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Markers/Short Reads: May 1, 2005


The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council announced a call for proposals to fund a second round of Centers for Integrative Systems Biology for up to £5 million apiece. Any UK university is eligible to apply, but universities that received funding from the first round are not expected to apply again.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is looking for comments and ideas on how NHLBI-supported resources in genetics, genomics, and proteomics can help investigators at institutions that serve people of minority ethnic backgrounds.

Michael Venuti joined Discovery Partners International as CSO. Venuti was previously a senior vice president at Celera Genomics.

Bruker BioSpin was due to install a 17.6-tesla NMR device at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., last month. The device, one of a few very powerful research magnets in the US, will be used for materials research, including medical applications.

Invitrogen, which was sued last December by a former employee for sexual harassment, announced that it would use a “learning management system” to automate and track sexual harassment training compliance.

Thermo Electron has acquired NITON, a company that provides portable X-ray analyzers, for $40.5 million in cash. NITON, based in Billerica, Mass., serves customers in a variety of fields, including manufacturing, quality control, environmental testing, and recycling.

Mike Evans, who has held senior administrative positions at Amersham Biosciences and Ascot Fine Chemicals, has been tapped to be CEO of Oxford Gene Technology, a post he is expected to take on mid-year.

CellCentric of Cambridge, UK, will use a £250,000 grant awarded by the Rainbow Seed Fund to help it participate in an epigenetics collaboration with Babraham Institute. CellCentric will use its discovery platform to develop products from proteins and small molecules related to cancer, and will receive exclusive rights to epigenetic-related intellectual property generated at the institute.

BASF and University of Barcelona spinoff Oryzon Genomics teamed up to co-develop technologies to help protect plants from pathogens. In the collaboration, BASF will get access to Oryzon’s custom DNA chips and bioinformatics tools.

Entrepreneur Ray Thurston has pledged $3 million to support three breast cancer research projects at the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

Bio-Rad Laboratories’ unsolicited, $82 million bid for BioSource International is low-balling the smaller company’s value, according to BioSource’s largest shareholder, Genstar Capital Partners. Bio-Rad CEO Norman Schwartz said the offer represented a significant premium above BioSource’s share price.

A research consortium funded by NHGRI and led by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said it discovered the largest gene deserts — located in chromosome 4 — known in the human genome. The team also found a stretch of 36,000 base pairs in chromosome 2 that could be the site of the fusion that merged that chromosome from two separate, smaller chromosomes.

The European Commission announced its plans for the Seventh Framework Program, a funding mechanism that spans the European Union and will run from 2007 to 2013. Its total budget will be approximately €73 billion and will cover nine thematic areas, ranging from health to space research to nanoscience.

Sydney Brenner received the 2005 UCSD/Merck Life Sciences Achievement Award, which comes with $25,000. Brenner, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in gene regulation and programmed cell death, is a distinguished professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Eran Aharonson became VP for computational life science research and development of Compugen. Aharonson joined the Tel Aviv-based company from Advanced Recognition Technologies, where he served as CEO.

Li-Cor Biosciences will give $1 million in Genomics Education Matching Funds to certain undergraduate colleges with fewer than 20,000 students to help them purchase the company’s gene sequencing instruments and software.

CuraGen CEO Jonathan Rothberg will be stepping down as soon as a replacement is found, the company said. Meanwhile, Richard Begley, former president of CuraGen subsidiary 454 Life Sciences, has joined Ensemble Discovery.

Genaissance Pharmaceuticals joined forces with ParAllele BioScience in a joint licensing and co-marketing agreement for ParAllele’s upcoming MegAllele DME-T assay panel, which will assay some 160 genes involved in drug metabolism and transport pathways.

IP Holdings, a business incubator in Suffern, NY, has founded Ryogen, a company that plans to commercialize applications for microarray manufacturing, gene testing, and more for XPNPEP2, a recently patented human gene.

Proteomic scientists Lance Liotta and Emanuel Petricoin will direct a collaboration to coordinate efforts across three translational research centers at George Mason University and Inova Health System.

The US FDA issued a concept paper on how drugs and accompanying diagnostics should be developed together. The paper represents the first step toward a formal guidance from the agency on what is being called “theranostics.” Comments will be solicited on the concept paper before a draft guidance is issued.

Ambion licensed technology for “armored RNA” technology, which helps to stabilize RNA by packaging it in bacteriophage coat proteins, to Cepheid for use in its in vitro diagnostic assays for infectious diseases and oncology.

If shareholders agree, Biotage expects to close a deal to buy Argonaut Technologies’ flash chromatography business for $21.2 million in cash. This deal includes more assets than the original plan, which was initially valued at $19.9 million in February.

Affymetrix is expanding an existing deal with BioMerieux, a diagnostics company based in Marcy L’Etoile, France. Under the previous deal, BioMerieux has rights to certain array technology to develop in vitro diagnostics for breast cancer; with this announcement, Affymetrix has included additional disease areas.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.