ASU cancer researcher garners '40 Under 40' honors

June 25, 2013

ASU Biodesign Institute postdoctoral researcher and cancer biologist Fernanda Festa has been named to the Phoenix Business Journal’s annual “Forty Under 40” list, which honors outstanding young leaders in the metropolitan area.

Festa, a native of Brazil, says that the main event that changed her life and gave her the passion to pursue cancer research was the loss of one of her staunchest supporters, her beloved grandfather, who succombed to glioblastoma (a type of brain tumor) when she was just 14. Ever since, Festa has immersed herself in the field, eventually completing her doctorate from the University of Sao Paulo while working at the laboratory of Mari Cleide Sogayar on the identification of gene pathways involved in the development of prostate cancer. portrait of ASU researcher Fernanda Festa in the lab Download Full Image

Next, Festa moved to Boston to join Joshua LaBaer’s laboratory as a postdoctoral research associate, initially at Harvard Medical School and now at the Biodesign Institute’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, which LaBaer directs. In the state-of-the art, high-throughput robotics lab, Festa works alongside a multidisciplinary research team of biologists, chemists, engineers, statisticians and database experts to identify and validate biomarkers – unique molecular fingerprints of disease that could vastly improve health care outcomes through the early detection of disease.

Festa has been heavily involved in improving a platform technology, called NAPPA, which LaBaer originally co-developed with colleagues to rapidly identify and validate biomarkers from the complete set of thousands of potential proteins – called the proteome – circulating in the human body at any one time.

“Everyone in the research community gets thrilled and impressed with the research platform we have developed,” Festa said. “This platform is extremely flexible and can be easily adapted for an unlimited number of applications.”

Her efforts have focused on improving every step of the technology so that proteome analysis can one day become a new standard of clinical care and medicine. Most recently, she has applied NAPPA technology to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of cancer drug resistance for individuals with leukemia.

Members of the "40 Under 40" class will be featured in a special section of the June 28 print edition of the Phoenix Business Journal. In addition, a reception and honoree recognition program will be held June 27 at the Phoenix Art Museum to celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s class.

For the complete list of the class of 2013, visit:

The Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics research is supported by grants from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the National Cancer Institute branch of the National Institutes of Health and a $35 million philanthropic gift from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Joe Caspermeyer

Managing editor, Biodesign Institute


Marchant co-authors paper on precautionary principle in environmental policy

June 26, 2013

A paper co-authored by ASU Regents’ Professor Gary Marchant, “Impact of the Precautionary Principle on Feeding Current and Future Generations,” has been published by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), an international consortium of scientific and professional societies, companies and nonprofit organizations.

Marchant, who chaired the panel of four authors, presented the paper on June 24 at three venues in Washington, D.C. – two meetings at the U.S. Congress, sponsored by the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, and a public forum at The George Washington University, sponsored by the National Capitol Region of the Society for Risk Analysis. Download Full Image

Marchant is the faculty director of the Center for Law, Science & Innovation at the College of Law at Arizona State University and the ASU Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics.

The paper examines the history of the precautionary principle, defined as “a legal requirement, such as that enacted by the European Union, that mandates the formal and explicit application of precaution in regulatory decisions.”  While the principle has played an important role in bringing attention to the impact of precaution in appropriate risk management, the authors point out problems of ambiguity, arbitrary application and bias against new technologies, using case studies that center on agricultural issues such as pesticide use, genetically modified foods and food irradiation.

While acknowledging the importance of safety, the authors indicated the principle has become unworkable and counterproductive. They predict that, if applied too stringently, it will suppress innovation, to the detriment of the economy and human health.

“The precautionary principle may well be the most innovative, pervasive and significant new concept in environmental policy over the past quarter century. It may also be the most reckless, arbitrary and ill-advised,” the authors wrote.

The paper provides examples of the precautionary principle’s failure to offer a credible and reasoned framework for the application of risk management. It also describes inconsistencies in the principle’s use and suggests that it increasingly will be controversial, marginalized and ignored in the future.

For example, based on the precautionary principle, Norway banned cornflakes fortified with vitamins, France banned caffeinated energy drinks, Denmark banned cranberry juice drinks with extra Vitamin C and Zambia rejected U.S. food during a famine (because the corn might contain genetically modified kernels).

“As with many things in life, the Goldilocks strategy may be most appropriate – not too little precaution, not too much, but just the right amount is needed,” according to Marchant and the other authors.

Collaborating with Marchant were Linda Abbott of the Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.; Allan Felsot of the Department of Entomology and School of the Environment at Washington State University Tri-Cities; and Robert L. Griffin of the Plant Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Laboratory at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Raleigh, N.C.

Click here to read the full study.