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Short Reads: Feb 28, 2008


As of January, George Weinstock has become a professor of genetics at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as associate director of its Genome Sequencing Center. Formerly, Weinstock was a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, and co-director of its Human Genome Sequencing Center.

Florida promised $80 million to the University of Miami's Institute for Human Genomics. The institute, which opened in November, started with an initial $37 million in federal funds and an undisclosed amount from the university's medical school.

The Office of the Inspector General at the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that the NIH didn't do its homework. After being queried, the NIH couldn't come up with the number of financial conflicts of interest its extramural grantees reported between 2004 and 2006, which it is required to do.

Peter Covitz, CEO of the NCI's Center for Bioinformatics and prime initiator of the caBIG project, left the NCI at the end of February. Covitz is headed to MDS Nordion as senior vice president of innovation. MDS Nordion is a mid-sized nuclear medicine biotech company based in Ottawa, Canada.

GE Healthcare will acquire Whatman for $713 million, adding Whatman's sample prep products to GE's protein chromatography platform and cellular analysis technologies. The purchase will up GE Healthcare's total staff of roughly 46,000 by about 1,100.

454 Life Sciences and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have announced plans to sequence the Tasmanian devil's genome in the hope of identifying which genes are responsible for the fatal facial tumor disease that's afflicting the wild devil population in Tasmania. Since 1996, devil numbers have been reduced by 90 percent in some parts of the state.

The NSF doled out $50 million for the iPlant Collaborative, an initiative to expand research in plant genetics. Building upon the National Plant Genome Initiative, the center will be led by the University of Arizona's BIO5 Institute, and includes researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Arizona State University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Purdue University.

Elisabeth Allison has joined Helicos BioSciences' board of directors. Allison is a partner at ANZI Partners, and is chief negotiator for ANZI Partners' publishing media and software ventures. She was an associate professor in economics at Harvard University.

A new FDA Subcommittee on Science and Technology report said that the FDA is unprepared to keep up with genomics and pharmacogenomics advances. If the FDA is to serve the new demands presented by today's biomedical advances, it'll need more federal resources and funding, the report said.

Abbott Laboratories will spend $20 million for an initial 10.25 percent stake in Isis Pharmaceuticals' subsidiary Ibis Biosciences, with options to acquire as much as 18.6 percent before July 31, and the remainder of the company before June 30, 2009. Ibis sells the Ibis T5000 Biosensor System, which is used for rapid identification and characterization of infectious agents.

Genetix Group has appointed Jerry Williamson to the post of president of US operations, a new position. Williamson formerly served as president of Biacore, was president of the genomics company Pyrosequencing, and was in commercial management at Genzyme and at Roche Laboratories.

Predictive Biosciences has appointed Martin Madaus to its board of directors. Madaus is president, CEO, and chairman of Millipore and he formerly was VP of development at Roche Molecular Diagnostics and a GM at Boehringer Mannheim.

Janelle Hoskins has been named director of the Molecular Genomics Facility at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Institute for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy.

Vivian Cheung has been named an investigator by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Cheung, who is a pediatric neurologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, studies the links between gene expression and individual susceptibility to disease and treatment responses.

The National Institutes of Health has invited Thomas Kelly and Keith Yamamoto to join its advisory committee. Kelly is a director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and a professor at Weill Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell University. Yamamoto is a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology and executive vice dean of the School of Medicine at UCSF.

Roche has signed an agreement with Ventana Medical Systems to purchase the company for $3.4 billion. The acquisition will provide Roche with a tissue-based diagnostics platform, which it sees as an important piece of the oncology diagnostics market.

James LeVoy Sorenson, a medical device inventor and founder of several companies including Sorenson Genomics, died of cancer at the age of 86. Sorenson developed or invented the first real-time computerized heart monitoring systems, disposable surgical masks, non-invasive intravenous catheters, and blood recycling and blood infusion systems.

Researchers at Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center investigated the effect of gene knockouts on mouse body weight, finding that more than 6,000 genes influence body weight. They discovered 10 times more genes associated with weight gain than weight loss, among other findings that suggest that human obesity may be equally complex.

The NIH officially rolled out its open-access policy at the end of 2007, which requires all papers funded by NIH to be made available in open access journals within 12 months after initial publication. The policy also applies to papers written by investigators whose salaries are paid by NIH.

Beckman Coulter announced it will move its existing headquarters from Fullerton, Calif., to the nearby city of Brea by the end of 2009. The firm is also cutting 158 jobs from its Palo Alto, Calif., facility, in preparation to close the site and move its centrifuge manufacturing operations to Indianapolis.

The Scan

Study Links Evolution of Longevity, Social Organization in Mammals

With the help of comparative phylogenetics and transcriptomics, researchers in Nature Communications see ties between lifespan and social organization in mammals.

Tumor Microenvironment Immune Score Provides Immunotherapy Response, Prognostic Insights

Using multiple in situ analyses and RNA sequence data, researchers in eBioMedicine have developed a score associated with immunotherapy response or survival.

CRISPR-Based Method for Finding Cancer-Associated Exosomal MicroRNAs in Blood

A team from China presents in ACS Sensors a liposome-mediated membrane fusion strategy for detecting miRNAs carried in exosomes in the blood with a CRISPR-mediated reporter system.

Drug Response Variants May Be Distinct in Somatic, Germline Samples

Based on variants from across 21 drug response genes, researchers in The Pharmacogenomics Journal suspect that tumor-only DNA sequences may miss drug response clues found in the germline.