Henry M. Gunn High School Student a Finalist in Biotechnology Research Competition

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif – April 25, 2011 – Elliott Akama-Garren, a senior at Henry M. Gunn High School, has been named a finalist in the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge. Ten U.S. National finalists will be selected to join students from Canada and Australia to compete in the International BioGENEius Challenge.  The U.S. National and International BioGENEius Challenges are competitions for high school students who demonstrate an exemplary understanding of biotechnology through science research projects.

Akama-Garren is one of three finalists who won the Bay Area BioGENEius Challenge competition;Jennifer Chen from San Jose and Revanth Kosaraju from Saratoga, are the other finalists.  The competition was held on April 20 at the BayBio 2011 Annual Conference in Burlingame.  The BayBio Institute competition included students from the Bay Area.

Akama-Garren’s project, titled From Cancer to Autoimmune Disease: Selective Tyrosine Kinase Inhibition for the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis identified a treatment to minimize infections for patients with Multiple Sclerosis.

Chen’s project, titled Massively Parallel DNA Sequencing-based Human Identification, was intended to reduce the backlog of forensic DNA samples that is impeding the criminal justice system.

Kosaraju’s project, titled A Novel Perfusion-Based Protocol For Decellularization of Adipose Tissue on a Bioreactor sought to develop a novel perfusion-based protocol to decellularize adipose tissue on a bioreactor.

All three students will now advance to the U.S. National BioGENEius Challenge and have a chance to compete at the International BioGENEius Challenge competition, which will be held June 27, 2011 at the 2011 Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International Conventionin Washington, D.C.  The BIO International Convention is the largest global event for the biotechnology industry attracting between 14,000 and 20,000 attendees each year.  The convention attracts the biggest names in biotech, offers key networking and partnering opportunities and provides insights and inspiration on the major trends affecting the industry.  Winners of the competition will be announced at the June 28thkeynote luncheon.

The International BioGENEius Challenge is organized by the Biotechnology Institute, the national organization dedicated to biotechnology education, and sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group, a leading global pharmaceutical company, and Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. (J&JPRD), one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

“Surveys continue to show that U.S. students lag behind the rest of the world in math and science,” notes Damian Braga, President of Sanofi Pasteur US and Vice President, the Americas.  “Science-based corporations need to do all we can to encourage and support young students’ interest in the sciences, and this competition is one way to do that.”

“There continues to be  immense potential in the future of the biotechnology industry,” says Jay P. Siegel, M.D., Chief Biotechnology Officer and Head, Global Regulatory Affairs, J&JPRD. “As a science-based organization, our goal is to nurture the biotech leaders of tomorrow.”

At the Local, U.S. National and International competitions, students are evaluated on the quality of their research and display, as well as on their responses to questions relating to their scientific knowledge and potential commercial applications of their research.

“For more than 15 years, the aim of the International BioGENEius Challenge has been to engage, excite and educate students about biotechnology and its immense potential for solving human health, food and environmental problems,” says Tom Wiggans, Chairman of The Biotechnology Institute.  “By highlighting the amazing research of these students, we hope to encourage other students to consider pursuing a career in biotechnology.”

At the BIO International Convention, the panel of judges will include scientists, researchers, educators and key members of the biotechnology industry and academia. Judges will select the top four winners from 14 U.S. National, Western Australia, and Canada finalists.  The first place winner of the BioGENEius Challenge will receive $7,500; second place will receive $5,000; third place will receive $2,500 and fourth place will receive $1,000.  Each remaining participant will receive an honorable mention award and $500.

The International BioGENEius Challenge, which emerged from the Sanofi Pasteur (then called Connaught) BioGENEius Challenge, was launched at the first BIO International Convention in 1994.  Today, the initiative has grown in both national and international prominence.

Sanofi Pasteurhas supported the BioGENEius Challenge since its inception. In addition to Sanofi Pasteur and J&JPRD, additional support for the BioGENEius Challenge is provided by International Sponsors Genentech and Amgen and U.S. National Sponsors Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inspire Pharmaceuticals and Sangamo BioSciences.


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About the Biotechnology Institute

The Biotechnology Institute is an independent, national nonprofit organization dedicated to education about the present and future impact of biotechnology.  Its mission is to engage, excite and educate the public, particularly students and teachers, about biotechnology and its immense potential for solving human health, food and environmental problems.  For more information, visit


About Sanofi Pasteur

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group, is a world leader in the vaccine industry offering a broad range of vaccines protecting against infectious diseases.  For more information, please visitwww.sanofipasteur.comor

 About Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. and Janssen
At Janssen we are dedicated to addressing and solving some of the most important unmet medical needs of our time in oncology, immunology, neuroscience, infectious diseases and vaccines, and cardiovascular  and metabolic diseases. Driven by our commitment to patients, we develop innovative products, services and healthcare solutions to help people throughout the world. Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. is one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.