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Markers/Short Reads: Nov 1, 2005

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NSF announced that 19 grants totaling $59.7 million had been awarded through its Plant Genome Research Program. The grants, which range from two to five years in length, are worth between $622,000 and $7.7 million each and support research and tools related to economically important crop plants, as well as uncovering the details of the genetic control of plant processes such as seed growth and disease resistance.

Invitrogen will acquire molecular probe providers Quantum Dot and the BioPixels business unit of BioCrystal. Details of the acquisitions were not disclosed. In other news, Invitrogen announced that it struck a deal with Georgia Tech Research to exclusively license nanocluster technology.

Applied Biosystems and Promega have settled their litigation about PCR technology. Promega originally sued Hoffman-La Roche and Applera, but the case was dismissed. Promega and Applera had filed appeals which have since been withdrawn.

Qiagen has teamed up with the Institut Curie to develop high-throughput RNA interference screening tools. The collaboration is part of Institut Curie’s BioPhenics project, which aims to combine RNAi technology and phenotypic analysis for cancer research. Qiagen will contribute siRNA design and its delivery reagent.

NCI gave a four-year, $1.7 million grant to NimbleGen, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and Iceland Genomics to map regulatory pathways in cancer. NimbleGen will work with the Ludwig Institute to develop new ChIP-on-chip technology to map transcription factor binding sites, and Iceland Genomics will provide samples from its clinical cancer database.

PerkinElmer will sell its aerospace, semiconductor, and fluid-testing businesses in an effort to shift its strategic focus to the health sciences and photonic markets. The company said it expects to gain a total of $400 million from the sale of the three businesses.

The Windber Institute has made some new friends and lost some old. Following the promotion of Michael Liebman to executive director, Richard Mural, previously director of scientific content and analysis at Celera Genomics, joined as chief scientific officer. Michael Dunn, a retired brigadier general, became the institute’s first chief medical officer. Meanwhile, Richard Somiari has left his post as COO to found his own company, Integrated Technologies & Services International.

Evan Steeg, former president and CEO of Molecular Mining, has become a contractor for senior strategy and business development at CMC Microsystems, a nonprofit corporation looking to go further into healthcare and life science applications and partnerships.

In a five-year alliance, Fisher Biosciences will work with researchers at the University of Michigan to develop new tools for genomics and proteomics. Fisher will provide financial support for projects at the Center for Chemical Genomics, a new unit that is part of Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute. Technology areas of interest include high-throughput screening and detection, protein expression, and bioinformatics.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute has won a $9 million grant from the Phoenix-based nonprofit Flinn Foundation, bringing the foundation’s total investment in TGen to $25 million. The money will go toward accelerating research discoveries across various disease areas. Meanwhile, MaryAnn Guerra has been promoted to COO of the institute.

Jay Short resigned as Diversa’s president and CEO and stepped down from the company’s board. Edward Shonsey, executive veep of internal development, will serve as interim CEO.

ISB President Lee Hood is writing a textbook on systems biology targeted at undergraduate students. The book, from Roberts and Company Publishers, is expected out in September 2006. Hood’s co-writers include Greg Dewey, David Galas, Ruth Veres, and John Wilson.

Predicant Biosciences received $7.5 million in debt financing from Hercules Technology Growth Capital. Predicant, based in South San Francisco, will use the financing to develop and market protein biomarker technology for diagnostic tests.

As part of Alpha Innotech’s reverse merger with Xtrana, Haseeb Chaudhry becomes CEO of the merged company, Alpha Innotech. Darryl Ray will be president, COO, and acting CFO.

Detroit R&D won $850,000 in phase I and II Small Business Innovation Research awards from NIH to fund production of antibodies and to develop antibody microarrays that will screen drug-metabolizing enzymes.

David Gelfand, vice president of the discovery research division and director of the program in core research for Roche Molecular Systems, has retired. He was based at Roche Molecular in Alameda, Calif.

When Hurricane Rita looked like it was set to wreak havoc on Texas, Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center prepared by shutting down its sequencing instruments and evacuating. Just a few days later, the center was back up and running, but some 350,000 sequencing reactions were delayed due to the interruption.

The Scan

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.

Analysis of Endogenous Parvoviral Elements Found Within Animal Genomes

Researchers at PLOS Biology have examined the coevolution of endogenous parvoviral elements and animal genomes to gain insight into using the viruses as gene therapy vectors.

Saliva Testing Can Reveal Mosaic CNVs Important in Intellectual Disability

An Australian team has compared the yield of chromosomal microarray testing of both blood and saliva samples for syndromic intellectual disability in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.