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Invitrogen, ABI, Xenex, BD, Scanalytics, Tm Bioscience, CombiMatrix, NCI, Synthetic Genomics

Invitrogen Is First Licensee Under ABI's
Expanded PCR Licensing Program

Applied Biosystems has granted the first license under its new expanded PCR-licensing program to Invitrogen, ABI said this week.

The expanded program includes patents for real-time PCR and other PCR-related technology not licensed under Applied Biosystems' previous PCR-licensing program, the company said.

Paul Grossman, vice president of strategic planning, business development, and intellectual property at Applied Biosystems, said in a statement that Invitrogen has been ABI's "largest PCR licensee," and that the company intends to negotiate similar licenses with other interested parties.

ABI expanded its PCR licensing agreement with Roche in May (see BioCommerce Week 5/12/2005), following the settlement of long-standing litigation between the firms, and the expiration of several of Roche's core PCR patents in March. Under the expanded agreement, ABI is the sole licensor of Roche patents covering reagents and methods for practicing PCR and real-time PCR in the life science research and applied fields.

ABI's expanded PCR licensing program includes licenses to its PCR-based TaqMan assay and its Dye-Intercalation Assay method. It also includes patents covering a form of the Taq polymerase enzyme called AmpliTaq Gold that is used to initiate PCR.

Separate from this agreement, Applied Biosystems said it plans to offer licenses to manufacture probes for the TaqMan method and service licenses for these new technologies.

ABI, Xennex Agree to Make TaqMan Assays
Available via GeneCards Database

Applied Biosystems said this week that it will make its TaqMan genomic assays available through the GeneCards database of human genes, which is commercially available through Xennex.

Under the terms of agreement, ABI will provide customers of GeneCards, which was developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science, access to its collection of nearly three million TaqMan genomic assays.

The information in GeneCards is expected to be useful for researchers studying genes of interest in the context of functional genomics and genetic variation, including gene expression studies, SNP screening, association, candidate region, candidate gene, and fine-mapping studies.

BD's Atto Bioscience to Acquire Scanalytics for $453K

IT vendor CSP has sold the assets of its Scanalytics subsidiary to Becton Dickinson business Atto Bioscience for $453,000 in cash, the company said last week.

Scanalytics, based in Fairfax, Va., markets scientific imaging software, including deconvolution and 3D restoration and gel analysis software. Atto Bioscience specializes in optical instrumentation, software, and reagents for real-time cell analysis.

The acquisition makes sense to BD. Most recently, BD Biosciences and Scanalytics signed an alliance to co-develop image-analysis software for BD Bioscience's automated microscopy platforms

Dietrich Ruehlmann, BD Biosciences' product manager for imaging and analysis, told GenomeWeb News at the time that BD began the partnership with Scanalytics a few months ago with the goal of developing image-analysis platforms for BD Biosciences' CARV II Confocal Imager and Pathway Bioimager for high-content drug screening.

Tm to Supply InterGenetics with
Reagents for Breast-Cancer Test

Tm Bioscience has signed a five-year, $7.5 million agreement to supply InterGenetics with custom Tag-It reagents for its OncoVue breast cancer-risk test, the companies said last week.

"With a potential market of over 30 million tests, growing at 2 million tests per year in the US alone, we needed to select a production technology which was scalable for very high throughput," Craig Shimasaki, president and CEO of Oklahoma City, Okla.-based InterGenetics, said in a statement. "Our OncoVue breast cancer risk test was actually designed and developed using the Tag-It universal array platform."

Tm said it plans to begin supplying products to InterGenetics in the second half of 2005. As InterGenetics completes clinical validation of additional genetic markers for ovarian and other cancers, "we anticipate expanding our agreement to include these new cancer risk assessment products," Greg Hines, president and CEO of Tm Bioscience, said in the statement.

The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 211,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, the statement added. Screening by mammography is recommended annually for women over 40 with an estimated 30 million mammograms performed each year on women between the ages of 40 and 64.

CombiMatrix in Dx Collaboration; Parent Raises Cash

CombiMatrix will combine its ElectroChemical Detection Technology with STMicroelectronics In-Check Lab-on-Chip platform to investigate their applications in the research and point-of-care diagnostics markets, the companies said last week.

Terms of the deal call for ST to provide undisclosed financial support to CombiMatrix in this work

ST's In-Check DNA amplification and analysis platform, when combined with CombiMatrix microarrays, may enable it to be "as sensitive, or more sensitive," than current fluorescent/optical detection techniques and provide a number of advantages over optical detection, the firms said.

Also last week, CombiMatrix's parent company Acacia Research said it plans to raise $2.9 million in a private placement of its Acacia Research-CombiMatrix common stock. The cash will go to Acacia's balance sheet, it will help fund CombiMatrix's entry into the molecular diagnostics market, and it will support the company's "long-term strategy" of developing new products for its CustomArray line, the company said in a statement.

Terms of the deal call for Acacia to sell 1,300,444 shares of its common stock at $2.25 per share to an undisclosed "select" group of institutional investors.

NCI Approves New $104M Proteomics Initiative

The National Cancer Institute's Board of Scientific Advisors has approved a five-year, $104 million budget for a new program aimed at optimizing current proteomic technologies.

The program, called the Clinical Proteomics Technologies Initiative, hopes to optimize current proteomic technologies by improving reproducibility, standardization of data formats, throughput capabilities, sample preparation and handling, sensitivity, and specificity.

In addition, the program aims to develop new technologies, reagents, systems, and working consortia to advance the field of cancer proteomics research. Funding for the program will be given out over five years.

According to Gregory Downing, the director of NCI's Office of Technology and Industrial Relations, the NCI will issue requests for applications and requests for proposals for the new program in the fall.

Venter Launches New Company, Hopes to
Synthesize Genome to Create Bacterium

Nearly four years after being shown the door at Celera Genomics and creating a family of nonprofits, Craig Venter has founded a new company that aims to create an organism from synthetically crafted and oriented genes.

The company, Synthetic Genomics, is in the process of building a "minimal genome" that can be inserted into the shell of a bacterium, in this case the 517-gene Mycoplasma genitalium, which scientists may eventually genetically engineer to perform specific industrial tasks.

Though the company is still developing the technology, and its applications are speculative, Venter suggests one potential application is in the production of alternate energy sources.

Synthetic Genomics builds on the success Venter and colleagues had two years ago after they synthesized a genome to create the bacteriophage phiX174. Though other researchers managed to build an organism from the genome up before Venter — in 2002, a team from the State University of New York at Stony Brook used off-the-shelf oligos to create poliovirus — Venter founded the new company to create the first man-made bacterium.

Synthetic Genomics' technology is still being developed. The company, based in Rockville, Md., is sponsoring and working with researchers from Venter's nonprofit, the J. Craig Venter Institute, to remove genes from M. genitalium "to identify the minimum set of genes necessary for an organism to survive in a controlled environment," according to the company's website.

Once that has been accomplished, Synthetic Genomics will attempt to synthesize the genome, "add the desired biological capabilities," and insert it into an environment "that allows metabolic activity and replication — the creation of a synthetic cell," the company said.

After designing and producing a synthetic chromosome — M. genitalium has just one — the team plans to develop a proof of concept in either of two bio-energy applications: hydrogen or ethanol.

Though the technology is still being developed, what is well-known is the way Venter's team was able to create the bacteriophage phiX174. As GenomeWeb News reported in 2003, researchers at what was at the time known as the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives used short oligonucleotides and adapted PCR into a technique called polymerase cycle assembly, or PCA, to build this genome in 14 days. Like PCR, PCA produces double-stranded gene sequences from single-stranded templates.

Researchers on that study included Ham Smith, who is now executive vice president and co-chief scientific officer at Synthetic Genomics, and Clyde Hutchison, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who is president of the company's scientific advisory board. Juan Enriquez, founding director of Harvard Business School's Life Sciences Project, is president.

At a 2003 press conference announcing results from that research, Venter stressed that his team would not commercialize PCA, nor would he file patents on it. "We'd rather wait till the next stage when there's a clear-cut application: for instance if we have something that produces hydrogen that might hold some value."

The Scan

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.

Study Reveals Potential Sex-Specific Role for Noncoding RNA in Depression

A long, noncoding RNA called FEDORA appears to be a sex-specific regulator of major depressive disorder, affecting more women, researchers report in Science Advances.

New mRNA Vaccines Offer Hope for Fighting Malaria

A George Washington University-led team has developed mRNA vaccines for malaria that appear to provide protection in mice, as they report in NPJ Vaccines.

Unique Germline Variants Found Among Black Prostate Cancer Patients

Through an exome sequencing study appearing in JCO Precision Oncology, researchers have found unique pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants within a cohort of Black prostate cancer patients.