City of Phoenix, ASU agreement will boost Phoenix Biomedical Campus

May 19, 2015

The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to expand the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus, adding an endeavor that partners Arizona State University and the medical research firm NantWorks.

Under the agreement, the university will lease land from the city for the development of new biomedical research facilities and programs in partnership with NantWorks. Download Full Image

The project will significantly add to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in size, capabilities and number of skilled bioscience professionals.  

ASU President Michael M. Crow told the City Council that he saw the public-private project as an opportunity to apply university research assets to a ground-breaking effort that could transform medical care.

"We are excited about this opportunity,” Crow said. "We see this as an opportunity to advance ASU and to help the City of Phoenix advance."

The project will build on the strengths of ASU, a leading research university, and NantWorks, a leader in the health, biomedical and medical research fields that was founded by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a renowned surgeon, medical researcher and entrepreneur.

The land Phoenix leases will be for development, investment in public infrastructure at the site, and investment in job training to support development of permanent jobs that result from the project.

The project is designed to catalyze and accelerate growth in pharmaceutical and health-solutions industries that are devoted to precision medicine and the use of data and research in the design of diagnostics and treatments for disease and disease prevention. Most of these efforts initially will focus on advancing cancer detection and treatment.

ASU and the City of Phoenix have a substantial partnership that has flourished in the past 10 years, and includes the development of the 10,000-student ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus that houses ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, College of Health Solutions, College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“I look forward to ASU joining the great family of institutions at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus that have changed the face of Arizona’s economy,” Mayor Greg Stanton said. “Collaboration between ASU and its development partner NantWorks will capitalize on the strengths of both institutions and continue the momentum of this important biomedical hub.”

"It's my pleasure to welcome ASU and NantWorks to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus,” said Councilwoman Kate Gallego. “This important and innovative work will not only help improve health outcomes in Phoenix and around the country, but this project will serve as a catalyst that could bring a burst of new energy to Phoenix's already growing bioscience industry. By bringing both innovation and high-wage jobs to our community, today's announcement promises to bring quality jobs in a variety of fields to District 8."

“ASU and NantWorks share the belief that important medical advances must be integrated quickly into society, where they can do the most good,” Crow said. “Mayor Greg Stanton and the City of Phoenix have shown a remarkable desire to help bring the pieces together in the most effective way that will benefit the region for many years to come. In integrating the work of Dr. Soon-Shiong and his approach to health solutions, this project will advance the downtown biomedical campus and it will transform health-care delivery, ushering in the age of precision medicine.”

Crow said ASU has many current research projects that fit precisely with the work and goals of NantWorks and its affiliates. He cited research into biomarkers, precision medicine and DNA nanotechnology at the Biodesign Institute, work in biomedical informatics and in the science of health-care delivery in the College of Health Solutions in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, and the theoretical cancer work of Regents' Professor Paul Davies and his collaborators, as examples of the “out-of-the-box” thinking emblematic of ASU’s approach. 

“Both ASU and NantWorks are dedicated and committed to using the power of supercomputers and cloud-based integrated analysis to bring personalized and precise cancer therapies to patients,” said NantWorks CEO Soon-Shiong. “Through collaboration, we can help ensure that discoveries, new approaches and clinical advances reach patients more quickly and improve medical outcomes. We are at one of the most exciting flexion points in the history of medicine whereby informatics, predictive modeling and immunotherapy such as natural killer cells will transform cancer care as we know it today. The forward-looking vision of Mayor Stanton and the City Council and the leadership in this city and at ASU has inspired us to enter into this partnership.”

ASU and NantWorks will develop a Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine at ASU, where ASU research activities and researchers and faculty will form joint research teams with NantWorks and other future users.

ASU will provide staffing and operational support for a joint decision support center with NantWorks drawing on ASU expertise aligned with NantWorks diagnostic, therapeutics and informatics activities and ASU research interests.

Together, they will create needed research linkages between the two institutions, including connections to ASU’s Biodesign Institute, the Department of Biomedical Informatics, the College of Health Solutions, the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, and the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Subject to final approval by the Arizona Board of Regents of the lease terms, ASU and NantWorks have agreed to reserve the approximately 7 city-owned acres between Fifth and Sixth streets and Fillmore and McKinley streets for the proposed health-solutions project to be developed in phases. The first phase would include 200,000 square feet of buildings.

In addition to the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Molecular Medicine at ASU, the site will include:

• A NantWorks and ASU decision support center and molecular tumor board supporting both research and commercial diagnostic activities.

• NantWorks mission-control facility to monitor patient’s health status through connected devices.

• NantHealth’s high-tech manufacturing facilities to produce novel immunotherapies for cancer and other disorders.

• NantOmics diagnostic facilities for rapid, next-generation sequencing.

NantWorks has committed at least $75 million in facilities, equipment and start-up costs to the initial phase of the project.

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU helps biomedical company's employees learn Chinese

May 20, 2015

A local health technology company is partnering with two Arizona State University Chinese-based programs to teach its employees the language and culture.

Medtronic, which produces health technology through biomedical engineering, is working with ASU’s Confucius Institute and ASU's Chinese Language Flagship program on an eight-week long course for 10 employees. woman giving presentation Download Full Image

“We want them to not only be able to use the language but also have more of a cultural awareness and interest in the Chinese culture,” said Fannie Tam, associate director of the Confucius Institute. “I think it can help them build a better relationship and communication with  the people from the other culture. Showing respect is really the best way of doing business.”

The Confucius Institute is a resource center that promotes the Chinese language and culture in schools and the general public. The Chinese Language Flagship program provides study abroad and internship opportunities in China for ASU students who are studying the language in order to help these students become global professionals.

Jian Fei, a Medtronic principal automation engineer, said that the company has been in China for 30 years, but they want to expand their presence in the emerging market. Fei is also a part of the Asian Employee Resource Group, which is an organization whose intention is to help businesses in their home countries. In addition to learning the language, they also want to increase cultural awareness.

“We feel that they can communicate better and it will help them to do their jobs,” Fei said.

Visiting teachers from China who work in the Confucius Institute prepared the curriculum, which began in February, Fannie Tam said. The institute already offers Chinese classes to ASU students and the general public, so they tweaked the material to focus more on business and business culture. For example, when introducing their names, the employees also learn how to say their job title in Chinese as well.

Some Medtronic employees already know Chinese, such as Fei who is from China. They take time throughout the week to tutor other employees. Fei said the employees he has helped have expressed interest in continuing to learn Chinese.

The Chinese Language Flagship program teaches Chinese and provides cultural opportunities, such as study abroad, to prepare undergraduate students to be global professionals. Anthony Tam, assistant director of the program and Fannie Tam’s husband, said students sharing their travel experiences in China help the employees on what to expect.

“One of the things they [students] brought up is when you first land at Beijing airport [is] what transportation mean are you going to be taking,” Anthony Tam said. “Students can share [advice such as], ‘There are some real taxis, but there are black taxis, like black cabs. You better talk to someone inside the terminal and get onto the right cab'.”

ASU students who are a part of the flagship program were also invited to give cultural presentations. Fannie Tam said this was a good way to bring back their experience and share it with a group of professionals.

Annie Carson, a global health junior, lived in China for three years from 2006 to 2009 with her family and spent the 2013 summer there on a study abroad trip. She gave a presentation at Medtronics on the differences she’s seen between U.S. and Chinese health care. The Chinese health-care system focuses more on a holistic approach compared to the U.S. with its biomedical approaches, and Carson’s premise focused on how Western companies developing technology can implement them in the holistic model.

“[For] one of the engineers, I think, it sparked an idea for him as far as researching how they could get traditional Chinese medicine doctors involved in a patient’s experience with heart problems,” Carson said. “They said, ‘Okay, this is an interesting idea that our company could look into further in getting connected,’ so that was really rewarding.”

There are plans to further this partnership down the road, Fannie Tam said.

Fei said they want to continue the program in the fall semester, and they are discussing whether to add more advanced courses or continue with the beginning one. Fei said they would also like to hear from more students from the flagship program.

“We are just neighbors and ASU is a resource to us in terms of Chinese language class and other areas,” Fei said.

Written by Alicia Canales