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Short Reads: Oct 29, 2007


The stalemate between President Bush and Congress over this fiscal year’s federal budget all but kills the likelihood that the National Institutes of Health’s fiscal 2008 budget will be increased, says Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). As a result, he expects Bush to prevail over those in Congress who want to increase the NIH budget beyond the president’s proposed $28.9 billion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 — 1.2 percent less than the agency saw in fiscal 2007. “The scientific community ought to be raising hell about that,” Specter says. “They’re really sort of sitting back and not really digging in.”

Gene Logic plans to sell its genomics business to Ocimum Biosystems for $10 million as it continues to reorganize itself as a drug-repositioning and development company.

The National Science Foundation announced 26 awards totaling $85.8 million for its Plant Genome Research Program, to go to researchers in 45 US and international institutions. The awards, which span between two and five years and range between $400,000 and $7.9 million, support research and tool development aimed at understanding plant genome structure and function. First-time recipients include Auburn University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, SUNY Stony Brook, the University of Alaska, the University of Toledo, and the University of Virginia.

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research joined with German industrial partners to put aside €900 million to develop new technologies for the molecular imaging field. The commercial partners, Bayer-Schering Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, Carl Zeiss, Karl Storz, and Siemens, will put up €750 million on top of the government’s €150 million to develop new contrast media, devices, and software through the six-year collaboration,
called Innovation Alliance Molecular Imaging.

The National Human Genome Research Institute kicked off the second phase of its ENCODE project by awarding $80 million in new grants over four years to study the whole human genome. Awardees include Bradley Bernstein, Tim Hubbard, Rick Myers, Michael Snyder, and Jim Kent, among others.

David Koch of Koch Industries donated $100 million to his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create a new research center that will pool the school’s molecular genetics, cell biology, and engineering disciplines to study cancer. The gift will help build the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, which will house genomics, cellular imaging, nanotech, and other technologies and employ around 25 scientists and engineers.

Shaf Yousaf, previously president of the research biotech business unit at Sigma-Aldrich, joined Applied Biosystems as president of the molecular and cell biology systems division. Meanwhile, Sigma-Aldrich named Patrick Sullivan as vice president of R&D for research biotech. Sullivan’s experience in genomics and pharma includes positions at Monsanto/Searle/Pharmacia, Incyte Genomics, and Pfizer.

Arthur Holden planned to leave his post as vice president of corporate and market development at Illumina last month. Formerly the chairman and CEO of First Genetic Trust, Holden currently directs the Severe Adverse Events Consortium.

Simulations Plus hired John Crison as director of life sciences. He takes the reins from Michael Bolger, who will continue with the company in the role of chief scientist. Crison was formerly an associate research fellow at Pfizer and VP of pharmaceutical products at MediVas.

The Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research won a $1.5 million contract from the
US Department of Homeland Security to study strains of Marburg virus, a highly contagious pathogen that causes hemorrhagic fever. SFBR researchers plan to study the progression of infection and the effect of the virus on the host immune system.

Integromics, a life sciences software company based in Granada, Spain, opened its US headquarters at the University City Science Center in Philadelphia. The company expanded into the US to be closer to current and prospective customers and business partners.

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences named Sally Lee as its executive officer. Lee will oversee finances, administrative functions, information technology, and management analysis.

Barbara Preisel-Simmons is the new senior director of clinical affairs at Exagen Diagnostics. She previously worked for Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics, Bayer HealthCare, and Chiron Diagnostics, among other companies.

GenoLogics has an agreement with London Genetics to pursue new collaborative commercial opportunities. Through the deal, GenoLogics will help promote London Genetics’ efforts to develop a research network including scientists and clinicians.

Nanosphere said the US Food and Drug Administration has cleared a test that detects gene mutations linked with blood coagulation and metabolism disorders. The test looks for mutations in three specific genes that together can increase the risk of blood clots and result in ischemic stroke.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.