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Short Reads: Oct 31, 2008


Elias Zerhouni stepped down from his position as director of NIH at the end of last month. Raynard Kington, deputy director of NIH, will likely serve as acting director until a new administration names Zerhouni's successor. Zerhouni was appointed to NIH by US President George W. Bush in 2002.

The Institute for Systems Biology and third-generation sequencing company Complete Genomics will team up for population-wide human genome studies. Complete Genomics expects to sequence five human genomes from samples provided by ISB researchers for a pilot; after that, the company would sequence 100 human genomes next year and 2,000 more in 2010.

Next April, Robert Tjian will replace Thomas Cech as the new president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Tjian is currently director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center and faculty director of the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. At the start of his career, he was a postdoc with James Watson at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

John Leamon, previously a project leader at RainDance Technologies, has moved to another of Jonathan Rothberg's projects — this one Ion Torrent Systems, where Leamon is director of molecular biology.

The National Institutes of Health has developed a timeline for implementing changes to its peer-review system, such as offering increased flexibility for reviewers' schedules (possibly even telecommuting), shortening applications, and more. Changes will be phased in starting next year.

Scripps Translational Science Institute, Navigenics, Affymetrix, and Microsoft will start a decades-long study to determine the long-term behavioral effects of personal genetic testing. As many as 10,000 people will be offered genetic scans through Scripps and followed over many years to determine whether they change their behavior based on their results.

ProGenTech is teaming up with Human Genetic Signatures in Sydney, Australia, to develop a line of molecular diagnostic assays for hospital-acquired infections. The assays will be integrated into ProGenTech's Entura platform, which the company says reduces sample preparation time by preloading all reagents for RNA, DNA, and protein applications in a cassette.

Scientists at Stanford and HHMI used shotgun sequencing to develop a way to test for fetal chromosomal abnormalities including Down syndrome based on a mother's blood sample, according to a paper published in PNAS.

NHGRI will support the 1,000 Genomes Project by funding two new research programs during the next two years to develop new ways to process and analyze the project's output, which may amount to 20 terabases of sequence data.

China Medical Technologies will acquire a molecular diagnostic test for human papillomavirus and an analysis platform from Molecular Diagnostic Technologies for $345 million.

NIH launched a Roadmap Epigenomics Program, a five-year effort funded at $190 million. Grants issued through this initiative will build on mapping, data analysis, technology development, and discovery in epigenetics.

Stephen Game will be head of research and development at Genetix. He was previously a technology manager of cellular science at GE Healthcare Life Sciences.

Signature Genomic Laboratories hired Roger Schultz as laboratory director. Before this, Schultz was associate director of cytogenetics of Veripath Laboratories at the University of Texas Southwestern, where he worked for 15 years on research focused on genome stability and DNA repair mechanisms.

Montreal-based Caprion Proteomics won a five-year, $12.9 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to research biomarkers for infectious diseases as part of the agency's clinical proteomics initiative.

Researchers from Mars, Inc., the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, and agricultural institutions in France, Brazil, and Ecuador genotyped roughly 1,000 wild and cultivated cacao plants in a study that indicates the plants are far more genetically diverse than anticipated. Published in PLoS One, the findings suggest that cacao's classification scheme is genetically inaccurate.

A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported findings from an international team of researchers who discovered a gene expression signature that may help predict whether a patient's cancer is likely to recur. The study was performed on 300 individuals with hepatocellular carcinoma. The Broad's Todd Golub was senior author on the paper.

Decode Genetics is looking to sell its non-core units, though the company did not specify which parts of its business those are. Decode has hired the Stanford Group Company to assist with the evaluation.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.