It was a sad finale to a brilliant career. James Watson, whose reputation for saying shocking things was second only to his reputation as a Nobel Prize winner, retired late last year from his position as chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory after making a series of inflammatory comments about black people being genetically inferior. Watson’s ongoing book tour was abruptly canceled, and Cold Spring Harbor’s board of trustees suspended him for the remarks. Days later, Watson announced his retirement from the institution where he had worked for more than 40 years.
NIH’s Center for Scientific Review announced a plan aimed at enticing more researchers to review grant applications. NIH will give long-term reviewers, or so-called chartered study section members, the flexibility of submitting their grants whenever they are complete, rather than at standard R01, R21, and R34 submission dates. A spokesman said reviewers tend to be faced with double deadlines, as they have to look at incoming grants at the same time they’re finalizing their own grant applications; this measure should ease that pressure.
Mark Stevenson was named president and chief operating officer of Applied Biosystems and a senior veep of Applera. Stevenson has been with the company since 1998.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Applied Biosystems and Celera will be split into two independently operated companies, and an announcement about the restructuring could come by the end of the current quarter, according to Celera President Kathy Ordoñez.
Illumina announced a reorganization; the company has split its operating structure into two divisions, one to handle life sciences and the other to focus on diagnostics. The latter segment is expected to develop diagnostic content for Illumina’s BeadXpress and next-gen sequencing platforms. The company also announced management changes: John Stuelpnagel, Illumina’s senior VP, COO, and array manager, will shift to a part-time status in April and will give up his seat on the board of directors. Meanwhile, John West, senior VP and sequencing manager, was slated to resign at the start of this month.
Accelr8 Technology formed collaborations with Washington University in St. Louis and the Denver Health and Hospital Authority to conduct pre-clinical studies of its pathogen detection platform. Early work will cover drug-resistant bacteria including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Klebsiella, E. coli, and other microbial pathogens that can cause hospital-acquired infections.
The Seattle Biomedical Research Institute won a $30.6 million contract from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases to start the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease. The center, which will use genomics and translational research methods, will work with researchers at the University of Washington, Battelle Northwest, and Decode Biostructures. In related news, Amgen alum Randy Hassler is the new VP of operations and finance at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute.
Tim Gardner, previously in Jim Collins’ lab at Boston University, is now an associate director at Amyris Biotech-nologies, a company trying to design cheap malaria therapies using synthetic biology.
Helicos BioSciences said it’s collaborating with Victor Ambros at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to develop an assay to characterize known species of microRNA as well as discover new non-coding RNAs. Helicos also received $20 million in a secured credit facility from GE Healthcare Financial Services to shore up its working capital and to fund commercialization efforts.
Jonathan Rowe was named senior vice president of strategy and clinical innovation at Gene Express. Rowe previously worked for Pfizer.
The Beijing Genomics Institute announced that it took the first step in its project to sequence 100 human genomes: signing on the first volunteer. The goal of the Yanhuang Project is to construct a Chinese-specific genetic polymorphism map. Last fall, BGI researchers sequenced the first Chinese individual using Illumina’s Genome Analyzer. The anonymous volunteer for the Yanhuang Project would be the second human genome sequenced by the institute.
Orion Genomics and academic collaborators published a paper in PLoS ONE demonstrating the results of a genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation for breast cancer. The effort led to the discovery of more than 50 novel biomarkers, which were validated in patient samples.
WellGen hired Nancy Rawson as its chief scientific officer. Rawson comes to the nutrigenomics firm from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
Applied Biosystems launched a service provider program for its SOLiD next-generation sequencing platform, with initial members including Agencourt Bioscience, GATC Biotech, Seqwright, and Sistemas Genomicos. The partners will offer services such as high-throughput genetic analysis, protocol assistance, and data storage and analysis.
Genizon BioSciences closed a financing round worth $31 million, which the company says will be used to support genome-wide association studies in obesity, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. The funding round, led by venture capital fund BTF, brings the company’s total financing to more than $130 million since its inception in 1999.
Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory published a paper in Nature showing a new technique called cryo-electron tomography to visualize proteins at sufficiently high resolution to see specific cell interactions.
David Smith is the new vice president of operations for synthetic bio firm Codon Devices. Smith’s background lies in manufacturing, technology transfer, R&D, and quality control.
Blood supplier Héma-Québec announced the creation of a database of 22,000 donors genotyped for several blood groups to help facilitate transfusions for patients in Québec. The agency worked with Génome Québec in developing the genotyping process.
GATC Biotech joined the consumer genomics market with a new subsidiary called LifeCode, which plans to offer DNA sequencing and analysis services to customers in April.