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Manchester Secures Alliance with AstraZeneca

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The University of Manchester signed a translational research collaboration with AstraZeneca in a number of therapeutic areas, including cancer, inflammatory disease, diabetes, and obesity.

The agreement, which consolidates a number of existing collaborations between university researchers and the pharmaceutical firm, has a very strong informatics component, according to University of Manchester officials. “We’re trying to provide the glue between academia, health service, and industry,” says Iain Buchan, director of the Northwest Institute for Bio-Health Informatics at the University of Manchester. 

The goal of the effort, Buchan says, is to “bring together the different scales of informatics — to link the bioinformatics to the health informatics, to enable us to use patient data more effectively, and to feed in the advances in functional biological analysis to areas of medical research quickly.”

Buchan identified three principal scales that the effort will address: molecular, clinical, and population.

“There might be some studies [in which] you want to look at molecular [properties] at a population level, for which we can’t handle that volume of data efficiently, and we need to develop mechanisms where we can handle that volume of data,” he says. “Particularly when we’ve got a mixture of special collection data and routinely collected data.”

The agreement is expected to advance translational research through a tighter integration between these different scales. “The translation is between the lab and the clinical problem, between different research groups, between industrial and academic, and between different scales of research,” he says.

“In terms of population studies, the old model is for specifically funded research projects that are completely separate from routine care. But the future is capturing a lot of data from routine care that is relevant to understanding exactly how safe and effective particular medicines are, and where new developments need to expand,” he says.

— Bernadette Toner

PATENT WATCH

US Patent 7,058,650. Methods for establishing a pathways database and performing pathway searches. Inventors: Yonghong Yang, John Tillinghast, and Christopher Piercy.  Issued: June 6, 2006.

This patent covers “a computerized storage and retrieval system for storing biological information organized as a protein pathways database and methods for performing pathway searches on nodes (proteins or other molecules), modes (interactions), and nodes-and-modes,” according to its abstract. The database can integrate data for “protein sequence, genomic sequence, gene-expression, protein interactions, protein-protein association and [pathways].”

US Patent 7,068,830. Method and system for providing a probe array chip design database. Inventors: David Balaban, Earl Hubbell, Michael Mittman, Gloria Cheung, and Josie Dai. Assignee: Affymetrix. Issued: June 27, 2006.

This covers “systems and [a] method for organizing information relating to the design of polymer probe array chips including oligonucleotide array chips,” according to its abstract. This patent claims a relational database that includes a probe table and sequence item table with records “wherein there is a many-to-many relationship” between them.

SHORT READS

GeneGo will integrate its MetaCore 4.0 data-mining platform with Elsevier's suite of databases to offer access to chemical and biological data.

BioWisdom has extended its relationship with AstraZeneca to build intelligent networks. The two companies have been working together for two years.

Genedata will combine its computational systems for genomics data management and analysis with Insilico’s pathway simulation tools as part of a systems biology collaboration. The alliance will focus on the fine chemical, food, feed, and personal care markets.

Rosetta Biosoftware announced that the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, has licensed its Rosetta Resolver gene expression analysis software. The UNL Center for Biotechnology will use the software to study plant gene expression and regulation, including gene regulatory networks in Arabidopsis and chromatin-remodeling events that influence gene expression.

IBM is collaborating with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey to launch “Help Defeat Cancer,” which will use IBM’s World Community Grid to analyze cancer tissue microarrays.

Sequenom tapped Tata Consultancy Services to develop software products to help its customers identify and analyze genetic data.

DATAPOINT

£500,000

Amount the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council allocated to launch a series of courses entitled “Proteomics and e-Science Training.”

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