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Short Reads: Oct 1, 2004


NHGRI launches its Centers for Excellence in Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research program with four new, interdisciplinary centers to tackle issues related to genomics. Over the next five years, $20 million will be spent on the program, with smaller contributions coming from DOE and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The first four centers are at Case Western Reserve University; Duke University; Stanford University; and the University of Washington.


Applied Biosystems seems to be withdrawing from the mass spec market — at least as a manufacturer of instruments. In an agreement with ABI’s joint venture partner MDS Sciex, the Canadian firm will pay ABI $40 million for 50 percent of the IP assets related to the ABI MALDI/TOF systems and related products currently in development. MDS Sciex will be in charge of manufacturing and of primary research for the mass spec line, while ABI will contribute the services, marketing, and support side of things.


Sigma-Aldrich appoints Jai Nagarkatti as president and COO of the company. Nagarkatti, who was previously president of the company’s scientific research division and has been with the company for 28 years, will replace David Harvey, who stays on as chairman and CEO.


Agencourt Bioscience announced plans to expand its 80-member staff to 100 by year’s end as it celebrated the grand opening of its new headquarters in Beverly, Mass. At 30,000 square feet, the new facility more than doubles the size of Agencourt’s previous abode.


It’s sequence ahoy for the deer tick, which will have its genome decoded by the International Ixodes scapularis Sequencing Committee thanks to funding from NIAID. The committee is made up of researchers from MIT, Purdue University, the University of Connecticut Health Center, and the University of Notre Dame.


Noam Shani joins Compugen as vice president of biology R&D. Shani, who comes from Medgenics, will oversee protein candidate discovery, selection, validation, and other steps through clinical development.


The Joint Genome Institute announced plans for its community sequencing program, revealing the collection of microorganisms that it will concentrate on for the next year. The program will use some 15 gigabases of sequencing, or about half of the institute’s total capacity of 100 sequencers, to handle the 23 organisms. Among the earliest to benefit is a strain of moss, expected to help with comparative plant genomics research.


Martin Schmieg joins Sirna Therapeutics as senior VP and chief financial officer. He was last in the same positions at Advanced Bionics and has also worked at Cytometrics.


NIAID awarded $18 million in a contract to the Computation Institute — an alliance among the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and the Fellowship for Interpretation of Genomes — for the establishment of a National Microbe Pathogen Data Resource Center. The center will be co-directed by Chicago’s Rick Stevens and Argonne’s Ross Overbeek.


Nanogen and Epoch Biosciences signed a merger agreement in an all-stock transaction with Nanogen paying a 30 percent premium for the Epoch shares. The merger of the two diagnostic and genomic analysis companies is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.


Acuity Pharmaceuticals and MacroArray Technologies will both get a financial boost thanks to investment from Innovation Philadelphia’s Economic Stimulus Fund. The value of the investments were not released.


Douglas Williams stepped down from his position as CSO and executive veep of research and development at Seattle Genetics to take a position with another firm, according to the company.


Nicola Campbell, formerly a principal with BA Venture Partners, heads to Sofinnova Ventures, where she will be a life science partner.


Scientists at the Duke University Medical Center led by Lorena Beese published findings in Nature this summer demonstrating how oxidative DNA damage can slip past detection and cause mutations that are copied and can create permanent genetic problems. The research is thought to have particular implications in cancer.


Michael Dent has been named managing director of NeoGenomics, where he is also the chairman. Dent will head up efforts to build clinical lab services and to establish collaborative research projects.


Predictive Patterns Software expects to merge with Visible Bytes Software to form a bioinformatics company that will be called Improved Outcomes Software. The company will provide software and services for bioinformatics, IT fields, and other arenas.


Researchers at the University of Nevada won a $3.85 million grant from NSF to study the function of genes in Arabidopsis thaliana. The team will focus on genes that play a role in protecting the plant against environmental stresses, such as drought or cold.


Bioinformatics firm PointOne Systems hires Frank Langley as president and CEO. Langley was previously in charge of Pel-Freez Clinical Systems.


The National Institute of General Medical Sciences kicked off a fifth Center of Excellence in Complex Biomedical Systems Research with a center led by David Botstein at Princeton University. The center is expected to receive $14.8 million over five years and will focus on how biological molecules interact with each other and their environments.


There’s a new genome database out there: scientists at Oregon State University and Sweden’s Umea University published a repository for tree genes. The database has more than 100,000 sequences consisting of the most commonly expressed genes in the class of trees that includes aspens and cottonwoods. The publication can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Jeffrey Price, who recently signed on as faculty at the Burnham Institute, says he is starting up a new biotech company called Vala Sciences. Price’s last startup, Q3DM, was bought by Beckman Coulter at the end of 2003. He was previously an associate research scientist at the University of California, San Diego, in the bioengineering department.


Adrian Butash, former marketing exec for Hoechst Fibers and Celanese, joins on as executive VP and chief marketing officer for Applied DNA Sciences, a company that makes a DNA-based biochip used for security and anti-counterfeit applications.


Applera, MDS, and Applied Biosystems/MDS Scientific Instruments have jointly filed a patent infringement complaint against Thermo Electron charging that Thermo’s mass spectrometer systems infringe their patent. Thermo says the primary focus of the lawsuit is expected to be its triple quadrupole mass spec.


Roche and Structural Genomix will collaborate on a project to discover small molecule inhibitors using high-throughput protein crystallography, computational chemistry and parallel synthesis. Roche would then develop those as new anti-viral therapeutics. Structural Genomix will receive from Roche an upfront payment, research funding, and milestone payments during product development, as well as royalties from product sales.


Xenomics hired Randy White as CEO. White, former CEO of Nanogen, has been an executive at National Health Laboratories Holdings and American Medical Laboratories as well.


CombiMatrix teamed up with Intel to study the feasibility of various projects using CombiMatrix’s core technology.


The Scan

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

US Survey Data Suggests Ancestry Testing Leads Way in Awareness, Use of Genetic Testing Awareness

Although roughly three-quarters of surveyed individuals in a Genetics in Medicine study reported awareness of genetic testing, use of such tests was lower and varied with income, ancestry, and disease history.

Coral Genome Leads to Alternative Amino Acid Pathway Found in Other Non-Model Animals

An alternative cysteine biosynthesis pathway unearthed in the Acropora loripes genome subsequently turned up in sequences from non-mammalian, -nematode, or -arthropod animals, researchers report in Science Advances.

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.