and he was very enthusiastic about that, and in fact, we are now planning such an exercise and it will be one of the first of its kind.

>> Jose Cardenas: Governor, I understand this is one of your first visits to Mexico City. You had been there some time before. Overall what was your impression of the city and its people?

>> Governor: Oh, I thought, vibrant -- it's a large metropolitan city, vibrant and alive and I think filled with opportunity

>> Jose Cardenas: Good. Governor any final thoughts on your trip to Mexico City?

>>Governor: No, I thought for 30 hours in Mexico City I think we packed in about as much as humanly possible and I look forward to president Fox's visit so we can reciprocate the hospitality.

>> Jose Cardenas: Governor, thank you so much for being with on "Horizonte." One of the topics we discussed with the governor was the collaboration between genomics research groups in Arizona and Mexico. Here to tell us more about that is Dr. Jeffrey Trent president and scientific director T-GEN, the Translational Genomics Institute located in Phoenix. Dr. Trent, thank you for joining us. I want to to focus on the agreement that T-GEN signed with its Mexican counterpart. If you don't mind for the balance of the interview we will refer it to as the Mexican Institute. Before we get to that, give us an update on T-GEN, tell us what is going on and perhaps a little bit of a refresher course on what translational genomics is.

>>Dr. Trent: Be delighted to. I again appreciate being here. T-GEN is the new genomics research institute here in the Arizona, with the partnership with the three universities and a series of healthcare partners in Arizona is trying to apply genomic medicine to human health. That means trying to develop new diagnostics for common diseases as well as developing individualized drugs based on a genetic signature of an individual and finally ways to actually develop new and more effective treatments for people based again on their individual genetics. We've recruited, Jose about 20 scientists, brought on about 150 people over the course of the last eight months, broken ground in central Phoenix in a new facility that's being provided by the City of Phoenix, and we're really now working to establish key partnerships in re -- and relationships nationally and internationally.

>> Jose Cardenas: Dr. Trent, now let's focus on the agreement. First, tell us, what was the background that led up to this agreement with the Mexican Institute?

>> Dr. Trent: Well, the Mexican national institutes of health in parallel to the national institutes of health here in the United States has really decided that genomic medicine is a key to fostering again improvements in diagnostics, improvements in individualizing therapy for patients as well as, again, the importance of developing new treatments, and the National Institute of Health of Mexico has just made the decision to bring into place a new institute, its 11th institute and its focus again on genomic medicine. So we had the opportunity to develop a partnering relationship with them, again, as the governor mentioned a moment ago, really a first of its kind effort across the border.

>> Jose Cardenas: Who is the head of the Mexican Institute?

>> Dr. Trent: The Mexican Institute is Dr. Jimenez Sanchez, who was both a colleague of as a professor at Johns Hopkins and one of the leading investigators in the area of genetic changes that, again, affect a variety of different disorders, particularly those that are biochemical in nature. So it was a scientist trained initially in his medical training in Mexico but rose to professorships at Johns Hopkins university and then was brought back to Mexico to head this national effort and he is clearly one of the most well-versed and well respected scientists in the world in terms of his studies and expertise in biochemical and genetics.

>> Jose Cardenas: The actual signing of the agreement was timed to coincide with the governor's visit to Mexico City. Did that help in any way?

>> Dr. Trent: No doubt, it was exceptionally positive component to be able to join with the governor's task force, to be able to meet with the governor during her time with secretary Frank, an exceedingly impressive individual, to be able to discuss and hear their discussions of healthcare, but that also -- then also to participate in this joint signing at the ministry of health there in Mexico City, and certainly the governor's presence was an important part of bringing that together.

>> Jose Cardenas: Who were the members of the T-GEN delegation?

>>Dr. Trent: The T-GEN delegation include Dr. John carpton, a scientists who studies aspects dealing with health disparities, particularly in the African-American population, and also Dr. Rafael FONSECA. He is born in Mexico City, in fact his parents met us for a few minutes during the visit, went to medical school there, but then spent the last ten years at the Mayo Clinic and we're hopeful soon at the Scottsdale Mayo Clinic and is one of the leaders in the world in the study of blood borne cancers and this application of key Nomeicks to make improvements in the lives of patients with various cancers.

>> Jose Cardenas: In terms of the agreement Dr. Trent, what is the principal folk us?

>> Dr. Trent: The principal focus is around cancer at the moment, although we will work on other aspects of diseases that disproportionately affect the Hispanic population, but we initially are going to focus on two, stomach cancer, which is much greater in its incidence in Mexico than in many other areas, including the United States, as well as again some forms of childhood cancer. So we'll focus around stomach cancer and we'll focus around childhood cancers and we'll also again begin a focus on diabetes.

>> Jose Cardenas: With respect to pediatric cancer is there any particular benefit this produces?

>>Dr. Trent: There is no doubt. Critical to the correct treatment of children with cancer is the correct diagnosis of these children, and if you don't really have the right diagnosis, you're not going to provide them the right treatment, and there is an increase in a particular kind of rare childhood cancer, thankfully, but very deadly form of childhood cancer in Mexico. We don't understand why that increases exists, though we do know it's critical to be able to diagnose that, and beginning with work that started in my laboratory at the national institutes of health, we've begun this partnership to try to apply this new diagnostic technology to cases in Mexico.

>> Jose Cardenas: It sounds as if the collaboration will be a benefit to everyone, but in particular, what are the benefits for the people of Arizona?

>> Dr. Trent: Well, with 80% of the population of Hispanic origin within Arizona being of Mexican origin, the real empowerment that the Mexican National Institute of Health effort is taking to be able to protect the sovereignty of genomics within Mexico to avoid, to some extent, the dependence on other countries for this and to really bring that -- the promise and the potential of genomic medicine to the people of Mexico is something that we want to leverage in an important way here in Arizona and we're convinced we'll be able to do and that do that quickly.

>> Jose Cardenas: How soon would you say?

>>Dr. Trent: Science is, of course, a long-term investment and that's one of the really positive parts of the this agreement, is that it allows the long-term beneficial relationship of this partnership, but we believe there will be short-term benefit really within months by us partnering together, bringing new diagnostic technologies, doing it a joint way between investigators in Mexico City and here in Arizona and literally we will begin, I think, to see benefits within the year, perhaps within the half year by being able to better diagnose some of these as our initial first for atogether.

>> Jose Cardenas: Dr. Trent, other than the worms I understand you ate the one of the more famous Mexican restaurants in Mexico City, what struck you the most about your trip there?

>>Dr. Trent: It's the people. Of course, the majesty, literally, of Mexico City, a stiff that size, we had the opportunity to go to the museum of anthropology and see the new MAYAN exhibit, it is just a remarkable treasure in the world without any question. But it was the people. It was their commitment, their competence, their compassion and their vision that really was absolutely inspiring for all of us.

>> Jose Cardenas: Dr. Trent, the few seconds we have left, I know there's a recent development with respect to the Indian health service. Can you elaborate on that?

>> Dr. Trent: We have been able to bring in a new member of our T-GEN team, Joe Peters, who has been with Senator McCain's office for Indian affairs, to begin to put in place to look at health disparities within the native American population a partnership we have with the Salt River Pima Indian community, and we're working, because that's disproportionately affects the Hispanic community as well.

>> Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

>> Dr. Trent: My pleasure.

>> Jose Cardenas: 11 prominent Hispanics were recently honored at an awards ceremony held in Phoenix. Those attending the Valle del sol profiles of success luncheon were treated to a speech by the president of a national Hispanic civil rights organization. Mike Sauceda attended the event and tells us more.

>> Reporter: For more than a decade, Valle del sol, a local community service agency serving the Hispanic community has honored Valley Hispanic leaders with its profiles of success award. This year one of 11 recipients was Ricardo Torres, co-founder of "La Voz," a Spanish language newspaper he recently sold to the "Republic." He received the leadership award.

>>Ricardo Torres: I am humbled by this honor, humbled by your reception and there are so many more people here deserving of this than I.

>> Kent Dana: Please welcome our keynote speaker, Raul Yzaguire.

>> Reporter: The highlight of the luncheon was keynote speaker Raul Yzaguire, president of the Los Angeles based council. That talked about the deaths of undocumented workers in the desert.

>>Raul Yzaguire: As wonderful as the State of Arizona is, regrettably you have something called a desert in this area and you have a border with Mexico, and I have been told and I understand that as of today we have surpassed last year's number in terms of people who have died crossing the border.

>> Reporter: Yzaguire who was inducted into the hall of fame also addressed current efforts by several Arizona lawmakers to do something about the problem.

>> Raul Yzaguirre: Now, I want to publicly thank Senator McCain for being concerned with this issue, for introducing a guest worker program legislation that regrettably we cannot support, but at least it is an expression of compassion. At least there are people on both sides of the political aisle who have enough humanity left in them to understand what we're talking about.

>> Reporter: Yzaguire rallied the crowd by telling them Hispanics under a position to influence such legislation by voting.

>> Raul: It's an imperative for the Republican party to increase the percentage of Latino votes voting for that party than they got in the year 2000. If they don't, they will lose. It's imperative for the Democratic Party to maintain or gain the number of percentage of Latino votes they got in the year 2000. Now, that puts us in the wonderful position. See, now we've gone from the days where one party, the Democratic Party, took us for granted, and the other party, the Republican party, ignored us. That was a horrible position to be in. It made us powerless. It made us ineffectual. But the tables have turned, ladies and gentlemen. Now we can make a difference. And we can decide who the next president of the United States will be, who the next senator, next congressman...

>> Jose Cardenas: In the piece we just watched you saw "La Voz" founder Ricardo Torres receive his award. 12 news Fay Frederick tells us more about Torres who has become a successful businessman thriving on challenges and not being afraid to take risks.

>> Ricardo Torres: My mom funded my first project. I got the venture capital from her. I think it was 10 bucks.

>> Reporter: Small beginnings and many misses.

>>Ricardo: I probably started and failed at 10 businesses before I was 28.

>> Reporter: Ricardo found success in sales and Spanish radio. >> Ricardo: The lead story this week --

>> Reporter: He then moved to Spanish print media.

>> Ricardo: We wanted to have a product in Spanish that Latinos could look at and whether they could read Spanish or not be proud of it.

>> Reporter: Ricardo remembers the beginnings of "La Voz" newspaper in January of 2000.

>>Ricardo: I have never heard of a more successful launch of any publication in this town.

>> Reporter: His wife who died last November played a huge role in the launch.

>> Ricardo: I think both of us viewed "La Voz" as something that was very needed, it definitely had both of our signatures -- you know, both of our passions. Of course, she knew how to get a lot of people to notice and a lot of people did notice. That was a challenge, and, you know, my wife was terrific for that. That was all her.

>> Reporter: Through the losses and success, Ricardo will continue investing in his community.

>>Ricardo: I think it's important to live a good life. I think it's important to lead by example. I just think it's important to do the right thing, and I don't consider myself any different than any one else.

>> Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us for our first "Horizonte." Remember, we'll be here every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. right after "Horizon." I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you again for joining us. Have a good evening.

Dr. Jeffrey Trent:President and scientific director T-Gen, the Translational Genomics Institute ;

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