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Short Reads: May 1, 2004 (rev. 1)

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Rats! A month ago, the sequencing consortium responsible for the rat genome completed a high-quality draft sequence and also performed a comparative study of the rat genome against mouse and human. The project was led by the genome center at Baylor College of Medicine and included eight other organizations. Funding came from NHLBI and NHGRI, with each contributing close to $60 million.

 

Invitrogen acquires Protometrix, a Branford, Conn.-based company developing protein microarrays. Invitrogen says it plans to globally launch the startup’s yeast protein array by mid-year; human protein arrays would follow later in the year.

 

The widely expected RNAi patent infringement floodgates have opened with Benitec’s lawsuit against Nucleonics, Ambion, and Genscript. The Australia-based firm says these companies are infringing a US patent on gene silencing. Benitec says it holds seven patents and has more than 60 pending applications in 14 jurisdictions.

 

Ionian Technologies, a molecular diagnostics firm and Upland, Calif.-based spinout of the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences, wins a contract through DARPA worth $2.7 million. The company will use the funding to develop a hand-held biothreat detector which will likely be based on rapid DNA and RNA amplification.

 

NCI awards a two-year, $500,000 grant to HTG, a Tucson, Ariz.-based gene expression array company, to identify and validate genes for toxicity studies. The money will also help HTG develop a new array product.

 

A new partnership between Children’s Memorial Institute for Education and Research in Chicago and the Translational Genomics Research Institute aims to target genomics research at childhood illnesses and figuring out how they relate to adult diseases. Work will begin with DNA microarray technology and on various illnesses including cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune diseases.

 

Lynx Therapeutics and Solexa team up to jointly acquire the rights to DNA colony generation technology from Manteia, a Swiss company. The technology allows for parallel amplification of millions of DNA fragments, according to the companies. Meanwhile, Lynx further reduces its workforce by 15 percent, bringing its headcount down to 76.

 

A three-year project funded by Spain’s Foundation for the Development of Research in Genomics and Proteomics will put €2 million in the hands of researchers on six teams studying the genomics of muscat grapes, used to make muscatel wine.

 

Molecular Devices announces it will buy Axon Instruments, which makes equipment for genomics and cell-based screening, for $70 million in cash and another $70 million in stock.

 

Genomics Collaborative and the Whitehead Institute join forces to study infertility related to the Y chromosome. The study will rely on GCI’s sample bank and Whitehead’s genetic analysis programs.

 

Tecan gets €8.4 million from the European Union for an initiative to rebuild and develop South Africa. Tecan will use the funding to outfit the South African Police Service with its forensic DNA-typing system.

 

MWG Biotech celebrates its successful opposition of a European thermocycler patent held by Applera. MWG was one of several companies protesting the patent, which was revoked in March.

 

New Zealand’s University of Otago heads up a US$1.3 million effort to study the legal side of technologies based on the human genome. Money comes from the New Zealand Law Foundation and will last through 2007.

 

Myriad Proteomics, now known as Prolexys Pharmaceuticals, allies itself with Arizona State University’s Arizona Biodesign Institute in a proteomics project that, if successful, will help develop therapies to prevent particular kinds of stroke.

More of Affy’s patent estate is being opened up for licensing or for sale. Patents on DNA and protein array technology, array equipment, and microfluidics, among others, are among the newly available ones.

 

RoboDesign International, a lab automation firm, announces that the nonprofit Structural Genomics Consortium chose as its standard protein crystallography platform RoboDesign’s protein crystal imaging and analysis technology.

 

All must be going well with Ardais and Aventis, who extend their two-year-old research partnership. Ardais plans to use its genomic research library to evaluate targets in Aventis’ R&D pipeline.

 

Genaissance Pharmaceuticals will develop genetic tests for cardiac disease based on clinical samples and data from the Mayo Clinic and the University of Rochester, thanks to new agreements between the organizations. The biotech company plans to launch the first mutation-based cardiac test this month.

 

Better than a garage sale! Western Michigan University winds up with $2.9 million worth of scientific equipment that’s being donated by Pfizer. The instruments will help researchers sequence DNA and proteins, synthesize peptides, and perform NMR spectroscopy.

 

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.