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Short Reads: Jan 30, 2007

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Inflation-adjusted federal funding going to the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Department of Energy's Human Genome Project is likely to decline 1.5 percent in fiscal 2007 over fiscal 2006, according to projections released by the National Science Foundation.

Beckman Coulter will shutter and relocate its plant in Palo Alto, Calif., by the end of next year as part of an effort to cut costs. The company will relocate the assets from the facility near its Fullerton, Calif. headquarters. 

Cepheid paid Idaho Technology $3.5 million and penned a cross-licensing agreement to settle a patent-infringement suit regarding three patents covering rapid PCR, SYBR Green, and PCR-related data analysis.

Howard Robin, former president and CEO of Sirna Therapeutics, was hired as president and chairman at biopharmaceutical company Nektar.

NSF announced that it awarded $14 million to several centers to study the genomics of "economically important" plants. Centers are housed at Iowa State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Georgia, and the University of Arizona. Washington University and Michigan State University won funding to study weeds.

Accelrys is shutting down its R&D shop in Bangalore, India, as part of a restructuring plan. The company will also lay off 60 employees who work at the facility and expects to pay $700,000 to $900,000 in severance and other costs associated with the closure.

Ben Bowen is now VP of business development at Biolog, where he will oversee the launch of a mammalian cell microarray line. Prior to Biolog, Bowen was VP of discovery and research at Lynx Therapeutics and also worked at Pioneer Hi-Bred, now a subsidiary of DuPont, where he was responsible for large-scale genomics efforts in the agriculture and biotech industry.

The Babraham Institute, a British nonprofit center, will coordinate the ProteomeBinders initiative, a European Commission-sponsored proteomics research program that includes a large group of international research teams. Initial funding will be provided by the European Commission's 6th Framework Program.

NIH issued $1.35 million to the University of Utah and $540,000 to Oklahoma City Community College for genomics and bioinformatics education projects, respectively. The awards are part of the NIH's National Center for Research Resources, which has awarded $11.5 million for science education programs around the country in a variety of research fields.

The Mayo Clinic has been busy with collaborations lately. In a deal with Illumina, the Mayo will co-develop molecular diagnostics, including biomarkers, for disease. In another partnership, Mayo will work with pharmacy benefits management company Medco to study whether using genetic tests can cut costs and improve care for patients taking the blood-thinner warfarin.

The National Center for Genomic Resources in Santa Fe, NM, will start an in-house, next-generation sequencing facility for medical resequencing projects and sequencing of organisms that affect agriculture in the New Mexico region.

XDx, a molecular diagnostics company, named Mitchell Nelles as the new vice president of R&D and technical operations. Nelles has previously worked at BioMérieux and TriPath Oncology.

GATC Biotech has purchased a GLX sequencer from 454 Life Sciences and a 1G Genetic Analyzer from Solexa to help expand its gene-sequencing service.

The National Cancer Institute will set aside $4.5 million in fiscal 2008 for several new RFAs for projects that help develop new cancer research technologies, including tools for molecular analysis and sample preparation. The RFAs are part of the larger NCI-sponsored Innovative Molecular Analysis program.

Felix Frueh, associate director of genomics at the FDA, says the agency "might not" pursue genetic label changes "as aggressively as it had in the past," and instead hopes to focus more on how biomarkers affect drug safety and efficacy.(See p.53 for a Q&A with Frueh.)

Claude Hughes joined RTI International as VP for the Partnership for Genomics and Molecular Epidemiology and as chief medical officer.

Affymetrix and Roche have amended an ongoing licensing agreement that gives Roche access to Affy's microarray technology. The amendment releases Roche from upcoming license payments and instead offers Affy payments based on commercial milestones.

Invitrogen's finance and principal accounting officer John Radak planned to leave the company by the end of last month to take on the role of CFO at Quidel, a developer of diagnostics for disease.

BioMérieux and ExonHit Therapeutics are working to develop a blood-based prostate-cancer screening test to help doctors weigh the risks of performing surgery to remove tumors.

David Wellis was appointed CEO of GenVault after a promotion from his previous post as senior veep for sales and marketing. Before joining GenVault, Wellis was VP at Axon Instruments.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.