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Short Reads: Mar 31, 2008

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The Montreal Heart Institute and Génome Québec joined forces to form the Centre of Excellence in Personalized Medicine. The center will receive $22 million in investment from a combination of public and private sources, and aims to advance translational medicine.

Applera has filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for the separation of Celera from the Applera Group. Under the separation agreement, shareholders of the Applera Group-Celera Group tracking stock would receive one share of new Celera Corporation shares for each share of the tracking stock they currently own. If agreed, Celera would become an independent, publicly traded company.

Kevin Corcoran was named vice president of software at Pacific Biosciences. Prior to joining PacBio, he was vice president and general manager of genetic analysis at Applied Biosystems.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has launched a new program that will award 70 early career scientists with six-year, non-renewable appointments to HHMI and substantial funding. The HHMI Early Career Scientist Program will invest more than $300 million in helping scientists who have run their own labs for two to six years to advance their research.

A bill introduced and now pending in US Congress would fund centers of excellence to find and validate biomarkers for detection, screening, and risk stratification of ovarian cancer. The Ovarian Cancer Biomarker Research Act, if passed, will provide the National Cancer Institute with $100 million during the next four years to create centers and clinical trials committees.

Axel Ullrich, director of molecular biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, was awarded the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research. Ullrich, who will receive €75,000 in cash, won the award for his work in the translation of genomics discoveries into cancer therapeutics approaches.

PLoS Biology, an open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science, has named Jonathan Eisen as its academic editor-in-chief. Eisen is a professor at the University of California, Davis, Genome Center and an editorial advisor for PLoS Biology and PLoS Computational Biology.

Mel Kronick is now CEO of Population Genetics Technologies. Kronick is a former division R&D manager of Agilent Technologies and of Applied Biosystems, where he was involved in developing products related to DNA sequencing and microarray technology.

The NIH will host data from a genome-wide association study of Parkinson’s disease that was partly funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. An NHGRI committee agreed to manage the data access approval process, thereby avoiding privacy violations. The data will be stored in dbGaP.

DeCode Genetics laid off 60 employees, or around 14 percent of its full-time staff, in an effort to ensure it has enough cash to last the next two years. Almost all of the affected employees are in the company’s Reykjavik, Iceland, facilities. The company says it will need additional funds to advance its drug development pipeline.

Jonathan Sheridan will take over as VP of commercial operations at High Throughput Genomics. Sheridan was formerly director of sales and corporate development at Epicentre Biotechnologies and a regional product line leader at PerkinElmer’s life and analytical sciences group. He will run HTG’s new office in Madison, Wis.
Anthony Salerno is now VP of strategic business development at GenomeQuest. He will be guiding the company’s entry into the next-generation DNA sequencing bioinformatics market. Most recently, Salerno was director of strategic business development at Agilent Technologies.

Telechem International, which was recently purchased by publicly traded Integrated Media Holdings for approximately $23 million, has changed its name to Arrayit. Rene Schena, who was CEO of Telechem, will be CEO; microarray pioneer Mark Schena, who was a consultant to Telechem, is now president, chief technology officer, and a director; and Todd Martinsky, co-founder and vice president of Telechem, has been named COO and secretary/treasurer.

As part of its ongoing Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science program, which started in 2001, NHGRI plans to support researchers with as much as $2 million a year for interdisciplinary research into genome-wide studies, computational biology, and other cutting-edge programs, and up to $500,000 over five years for equipment purchases.

The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act passed the US House of Representatives last month, but it is not clear that the bill will be signed into law. GINA was included as part of a bill on mental health issues, and President Bush has voiced concerns about both the larger bill and the GINA section.

Bob Welch, who directed operations at the National Cancer Institute's Core Genotyping Facility, died in late February at the age of 35.

The Scan

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.

Breast Cancer Risk Gene Candidates Found by Multi-Ancestry Low-Frequency Variant Analysis

Researchers narrowed in on new and known risk gene candidates with variant profiles for almost 83,500 individuals with breast cancer and 59,199 unaffected controls in Genome Medicine.

Health-Related Quality of Life Gets Boost After Microbiome-Based Treatment for Recurrent C. Diff

A secondary analysis of Phase 3 clinical trial data in JAMA Network Open suggests an investigational oral microbiome-based drug may lead to enhanced quality of life measures.

Study Follows Consequences of Early Confirmatory Trials for Accelerated Approval Indications

Time to traditional approval or withdrawal was shorter when confirmatory trials started prior to accelerated approval, though overall regulatory outcomes remained similar, a JAMA study finds.