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Short Reads: Nov 2, 2006


According to California employment records, Invitrogen laid off 60 employees from its South San Francisco facility in August and, at press time, had plans to lay off an additional 34 staffers in its Burlingame space in late October.  

The National Human Genome Research Institute announced the appointment of two new branch chiefs in its Division of Intramural Research. Leslie Biesecker will head the Genetic Disease Research Branch and David Bodine will head the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch.  

Decode Genetics suspended the Phase III trial of its heart attack drug, DG031, after discovering that the tablets dissolved more slowly than had originally been believed. This prompted company concerns that the slow-release tabs would limit effects of the compound and thereby impinge on the trial’s chance of success. The company is now exploring other manufacturing processes.  

Genomics is set to play a role in the new oceanographic research center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The university’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology used a $19 million NSF grant to establish the facility, called the Center for Microbial Oceanography, which will encourage collaborations between researchers in oceanography, microbiology, ecology, and genomics.  

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals announced that Vin Miles, the company’s senior vice president of business development, is planning to retire to “pursue his interests in other areas.” Miles will remain with the company on a full-time basis for the rest of 2006, then work through a transition period as Alnylam identifies a replacement.  

The US 2007 Defense Appropriations bill, recently signed into law, included two allocations of $1 million for CombiMatrix’s development of microarray technologies for biothreat projects, including one concerning the H5N1 virus.  

Nanogen confirmed plans to cut its US headcount by 15 percent, or around 48 people, by the end of the year in an effort to improve its cash flow and profits.The cuts will come from R&D, manufacturing, and sales and marketing, the company said in October.  

The US National Institutes of Health awarded $2.8 million to Genomics USA to develop a human leukocyte chip. The company’s HLA chip is designed to be a low-cost microarray product to analyze the natural genetic variation that modifies vaccination response to biosecurity agents such as anthrax or bird flu.  

SureGene received an SBIR phase I project grant worth $497,000 from the US NIMH to develop a test for the early detection of schizophrenia.  

InforSense, a privately held analytics company, secured $10 million during its latest investment round. The firm plans to use the funds for product development and global expansion. InforSense has also hired David Hadfield, formerly senior vice president and general manager at Spotfire, as chief operating officer.  

Researchers have completed the largest genome-wide linkage study of prostate cancer in African-American men, for whom prostate cancer incidence is particularly high. Senior author John Carpten, director of TGen’s Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, said that the study will now focus on identifying specific SNPs at play in prostate cancer predisposition and development.  

Carol Kovac has joined Burrill & Company as managing director. Kovac joins after retiring from IBM, where she led the company’s global healthcare and life sciences business. At Burrill, she will develop investment strategies for cutting-edge technologies in medicine and healthcare.  

Archemix, an RNAi-based drug developer, announced that James Gilbert has been named chief medical officer and senior vice president of clinical and regulatory affairs. Before his current appointment, Gilbert was vice president of clinical development, cardiovascular/ inflammation, at Millennium Pharmaceuticals.  

Bioneer, a Korea-based oligo vendor, opened a 22,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center in Alameda, Calif. Since its IPO last December, the company has continued expansion into North America and Europe.  

The US Department of Justice has earmarked $125 million for funding opportunities available through the President’s three-year-old DNA Initiative. This initiative comprises a commitment of $1 billion from the government to improve the nation’s capacity to use DNA evidence by improving crime lab capacity, funding R&D, eliminating backlogs of criminal genetic evidence, and other projects.  

Illumina’s global sales staff is set to increase by at least half this year as the company sets to roll out its BeadXpress molecular diagnostic platform, according to CEO Jay Flatley, who announced the news at the UBS Global Life Science Conference in late September.  

The US National Cancer Institute has awarded GeneGo a phase II SBIR grant worth $1 million over two years to help it discover breast cancer biomarkers. In phase I of the grant, the company performed a network analysis of previously published microarray expression data.  

The Burnham Institute for Medical Research received $12.7 million from the US NIH to create a neuroscience research center.


The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.