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Millennium's Custom Microarrays, Germany's Investment in Genomics, Pontificating About Peer Review


In the November issue published a decade ago, Genome Technology profiled Michael Pavia — then-chief technology officer of Millennium Pharmaceuticals — and examined his efforts to accelerate drug development. At the time, Pavia had recently hired Helen Han, a former Toyota employee who had no knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, hoping she would bring a fresh perspective to the firm. Together, he and Han looked to improve Millennium's chemical optimization operations and clinical trials with custom microarrays, which the firm began to build in-house. Craig Muir, former vice president of process technology, told GT in 2000 that once Millennium broke into custom array design, "we realized that our technique was more reproducible and slightly more sensitive than any other method out there." As of May 2008, Millennium operates as a wholly owned, independent subsidiary of Takeda Pharmaceutical. Pavia is now an entrepreneur-in-residence at Oxford Bioscience Partners, a Boston venture capital firm, and Muir is a partner at another Boston VC company, Third Rock Ventures.

GT's November/December 2005 issue examined Germany's investment in genomics research. At the time, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research was pumping funds into various projects, including the National Genome Research Network (NGFN), the Functional Genome Analysis within the Animal Organism, and GenoMik — a program dedicated to microorganisms — among others. The NGFN has been incorporated into the ministry's Program of Medical Genome Research, and will be funded through 2013. In 2008, German researchers established GabiPD, a public database of information gleaned from federally funded Genome Analysis of the Biological System of Plants project. Funding for GenoMik ceased in 2006, but GenoMik Plus — an extension focused on sequencing, annotation, bioinformatic, and proteomic analyses — was funded through 2009.

Last year at this time, GT tackled peer review — from grant applications to journal submissions — and sought expert opinion from University of Washington's Ferric Fang and others on how to best fix it. Fang called the National Institutes of Health's Enhanced Peer Review initiative "an essentially cosmetic reform" in a 2009 paper. Since implementing streamlined grant applications in January, NIH has begun what it calls its "continuous review of peer review."

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