VARITGen alignment formalized oversight pegged

February 22, 2010
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The Van Andel Research Institute’s affiliation with the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, Ariz., was formally completed last month.

Amended articles of incorporation were filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission in December and were published in January, making VARI the sole member of TGen, a nonprofit corporation in Arizona. VARI is structured as a Michigan charitable trust. TGen retains its board of directors.

Also last month, the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission approved a revised contract with TGen to continue state funding through fiscal 2012, ABRC Executive Director Dawn Schroeder said.

The commission, founded in 1982 to support scientific research at public and private institutions in Arizona, receives $10 million to $12 million annually from tobacco taxes and the lottery, Schroeder said. She said TGen will continue to receive 44.5 percent of the commission’s revenue from tobacco taxes. That has amounted to about $5.5 million per year.

“Because of initiatives we had here on early childhood education and CHIPS (Children’s Health Insurance Program), that has decreased our revenues,” Schroeder said. “Everyone had to take a decrease in revenues, and TGen is receiving a similar decrease in revenue.”

Schroeder said that three members of the commission’s nine-member board of directors would oversee the state of Arizona’s interests in TGen.

“For a private agency to receive state funding, they have to have certain safeguards in place,” she said. “These folks are going to be responsible for making sure they meet all the legal requirements they need to meet.

“I think the majority of the commission’s concern has been focused around issues we have from state law and changing from a director-based corporation to one member, with that one member being out of state. We felt all along this was probably going to be an excellent partnership.”

Dr. Jeffrey Trent has been serving as president and research director of both the eight-year-old TGen and VARI since mid-2009. The alliance was announced a year ago, and since then, TGen has worked with several organizations to change funding or research agreements, including the Flinn Foundation, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the Arizona Board of Regents and local health care providers, according to a TGen press release.

“We are excited to align with a prominent institute like Van Andel, a partnership that I fully expect to yield greater scientific and economic returns for both Arizona and Michigan,” Trent said.

“As one can imagine with a process of this scope, there were a number of technical and legal points to address,” he said. “I can’t thank our Arizona-based partners and members of our board of directors enough for their willingness to see the process through to completion. It was gratifying that the leadership of all organizations we worked with fully saw the long-term scientific and medical benefit the alliance and affiliation would offer.”

TGen reported revenue of $72 million, expenses of $58 million and net assets of $19 million for the tax year that ended in June 2008, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service filing available.

For the tax year that ended in November 2008, the latest information available, parent organization the VAI reported $123 million in revenues to the IRS, $29.7 million in expenses and net assets were listed at $817.7 million.

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