Bioindustry recognizes ASU scientists Poste and Johnston

September 8, 2016

The Arizona Bioindustry Association has selected ASU scientists George Poste and Stephen Albert Johnston for significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge and the understanding of biological processes, naming Poste as AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement and Johnston as Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year.

The two will be honored at the AZBio Awards ceremony that celebrates the state’s leading educators, innovators and companies Sept. 21 at the Phoenix Convention Center. George Poste and Stephen Albert Johnston ASU scientists George Poste (left) and Stephen Albert Johnston have been selected to receive honors at the Arizona BioIndustry Awards Gala on Sept. 21.

AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement: George Poste

The son of an auto mechanic, Poste was raised in a rural area south of London. Poste said the bucolic setting instilled a respect for science and nature. Encouraged by a high school biology teacher, he became the first member of his family to attend college. His first doctorate was in veterinary medicine from the University of Bristol, England, where he graduated first in his class. He also holds a doctorate in virology and a doctorate of science. Poste has received honorary doctorates in law and science for his contributions to international health policy and is board certified in pathology. Poste's wide diversity of knowledge and experience is unusual in the world of science, a field that more typically fosters hyperspecialization.

Poste said his capacity for curiosity has always been a great motivator.

"I am never bored," he said. "I am the quintessential kid in a candy shop when it comes to any facet of science or technology. Every single day I come across something that makes me say, 'Wow.'"

Before coming to ASU, Poste was chief science and technology officer and president of research and development at SmithKline Beecham. During his tenure, he was associated with the successful registration of 31 drug, vaccine and diagnostic products. R&D Magazine named Poste the R&D Scientist of the Year in 2004. In 2006, he received the Einstein award from the Global Business Leadership Council, and in 2009, Poste received the Scrip Lifetime Achievement award voted by the leadership of the global pharmaceutical industry.

Poste received honorary degrees in science, law and medicine for his research contributions, and in 1999 Queen Elizabeth II honored him with Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to international health care and security. He is a fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal College of Pathologists and the UK Academy of Medicine, a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and a member of the Council for Foreign Relations. He served as a member of the U.S. Defense Science Board from 2003 to 2009 and Health Board of the U.S. Department of Defense and is currently a member of the U.S. Institute of Medicine Board on Global Health.

Poste was recruited by Arizona State University to head the Biodesign Institute, where he served as the director from 2003 to 2009. Today, Poste is the co-director and chief scientist at the ASU Complex Adaptive Systems and a Regents’ Professor in the School of Life Sciences. He serves on several corporate boards, including Monsanto, Exelixis, Caris Life Sciences, and the scientific advisory board of Synthetic Genomics.

Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year: Stephen Johnston

Johnston is a scientist and inventor who identified 21 antigens found on any breast tumor that might arise. He is using them to develop a 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. The vaccine has begun phase 2 trial testing in owner-enrolled healthy dogs to see if cancer can be prevented.

“In addition to bringing value to pets and their owners, if the cancer vaccine works in dogs, it also will be very convincing that it would also work in people,” said Johnston.

If cancer can’t be prevented altogether, Johnston wants to detect it much earlier. His team is developing immunosignatures, a diagnostic based on hundreds of thousands of peptides synthesized directly on silicon wafers, using standard photolithography that Intel uses, but instead of making integrated circuits, they use batch peptide chemistry. 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. His 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 it on more than 1,500 individuals with 95 percent accuracy.

“Immunosignatures technology is a way for healthy people to simply monitor their health,” Johnston said. “We think that it will fundamentally turn around diagnostics.”

Although Johnston’s focus is in translational sciences and technology development, he has experience in basic science, notably first cloning the Gal4 gene, showing that proteins have separable functional domains, and discovering the AAA proteins and their role in transcription. 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. He has published more than 150 journal articles, has more than 20 patents, and has garnered approximately $85 million in grant support, including large programs from DARPA, NIAID and NHLBI.  Stephen founded two startups to commercialize his team’s discoveries: HealthTell and Calviri. HealthTell recently raised $40 million in a capital campaign.

Before coming to ASU, Johnston was professor and director of the Center for Biomedical Inventions at UT-Southwestern Medical Center and professor of biology and biomedical engineering at Duke University. He earned doctorates in genetics/biochemistry and in plant genetics/plant breeding from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also a professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences.

Julie Kurth

Manager, marketing and communications, Biodesign Institute


Arizona Republic-ASU news poll finds Arizona up for grabs in presidential election

September 8, 2016

The race between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is a dead heat in Arizona, with a large swath of registered voters still undecided, according to a major statewide poll released this week by The Arizona Republic and Arizona State University.

The poll — a joint project between The Arizona Republic and ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy and Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS — found Clinton leading Trump 35.1 to 33.5 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent. The Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News Poll has 22.9 percent of Arizonans undecided and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson at 6.9 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 1.5 percent. Download Full Image

The poll underscores a potential shift in the Arizona electorate, which has voted Republican in all but one presidential election since 1952. In the past 64 years, Arizona has gone to the Republicans 15 out of 16 elections, with Democrat Bill Clinton taking the state in 1996.

“If there were any more evidence needed about Arizona being in play for the 2016 presidential race, this statewide poll among registered Arizona voters should suffice,” said Thom Reilly, director of ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “The big question is which way the large number of undecideds will go in determining the final outcome for Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.”

Among Arizona male voters, the poll shows Trump leading Clinton 35 to 29.8 percent, with 23.4 percent undecided. Johnson is at 10.8 percent, and Stein is at 1 percent. Clinton leads Arizona female voters 40.1 to 32 percent, with 22.5 percent undecided. Johnson is at 3.4 percent, and Stein is at 2 percent.

In terms of age, Clinton is ahead of Trump in the 18-35 demographic, 33.1 to 13.5 percent, with 35 percent undecided. Conversely, Trump leads Clinton in the 51-plus age demographic, 42.7 to 37.7 percent, with 16.9 percent undecided. The two candidates are evenly split between the 36-50 demographic, with Trump at 30.6 percent and Clinton at 30 percent, with 26.2 percent undecided.

In Maricopa County, Clinton leads Trump 34.2 to 33.2 percent, with 23.6 percent undecided. Johnson is at 7.8 percent, and Stein is at 1.2 percent in the county.

Overall, the poll shows voters in Arizona see both Clinton and Trump in an unfavorable light, with 59 percent describing Clinton as either “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.” Trump received a similar response, with 60 percent describing him as either “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.”

  • Clinton — Very Favorable: 11.3 percent, Favorable: 24.9 percent, Unfavorable: 21.7 percent, Very Unfavorable: 37.3 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 4.8 percent (+/‐ 3.5)
  • Trump — Very Favorable: 11.8 percent, Favorable: 23.4 percent, Unfavorable: 17.5 percent, Very Unfavorable: 42.5 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 4.8 percent (+/‐ 3.6)

In addition, the poll surveyed Arizonans’ opinions on elected officials and candidates, border security and the state’s ballot measures on marijuana and minimum wage, among other issues.

Arizona ballot measures

The Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News Poll asked registered voters’ opinions on Proposition 205, a measure to legalize the possession and consumption of marijuana by persons who are 21 years of age or older.

  • Proposition 205 — Favor: 50 percent, Against: 39.9 percent, Don’t Know: 10.2 percent (+/‐ 3.4)

The poll also asked voters about Proposition 206, a measure to raise the minimum wage from $8.05 per hour to $10 per hour in 2017, then gradually to $12 by 2020.

  • Proposition 206 — Favor: 61.3 percent, Against: 31 percent, Don’t Know: 7.7 percent (+/‐ 3.3)

Arizona elected officials

The poll asked Arizonans to describe their opinions of elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, Gov. Doug Ducey and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio as well as Sen. John McCain and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who are squaring off in Arizona’s U.S. Senate race.

A statewide majority of those polled, 54.4 percent described their opinion of Arpaio as either “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.” In Maricopa County, where he is running against Paul Penzone, 57.3 percent describe Arpaio as either “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.”

The results from the question: “Would you describe your opinion of each of the following people as very favorable, favorable, unfavorable or very unfavorable?”

  • Arpaio (statewide) — Very Favorable: 12.8 percent, Favorable: 26.6 percent, Unfavorable: 21.4 percent, Very Unfavorable: 33 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 6.2 percent (+/‐ 3.5)
  • Arpaio (Maricopa County) — Very Favorable: 10.8 percent, Favorable: 27.4 percent, Unfavorable: 22.6 percent, Very Unfavorable: 34.7 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 4.5 percent (+/‐ 3.5)

Opinions on Flake as well as Kirkpatrick and McCain, who are campaigning against each other, lean to slightly favorable.

  • McCain — Very Favorable: 7.7 percent, Favorable: 41.1 percent, Unfavorable: 31.9 percent, Very Unfavorable: 11.5 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 7.8 percent (+/‐ 3.7)
  • Kirkpatrick — Very Favorable: 5.6 percent, Favorable: 30.4 percent, Unfavorable: 23.1 percent, Very Unfavorable: 10.6 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 30.4 percent (+/‐ 3.3)
  • Flake — Very Favorable: 3.1 percent, Favorable: 31.8 percent, Unfavorable: 28.9 percent, Very Unfavorable: 6.6 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 29.5 percent (+/‐ 3.5)

Ducey was seen as favorable with 44.4 percent responding with either “very favorable” or “favorable” ratings.

  • Ducey — Very Favorable: 2.8 percent, Favorable: 41.6 percent, Unfavorable: 23.9 percent, Very Unfavorable: 11.7 percent, Don’t Know/Refused: 20.1 percent (+/‐ 3.3)

The Arizona Republic, Morrison and Cronkite News are releasing another poll in October that will examine the McCain-Kirkpatrick senate race as well as the Arpaio-Penzone race, among other issues.

Immigration and border security

The poll looked into Arizona voters’ opinions on immigration, asking whether they agree or disagree with deporting all illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. A majority, 68.1 percent, disagreed with deporting illegal immigrants.

  • Deporting all illegal immigrants in U.S. — Strongly Agree: 5.6 percent, Agree: 19.1 percent, Disagree: 43.9 percent, Strongly Disagree: 24.2 percent, Don’t Know: 7.2 percent (+/‐ 3.6)

The poll also asked Arizonans whether the U.S. should build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. in an effort to secure the border. A majority of voters, 54.6 percent, were against the issue, while 33.4 percent were in favor.

  • Border wall — Should Definitely Build: 25.4 percent, Should Maybe Build: 8 percent, Depends/Unsure: 11.9 percent, Should Maybe Not Build: 13.2 percent, Should Definitely Not Build: 41.4 percent (+/‐ 3.5)

Cronkite News, part of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, posed a similar question in in April and May 2016 as part of the Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News Border Poll, which surveyed 1,427 residents in 14 cities along the U.S.-Mexico border. In that survey, 72 percent of U.S. border residents were against building a wall between Mexico and the U.S., and 86 percent of border residents in Mexico were against the wall.


The Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News Poll, conducted Aug. 17-31, 2016, was based on research findings from 1,689 telephone interviews in English and Spanish with Arizona registered voters. The poll team contracted with Behavior Research Center to collect the data. The average number of valid responses to the questions was 800. The response rate for complete interviews was 47 percent.

“The key aspects of our methodology involve both the question and who we asked,” said Eric Hedberg, senior research fellow for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “First, we asked more concrete questions, such as who are you planning to vote for. Second, we asked only registered voters, instead of relying on self-reports of voter registration. We also weighted the data to the registered voter database, and not the census counts that assume all people registered at the same rate.”

The complete Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News Poll and coverage from The Arizona Republic can be found at and Cronkite News at:

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication