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Short Reads: May 28, 2008


Investment firm SAC Capital Advisors disclosed in a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it has increased its stake in Applied Biosystems to 5.1 percent and that it has encouraged ABI's board of directors to explore strategic alternatives for the firm, including a possible sale. Over the past two years, SAC and its affiliated funds have spent roughly $276.2 million to acquire 8.6 million shares of ABI common stock.

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge used paired-end sequencing on Illumina's Genome Analyzer to identify several types of mutations, including rearrangements, insertions, deletions, and copy number variations, in two lung cancer cell lines. Their paper was published in Nature Genetics.

The National Cancer Institute approved a proposal from genetic analysis and service company Transgenomic to do mutational analysis and sequencing on mitochondrial genes in the NCI 60 panel of cancer cell lines.

Jonas Ohlsson is the new CEO of Cellectricon, a Swedish manufacturer of high-throughput drug screening systems. Ohlsson has worked at Mentice, PE Applied Biosystems, and AstraZeneca, among others.

454 Life Sciences founder Jonathan Rothberg founded Ion Torrent Systems, a startup company with locations in Guilford, Conn., and San Francisco. He is also the founder of Clarifi, CuraGen, and the Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases, and the co-founder and chairman of RainDance Technologies.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, first introduced in the US Congress in 1995, finally passed in both the Senate and House of Representatives this spring. At press time, the bill was on its way to President George Bush, who has indicated that he will sign it into law.

The Government of Canada announced that it is investing CDN$600,000 in the University of Victoria Genome – British Columbia Proteomics Center to support metabolomics research. The money will go toward instrumentation like a high-resolution, high-performance liquid chromatographer, a hybrid mass spectrometer, a robotic liquid-handling work station, and bioinformatics data storage software.

John Kolman was named senior director of research and development at BioReliance. Kolman was previously at Invitrogen, where he served as principal scientist for the HLA Single Antigen Initiative and lung cancer biomarker programs.

Helicos BioSciences reported a 22.8 percent increase in grant revenue for the first quarter of 2008, while cutting its net loss by more than half. The company had no revenue from product sales, but did ship its first instrument to Expression Analysis during that time. It closed the quarter with $37.9 million in cash. In late April, Helicos named Stephen Hall as its new CFO, replacing Louise Mawhinney.

The Human Genome Structural Variation Project published results in Nature indicating that scientists had identified nearly 1,700 sites of structural variation and more than 500 regions containing new, previously unrecognized sequence by comparing clone-based maps of eight human genomes to the reference genome.
Danong Chen, formerly president and CEO of Tanox, was chosen as the new president and CEO of Theranostics Health.

The venture capital group AquAgro Fund invested $2 million in Evogene, an Israeli company using computational gene discovery technologies, high-throughput selection systems, and advanced breeding methods to develop plants for the ag-biotech and biofuel industries. The fund will hold a 5 percent stake in Evogene.

Biomax Informatics has become a consortium partner in Austria's OncoTyrol project Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine. The company will provide its BioXM knowledge-management platform to the four-year, €28 million initiative.

The US is planning to expand the collection of DNA samples to include all people who are arrested or detained under federal authority, as well as any non-US citizens who are detained, according to a rule proposed by the Department of Justice. The DNA fingerprinting proposal is similar to an ongoing program in the UK.

The American College of Medical Genetics issued an advisory statement to the public and the healthcare community about direct-to-consumer genetic tests, saying  that consumers need to be counseled on the utility and meaning of these new technologies by a trained professional.

Agilent Technologies licensed technology for genome partitioning from the Broad Institute. The company says the technology, developed by scientists in the Broad's genome sequencing and analysis program, will be used to make kits that can be incorporated with its Oligo Library Synthesis offering to help researchers avoid next-gen sample prep while linking genes to disease.