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Stephen Albert Johnston Named Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year

Stephen Albert Johnston Named Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year

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CHANDLER, Ariz.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--#AZBW--The Arizona Bioindustry Association will honor Stephen Albert Johnston

of Arizona State University as the Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the

Year at the 2016

AZBio Awards on September 21, 2016. The award is given annually to

the life science researcher in Arizona who has made the most significant

contribution to the advancement of knowledge and the understanding of

biological processes.

Stephen Johnston serves as the director for the Center

for Innovations in Medicine (CIM) and as Director of the Biological

Design Graduate Program at The

Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. Johnston is also a

Professor in the

School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.

Arizona life science and business leaders as well as guests from across

the country will be on hand to applaud Johnston for pursuing answers to

the question “If we can’t cure cancer, why not just prevent it?”

That’s the “crazy” question that scientist-inventor Stephen Albert

Johnston has been asking – and exploring – for nearly a decade. While

others have asked why Johnston would pursue such an audacious

path, Johnston’s answer is, “Why not?” His determination to

discover a universal, prophylactic vaccine for cancer has found him

today in the throes of Phase Two dog trials, during which he and his

team will enroll some 700 subjects and test what could ultimately become

an inexpensive vaccine that can be administered to everyone in the world

to prevent most cancer.

Those who know Johnston understand that he’s impatient with incremental

goals. His vision for the cancer vaccine comes from his commitment to

creating diagnostics, tools and treatments that are available and

accessible to all nations. He cites a World Health Organization fact

that 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in the developing world.

Already, Johnston has made tracks. On his journey to hit an oncological

“home run,” he has identified 21 antigens that are common to all breast

tumors. These are the elements that will be used to create the universal

vaccine. If the vaccine works, the immune system would target these

antigens and destroy the very first malignant cell before it multiplies

and produces a tumor.

His Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine at Arizona State

University has the big goal of developing “innovative solutions to

fundamental problems in biomedicine.” In the true spirit of Biodesign,

he brings together a group of interdisciplinary scientists who first

identify a problem, analyze the basis of the related issues, and then

come up with an inventive solution.

One inventive solution already at play is the development of

immunosignatures, a diagnostic based on hundreds of thousands of

peptides synthesized directly on silicon wafers. To make this happen, he

adopted a process similar to Intel’s photolithography, but instead of

making integrated circuits, they use batch peptide chemistry. The

spinout company he created with Neal Woodbury, HealthTell,

has sites at the Chandler Innovations Incubator in Arizona and in San

Ramon, California. HealthTell was named “one of the five Bay Area

companies to watch” in 2015. HealthTell recently raised $40 million in

its capital campaign.

The beauty of the innovation is that there is not a specific antibody

for a specific disease, but rather, a whole picture or “signature” of

disease. Johnston’s team has been able to identify Valley Fever and

outperform the best diagnostic test on the market. They can distinguish

between 15 diseases simultaneously, including Alzheimer’s disease, and

have tested the technology on more than 1,500 individuals with 95

percent accuracy. With funding from Alliance Beverage Distributing in

Phoenix and The Dorothy Foundation, Johnston is now testing the

diagnostic against melanoma.

Johnston is also the founder of Eliance (now Macrogenics). In 2014, he

launched Calviri

with a mission to eradicate cancer. “We need to fund and complete the

dog efficacy trial and in parallel, optimize the vaccine for human

testing,” he said.

He co-invented/innovated pathogen-derived resistance, organelle

transformation, the gene gun, genetic immunization, TEV protease system,

expression library immunization, linear expression elements, synbodies

and immunosignaturing. Johnston has published over 150 journal articles,

has more than 20 patents, and has attracted more than $85 million in

grant support including large programs from DARPA, NIAID and NHLBI.

Johnston is a professor at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’

School of Life Sciences.

For his commitment to pushing the frontiers of science for the

betterment of people in Arizona and around the world, Stephen Johnston

is the 2016 Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year.

Past winners of the Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year Award

include: Wayne D. Frasch, Ph.D. (School of Life Sciences at Arizona

State University), Charles Arntzen, Ph.D. (Biodesign Institute at

Arizona State University), Leslie Boyer, M.D. (The University of

Arizona), Paul Keim, Ph.D. (Northern Arizona University and TGen-North),

Jessica Langbaum, Ph.D. (Banner Alzheimer’s Research Institute), Milton

Sommerfeld, Ph.D. and Qiang Hu, Ph.D. (Arizona State University) , Bruce

Rittman, Ph.D. (Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University), Rod

Wing, Ph.D. (Arizona Genomics Institute at the University of Arizona),

and Roy Curtiss, III, Ph.D. (Biodesign Institute at Arizona State


For registration and more information, go to

For more information on Arizona Bioscience Week, visit

About AZBio

A key component in Arizona’s life science ecosystem, the Arizona

Bioindustry Association (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 www.AZBio.TV.

Photos available upon request.


Arizona Bioindustry Association

Joan Koerber-Walker, 480-332-9636



Vega, 480-275-9797

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