Flagstaff’s Growing Love for Biosciences

Published on March 22, 2020

The physical beauty of Flagstaff, Arizona, along with the elevation, can literally take one’s breath away. Once you catch your breath, you will quickly find you are in the right place – especially when it comes to biosciences.

Flagstaff is 14 percent more specialized in biosciences than all other communities in the U.S. For a “charming mountain town,” that reality is surprising to visitors and to some residents. What businesses are contributing to this high concentration of biosciences? Axolotl Biologix, Poba Medical, T-Gen North, and W. L. Gore & Associates are just a few; these four businesses alone employ almost 2,500 Flagstaff residents.

Axolotl Biologix is a biotechnology leader in regenerative medicine. The meaning of the word Axolotl (pronounced “ax-uh-lot-ul”) refers to a Mexican salamander with remarkable regenerative properties. Not only can the axolotl regenerate limbs, but also jaw, spine, or even brain with no scarring. The axolotl salamander inspired the team in Flagstaff enough to pursue the development of such capabilities for people. Noted Dr. Robert S. Kellar, Chief Science Officer for Axolotl Biologix, “By using donated placentas from cesarean sections, a mother is celebrating new life with her newborn while Axolotl is able to harvest stem cells to be used to create a regenerative fluid to encourage repair and regeneration in people.”

In June 2019, the General Services Administration (GSA) added the complete line of Axolotl Biologix products to the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS). This allows physicians and staff from federal agencies – including the Veterans Administration – access to their products for the repair and regeneration of damaged tissues. These innovative regenerative medical technologies, made in Phoenix, give patients more treatment options to avoid surgery and reduce the need for dangerous narcotics prescribed to reduce pain.

Poba Medical specializes in angioplasty-style balloon and catheter development. Poba is the third business born from the entrepreneurial heart and mind of Dan Kasprzyk, one of the founders of Machine Solutions, which specializes in building manufacturing and testing equipment for catheter and medical device manufacturers. Kasprzyk was also one of the founders of Symple Surgical, which uses controlled microwave ablation as a groundbreaking therapy to treat Barrett’s esophagus.

Back to Poba. Poba Medical provides stateside prototyping capabilities for balloon and catheter needs to biomedical pioneers. Companies looking to explore the possibilities of solution delivery systems through new configurations find Poba medical to be an exceptional partner in their processes and outcomes. An ISO 13485 certified company, Poba also sponsors engineering students at NAU.

TGen North is the home of TGen’s Pathogen and Microbiome Division, led by Dr. David Engelthaler and Dr. Paul Keim. Short for “Translational Genomics Research Institute,” TGen works to translate their understanding of the human genome to create solutions for better health. TGen North focuses on diagnostic, analytic, forensic, ecologic, and epidemiologic research of microbes important to medicine, public health, and biodefense. TGen North has been the lead on numerous local, national, and international infectious disease investigations, using “genomic epidemiology” to help public health and safety officials to stop and prevent disease outbreaks. TGen has developed the only FDA-approved genomic test for Valley Fever, and now leads a first-of-its-kind air monitoring system for the fungus. It has even initiated early drug and vaccine development work.

TGen is also on the forefront of a brand new field in medicine – the human microbiome – the billions of microbial organisms that live in and on our bodies and are critical to our daily survival. TGen scientists are leading the way in understanding how our microbiome effects, and is affected by, various states of health, disease, and recovery.

W. L. Gore & Associates began manufacturing products in Flagstaff in 1967. Since then, their Flagstaff operations have transformed into a biomedical powerhouse and largest private employer in Northern Arizona, employing more than 2,300. The company focuses on medical device research, development, and manufacturing to improve the lives of patients worldwide. Known for their innovation and distinctive team culture, they work together with healthcare professionals to solve some of the most complex medical challenges with minimally invasive products for a wide range of patients.

Gore Medical produces therapeutic solutions to treat complex vascular, cardiac, and general surgery medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, ischemic strokes, peripheral artery disease, and aortic aneurysms. Globally, W. L. Gore & Associates also provides solutions to a variety of consumer and industry needs ranging from GORE-TEX fabrics to cables, electronic components, fabrics, fibers, filtration devices, sealants, venting, pharmaceutical, and biopharmaceutical products.

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The article Flagstaff’s Growing Love for Biosciences by John Saltonstall first appeared on Innovation & Tech Today.

Innovation & Tech Today is a national magazine showcasing the latest cutting edge, innovative technologies and those individuals driving the industry forward. Every quarter our experts and writers aim to find fascinating stories, products, and people across a variety of industries that we can feature in our magazine, and while we often focus on education, STEM, wearables, smart home technology, business, and sustainability, those are ultimately just a few of the many areas we cover. No matter where the innovation is happening, we’ll be there capturing it all.

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