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Invitrogen, Cellartis, Qiagen, Nasdaq, Agilent, Affymetrix, Epigenomics, European Patent Office, CombiMatrix, Macrogen

Invitrogen, Cellartis to Collaborate on Stem Cell Lines

Invitrogen announced this week that it will collaborate with Swedish firm Cellartis on the development of engineered human embryonic stem cell (hESC) reporter lines.

The firms said the collaboration would combine Invitrogen's cell biology, labeling and detection, and cell culture tools with Cellartis' expertise in deriving and growing hESC lines. According to the partners, the collaboration would provide researchers with a visual readout for tracking stem cell differentiation into different lineages and enable them to study multiple genes involved in differentiation pathways, without having to sacrifice the cells.

Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Qiagen Shares to Trade on Nasdaq Global Select Market

Shares of Qiagen will trade on the new Nasdaq Global Select Market beginning July 3, the company said this week.

The Global Select Market is the highest tier of the new three-tier system being implemented next week by Nasdaq. The other two tiers are the Nasdaq Global Market and the Nasdaq Capital Market.

The Global Select Market has the highest initial listing standards of any exchange in the world based on financial and liquidity requirements, according to Qiagen and Nasdaq.

Other BCW Index firms that will trade on the Global Select Market include Invitrogen, Molecular Devices, and Sigma-Aldrich. Molecular biology tool firms Affymetrix and Serologicals, which is being acquired by Millipore, also will trade on the market.

Qiagen also announced this week that CEO Peer Schatz would ring the opening bell for Nasdaq on Thursday, June 29, commemorating the firm's 10th anniversary of listing on Nasdaq. Qiagen's shares also trade on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Agilent Completes Stock Buyback Ahead of Schedule

Agilent Technologies has completed a $4.5 billion stock repurchase program ahead of schedule, the company said last week.

Agilent acquired approximately 125 million shares of its common stock under the program. The company expects to report approximately 430 million average shares outstanding on a fully diluted basis during its third-quarter ending July 30.

Agilent's board of directors authorized the buyback program on Aug. 15, 2005, along with the sale of its semiconductor-related business. The buyback was projected to be completed by the end of this year.

Affymetrix Licenses Array Technology to Epigenomics

Affymetrix granted Epigenomics non-exclusive access to its microarray technology to develop microarray-based in vitro diagnostic tests for oncology, Epigenomics said this week.

Epigenomics said the agreement complements its strategic alliance with Qiagen for sample preparation, announced last year.

Epigenomics will use the technologies to develop a platform for pathology tests based on its proprietary DNA methylation methods. Epigenomics will first develop pathology tests in prostate and breast cancer, the company said.

The company plans to transfer its molecular classification test for prostate cancer onto the Affymetrix platform to use it in clinical trials for FDA approval of the assay, scheduled to start next year.

European Patent Office Limits Scope of Kreutzer-Limmer RNAi Patent

The European Patent Office narrowed the scope of the Kreutzer-Limmer RNAi patent claim after a number of companies objected, Sirna Therapeutics, one of the objecters, said last week.

The patent, which is owned by RNAi drug company Alnylam, now only covers methods of making and using double-stranded RNA with lengths and structures of limited use as RNAi-based therapeutics, according to Sirna. The decision will also substantially limit the commercial utility of that patent.

The chemical structures now covered under the patent "are obsolete and essentially ineffective as viable RNAi-based therapeutics," said Bharat Chowrira, Sima's chief patent counsel. With the limitation, the Kreutzer-Limmer patent no longer provides "any meaningful intellectual property protection in the field of RNAi-based therapeutics," he said.

Granted in mid-2002, the patent, EP 1144623/WO 0044895, covers an invention made by founders of the German RNAi company Ribopharma and became part of Alnylam's IP estate when the two companies merged in July 2003.

The patent specifically covers "a medicament containing at least one double-stranded oligonucleotide (dsRNA) designed to inhibit the expression of a target gene." According to BioCommerce Week sister publication RNAi News, the patent's abstract notes that in the invention, "at least one strand of the dsRNA is at least in part complimentary to the target gene."

In 2003 eight parties — Sirna Therapeutics, Atugen, Aventis Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceutica, AstraZeneca, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, and Munich-based patent attorney Martin Grund — joined to oppose it in Europe. Grund and Isis have since withdrawn their opposition.

CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics to Launch Service in US in August

CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics this week said it plans to launch its first molecular diagnostic service in the US in August.

The service uses CMDX's Constitutional Genetic Array Test, which can genetically identify more than 50 "common" genetic disorders, including developmental disorders. The service is already sold in Europe through Paris-based Array Genomics.

CMDX said it's in the "final phases" of internal human and clinical validation.

In March, CMDX and Array Genomics said they plan to co-develop and co-market a series of comparative genomic hybridization microarrays for diagnosing genetic anomalies associated with mental retardation.

Matt Watson, CEO of CMDX, said the subsidiary is "actively developing further tests based on both our oligo and BAC capabilities that augment our microarray portfolio and over the next three quarters, we have plans to launch three to five additional products into the molecular diagnostics market."

Macrogen to Manufacture, Distribute CombiMatrix CustomArrays in Korea

CombiMatrix said this week that it has entered into a manufacturing and distribution agreement with Korean biotechnology firm Macrogen.

Specifically, Macrogen will use CombiMatrix CustomArray Synthesizers to develop and sell CustomArrays into Korea, and to offer other services based on the arrays, CombiMatrix said.

Seoul-based Macrogen's core businesses include DNA sequence analysis, biochip manufacture and research, and production of genetically engineered mice. It is also one of 11 worldwide members of Applied Biosystems' Advanced Gene Expression Service Provider Program.

CombiMatrix said that the deal underscores its strategy of establishing manufacturing and distribution relationships with regional companies to enable them to manufacture arrays onsite for their local markets.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

The Scan

Genetic Tests Lead to Potential Prognostic Variants in Dutch Children With Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Researchers in Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine found that the presence of pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants was linked to increased risk of death and poorer outcomes in children with pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy.

Fragile X Syndrome Mutations Found With Comprehensive Testing Method

Researchers in Clinical Chemistry found fragile X syndrome expansions and other FMR1 mutations with ties to the intellectual disability condition using a long-range PCR and long-read sequencing approach.

Team Presents Strategy for Speedy Species Detection in Metagenomic Sequence Data

A computational approach presented in PLOS Computational Biology produced fewer false-positive species identifications in simulated and authentic metagenomic sequences.

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.