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May 16, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Alzheimer’s Prevention Drug Trial

  |   Video
  • The Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix is involved in a groundbreaking clinical trial to test an Alzheimer’s prevention drug on people who are genetically likely to get the disease. Learn more about the trial from the Institute’s director Dr. Pierre Tariot.
  • Dr. Pierre Tariot - Director, The Banner Institute Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: alzheimer, disease, prevention, drug, trial, health, ,

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Ted Simons: The Phoenix-based banner Alzheimer's institute is leading a groundbreaking new study. It involves testing an experimental drug on otherwise healthy people who have genetic mutation that makes it highly likely that they will begin to suffer from Alzheimer's symptoms by the age of 45. Here to talk about the test is Dr. Pierre Tariot, director of the banner Alzheimer's institute. thanks for joining us.

Pierre Tariot: Thank you.

Ted Simons: this is fascinating. Let's talk about this drug to be studied. Promising?

Pierre Tariot: Very promising. It has a name. It's a kind of immunotherapy, a way to stimulate the body's immune system to fight off bad proteins that cause Alzheimer's disease.

Ted Simons: does it prevent or delay onset or both?

Pierre Tariot: That's a great question. It's being studied now in people who already have the crippling symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. What we're proposing for the first time in history is an unprecedented effort to treat people who are DESTINED with 100 PERS certainty to develop the illness before any symptoms begin.

Ted Simons: and this is absolutely fascinating. These people that will be tested are an extended family from Colombia?

Pierre Tariot: We're mostly studying people in Colombia, some in the United States. There's an extraordinary group of people numbering as many as 5,000 who are distantly related to ancestors who carry this very rare causative mutation. Flash forward a few hundred years, 5,000 living within about 100 miles of each other, perhaps a third carry this mutation and will develop the disease unless we can do something to stop it.

Ted Simons: How was extended family found?

Pierre Tariot: Our colleague, when I say our, I'm referring to my friend and colleague Dr. Eric Reimann, who is co-director of the Alzheimer's prevention initiative with me, connected with this wonderful neurologist in Colombia, Francisco LAPERA, who beginning about 20 years ago realized there was a large number of families dealing with these issues. Over time studied them, eventually got some cutting edge genetic testing done and this unique mutation was found. He has been following them for years. They have been waiting for years for this kind of step to be taken.

Ted Simons: Now, how will the tests be conducted?

Pierre Tariot: We are enrolling people into a registry down there. We already have almost 1500 enrolled. Go through a similar process in the United States. As soon as we have approval from the appropriate government agencies, we will ask people if they want to participate. Those who do will be screened for appropriateness and then they will be given a shot under the skin every two weeks. The shot will either contain the active treatment or a placebo in the group of people who are carriers of the mutation. Then we'll also include people who are noncarriers who will only get the placebo and the reason we have that element to the design is because people right now don't want to know. Don't want to know.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask about the ethical considerations here. Not only people knowing and not knowing but giving placebos to folks DESTINED to have this.

Pierre Tariot: if we knew the treatment worked we wouldn't do the study. It's mandatory to compare active treatment with placebo. Show that you can see a difference. Actually ironically using placebo will probably give us the answer sooner. We can detect very subtle loss of memory and thinking ability now. We have already developed that tool. So if the treatment blocks that subtle decline we know we're on to something. We'll get that answer pretty quickly.

Ted Simons: talk about how these people will be tested. I'm imagining cognitive tests. Will there be clinical tests, the brain?

Pierre Tariot: You got it all. We will be doing very sensitive tests of memory and thinking, asking how they are functioning, we're very interested in safety. We'll be asking about that we'll be Doan brain scans to look at brain structure, how the brain uses fuel, sugar, and how the proteins are being deposited or not deposited and finally looking at spinal fluid and blood chemistry. A whole bunch of out comes.

Ted Simons: the plaque in the brain can that be looked at? Can you see that?

Pierre Tariot: Thanks to work done at banner and by my colleague Eric Reimann and the rest of the team, that technology now exists. So we're looking to see if we can prevent that from happening.

Ted Simons: any side effects with this drug?

Pierre Tariot: The reason we chose this one is that it seems to be remarkably safe and well tolerated. So far in tests with people there have not been any major adverse events. Never say never. We have to be very scrupulous in following people, but it looks promising in that regard.

Ted Simons: So when you begin to administer the shots, at what age do you start?

Pierre Tariot: We're starting in Colombia in folks age 30 and above who are in these families. That puts them within 10 to 15 years of developing the usual symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Obviously there will be people older who will also be enrolled and they will be even closer.

Ted Simons: Well, -- will there be people enrolled who have symptoms already?

Pierre Tariot: No. This study will focus on people who are cognitively healthy. The whole idea is can we block these devastating manifestations from happening in the first place.

Ted Simons: That's got to be tough for some of the folks, especially with early onset to think there's a test but they can't be part of it.

Pierre Tariot: there are treatment studies going on all over the world for people already affected including with this therapy. There isn't one at the moment in Colombia.

Ted Simons: The cost. What cost are we looking at here?

Pierre Tariot: North of $100 million.

Ted Simons: my goodness. Where is the money coming from?

Pierre Tariot: So banner health has a foundation on behalf of the banner Alzheimer's institute and some remarkable donors have banded together to provide about $15 million in support to help make sure that this is handled in a particular way. Yesterday the government announced $16 million grant through the national institutes of health. The rest of the tab will be coming from our wonderful pharmaceutical partner, GENENTEC in San Francisco.

Ted Simons: maker of the drug.

Pierre Tariot: maker of the drug.

Ted Simons: The tests will start when?

Pierre Tariot: Well, the planning started four years ago. The grant writing has been ongoing. The planning has been intense. We now go through a period of very, very rigorous government approval. That will take many months. We hope to start treating the first individuals within a year or so.

Ted Simons: And it sounds like this could be somewhat open ended. Is it an open-ended test? Do you know how long this will last? If someone is not developing -- when do you know they won't develop symptoms with this drug?

Pierre Tariot: We actually think that we can get an initial read after each person has been treated for as little as two years. We're going to take a preliminary look then. We're quite confident that by the time people have been treated for five years we'll definitely know whether we're on to something or whether we should bark up another tree.

Ted Simons: last question here. From a distance, this sounds remarkable. This sounds like an opportunity literally of a lifetime. You say this is a big deal. How big a deal this is?

Pierre Tariot: This is unprecedented, something like this has never been attempted before. It definitely puts Arizona on the map. Puts banner on the map. We're very excited about the possibilities and we're also very humbled at the responsibility that we face.

Ted Simons: it's a very encouraging report. We'll keep an eye on it and hope to have you back soon. Thanks for joining us.

Pierre Tariot: Thank you very much.

PHX Sky Train Testing

  |   Video
  • The automated and elevated train that will shuttle passengers around Sky Harbor Airport took its first test run this week. We’ll have an update on progress of the PHX Sky Train.
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: phoenix, sky harbor, international, ariport, train, ,

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Ted Simons: The sky train at Sky Harbor had its first test run this week. The electrically powered people mover will start moving people between the light-rail and terminal 4 early next year. Here to talk about the train is Sky Harbor's Julie Rodriguez. good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Julie Rodriguez: Thank you.

Ted Simons: A brief overview of what the sky train is.

Julie Rodriguez: It will transport passengers to terminal 4. It will run 24 hours a day and be free of charge. It will stop as often as every three minutes.

Ted Simons: every three minutes.

Julie Rodriguez: That's right. By early 2015 it will serve all three terminals. It will go to terminal 3 with a moving walkway to terminal 2.

Ted Simons: Right now these trains are entirely automated?

Julie Rodriguez: That's right. They run on an electrically powered center rail with a central control room.

Ted Simons: are they air conditioned?

Julie Rodriguez: They are air conditioned.

Ted Simons: As far as the testing, what was tested? We're seeing it moving along there. How fast will these things go?

Julie Rodriguez: When they are open and running and serving passengers they will go 35 miles per hour. In the first stages of testing, they are going about three miles per hour.

Ted Simons: Three miles an hour.

Julie Rodriguez: That's right. In the beginning.

Ted Simons: Are they going directly the entire loop, going from the light-rail to T-4?

Julie Rodriguez: They will be. Testing began between the east economy parking station and the maintenance facility. Eventually the train cars will run the entire length of the guide way between light-rail east economy parking and terminal 4. The first two months of testing you'll see an operator on board, then the operator will come off and they will be tested for many, many months in automated mode. They will be fully automated without a driver when the system is up and running.

Ted Simons: like the way light-rail was. A little action, a little more activity and it increases as time goes on?

Julie Rodriguez: Absolutely, yes.

Ted Simons: when can I go ride on them?

Julie Rodriguez: Early 2013.

Ted Simons: Going to be a big grand opening?

Julie Rodriguez: Oh, you bet.

Ted Simons: Again, you can take light-rail to 44th street, get off at 44th street, get on that sky train and get to terminal 4 just like that.

Julie Rodriguez: That's right will be very seamless. Currently you it take light-rail to the airport. 44th and Washington. Then a free shuttle into the airport. When the train opens in early 2013 it will be so seamless. You'll go up an escalator or elevator, take a moving walkway across Washington and be on the sky train platform. You'll board the train and it will be five mince to terminal 4.

Ted Simons: Are the outside areas air conditioned at all?

Julie Rodriguez: The 44th street and Washington station will be air conditioned. The east economy station will be open air with Sand and shade but you won't be on that platform very long. The terminal 4 station will be air conditioned.

Ted Simons: this goes to terminal 4 now. When does it extend over to terminal 3?

Julie Rodriguez: It extends to terminal three by early 2015 with a moving walkway to terminal 2, all the way to the rental car center by 20/20.

Ted Simons: this has a ways to go.

Julie Rodriguez: Yes. I wanted to mention another amenity. You can check your luggage and get a boarding pass at those sky train stations. When you arrive at terminal 4 if you have your luggage checked and boarding pass you just walk right to the checkpoint.

Ted Simons: how much does this thing cost?

Julie Rodriguez: All three stages, all the way to the rental car center, will be $1.5 billion No. Local tax dollars are being used to build the sky train. It's all airport fees. Airport user fees.

Ted Simons: this is user fee, tickets, rental cars, the whole nine yards?

Julie Rodriguez: The airport pays for itself. The people who use the airport pay for the rental cars, the restaurants.

Ted Simons: Testing increases as time goes on. Are they looking for anything specifically?

Julie Rodriguez: This is an incredibly high-tech system manufactured and is being operated by BOMBARDIER. It's the most high-tech system yet for bombarder and they are testing every single component. It takes months to make sure everything is thoroughly tested.

Ted Simons: They are moving slowly but every single aspect is being examined.

Julie Rodriguez: Absolutely. You'll see them moving for many months and wonder Ycan't I get on that? It's the testing phase. In early 2013 you'll be able to board and ride free of charge.

Ted Simons: how many passengers per train do you think?

Julie Rodriguez: Each is designed to hold 53 passengers with their luggage. They will be in configurations of two and three cars.

Ted Simons: So during the peak times we could see like we do with light-rail two, three-train connections.

Julie Rodriguez: Yes. During peak periods it will stop at each station as frequently as every three mince.

Ted Simons: wow. So so far, so good.

Julie Rodriguez: Absolutely. On time, on budget.

Ted Simons: all right. Can't ask for much more than that. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Julie Rodriguez: Thank you.

South Mountain Freeway/Gila River Indian Community

  |   Video
  • Gila River Indian Community members voted down a plan to put the South Mountain (Loop 202) freeway expansion on the reservation. Now, a group of Gila River residents are collecting signatures to try to force another vote. Joseph Perez and Nathaniel Percharo explain why the want a new election.
  • Joseph Perez
  • Nathaniel Percharo
Category: Community   |   Keywords: Gila, river, community, freeway, mountain, south, ,

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Ted Simons: The Gila river Indian community may be voting on a plan to build the south mountain freeway on tribal land -- again. This after tribal members voted against a freeway plan in February. But a group of Gila river landowners has gathered signatures requesting a new election. Here to explain why they want another vote is Joseph Perez, a Gila river resident and the partner in a company that wants to develop privately owned reservation land near the proposed route. And Gila river landowner Nathaniel Percharo, who is leading the effort to collect petition signatures. good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Joseph Perez: Thank you for having us.

Ted Simons: Why do you want to vote again on this?

Joseph Perez: Well, I think the real reason that we want to vote on it is primarily to try to save south mountain. As a community member and as a developer with allotted land,ed landowner's first mission is to save south mountain, be good neighbors, and help the people in Ahwatukee so their homes don't get destroyed, school doesn't get destroyed, church doesn't get destroyed. That's the real drive.

Ted Simons: To be clear, the Pecos road and we'll have tribal land for abbreviated purposes, Pecos road, that particular route goes on to south mountain, correct?

Joseph Perez: It would go down Pecos road, destroy homes, a church, school, cut through south mountain.

Ted Simons: Okay. On tribal land it does not?

Joseph Perez: It would not. It wouldn't destroy any homes. It wouldn't destroy south mountain. It would go around it.

Ted Simons: How else do these two routes differ? These two plans?

Joseph Perez: They differ by probably less than a quarter mile. Then they differ significantly in terms of budget that state would expend. Those are really the biggest differences.

Ted Simons: Why do you think this needs to be voted on again?

Nathaniel Percharo: Well, I think you have a lot of allotted land below Pecos road at the present time. What they are going to do is develop that land by routing it some other way would help the reservation as a whole and I think that's why they are looking to see if possibly they can get back on the ballot to vote on it to bring a lot of these issues up. They were never brought up.

Ted Simons: why weren't they brought up? Isn't it the responsibilities of both sides to clarify the issue for voters?

Nathaniel Percharo: It should have been but it wasn't.

Ted Simons: How come?

Nathaniel Percharo: I can't explain. I don't know.

Ted Simons: can you explain why?

Joseph Perez: I can't tell you specifically why. I just know that initially the community government had an on-reservation and off-reservation. The no build group got a no build option on the ballot. It wasn't communicated clearly to community groups and landowners. They voiced that concern after the vote when those people who voted no build didn't realize that the freeway was going to be built no matter what. They honestly believed if they vote nod build the freeway wouldn't be built. They were misled.

Ted Simons: I'm trying to figure out where the other side was to tell them no build doesn't mean not going to get built.

Nathaniel Percharo: True. They weren't there at all. They got the wrong impression. Residents say that if you vote no build, that means everything would go away. I think that's what everybody was led to believe, which wasn't true.

Ted Simons: is it possible that people just simply did not want a freeway on tribal land?

Nathaniel Percharo: No, I don't think so. As many people as I have talked to, I think they should have heard both sides according to who I have talked to. They are saying we would like to hear both sides now. Vote a simple yes or no.

Ted Simons: Is that how you see it as well? We had a vote and there was a result of a vote.

Joseph Perez: ultimately yes, there was a vote. If you looked at the vote, the on reservation vote as opposed to off reservation vote was 5-1 in favor of a freeway on reservation. The no build, which had the majority of votes, won the election but those people that had a choice of yes or no, it was clear that they wanted the freeway on the reservation in a 5-1 margin.

Ted Simons: so you began to collect signatures how soon after the election?

Joseph Perez: the landowners, my development company that have partners with Christi and Steven, we have landowner meetings about every other month N. February we had a meeting. That's when the landowners decided they wanted to try to save the mountain and help the people of Ahwatukee. That's when they decided to do the signature gathering.

Ted Simons: people hear landowners want another vote, they wonder do the landowners have an interesting? Do you have an interest in that?

Joseph Perez: The landowners have an interest. PANGEA, it really doesn't matter in terms of development whether it's a quarter mile on Pecos road or through the allotted lands, from our perspective as a developer, we could figure things differently because if a freeway runs through the land from a development standpoint there's not that significant of a difference. From a landowner perspective, there's individual people who would benefit more, but once again, I can honestly tell you every landowner I have talked to are more concerned about saving the mountain and being a good neighbor. Because that's what the freeway is going to do now and they don't want that.

Ted Simons: how do you convince folks this isn't just about trying to get a better position for some land own nears terms of -- could be a quarter mile but it could make a lot of difference for some folks.

Nathaniel Percharo: yes. I think a lot of people we have talked to understand the same thing that Mr. Perez is stating there, that they are in favor of trying to save that mountain because if it goes through the mountain they told us it would be about 14 stories high. So who would want something like that in their backyard? So that was why we looked at it. Not because maybe what the no build people were trying to state and everything like that, but the normal person would like to see that mountain stay put.

Ted Simons: there are some stipulations it sounds like you'd like to see as far as a deal through tribal land. The idea of no trucks on 51st avenue. Was that mentioned?

Joseph Perez: That was part of what the landowners wanted in terms of over all initiative. Currently on 51st avenue, which is the main street, district 6, which is residential, the truck traffic there is amazing. Nathaniel can probably speak more specifically to that because that's where he's from, but they wanted truck traffic stopped from going through that residential area.

Nathaniel Percharo: Yes, that's what the general outlook of all the people. Right now on 51st avenue, our rigs, whatever you want to call it, they have an accident there probably twice a week. Some of them are very, very bad. Some turn into fatalities. It's mostly trucks and heavy traffic coming through there. A lot of the traffic that's coming through 91st avenue and coming through 51st.

Ted Simons: All right, quickly before we go, was there a deadline as far as submissions for signatures?

Joseph Perez: There's no deadline for the landowners to submit the signatures. Once the signatures are submitted and verified by the community, council has 120 days to either approve the initiative or put it to a vote for the community.

Ted Simons: we have to stop there. Good conversation. Thanks for joining us.