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Short Reads: Aug 28, 2008


Last month, Alan Guttmacher took on his new role as acting director of NHGRI after Francis Collins officially stepped down. Guttmacher is a pediatrician and medical geneticist, and has been deputy director of the genome institute for more than five years.

The US Departments of Energy and Agriculture will give nearly $11 million over three years to fund 10 genomics research programs that can help develop bioenergy feedstocks for use in cellulosic biofuels. Recipients include the University of Georgia, Penn State, Michigan State, Oregon State, and the University of Massachusetts, among others.

In response to the growing number of so-called "minimum information" checklists for high-throughput biology experiments, an effort known as Minimum Information about a Biomedical or Biological Investigation is attempting to provide a set of guidelines for standardization groups to ensure interoperability and prevent duplication of effort.

Affymetrix acquired True Materials, a firm with microparticle technology for use in diagnostic applications, for about $25 million in cash. Randy True, founder of the San Francisco startup, joined Affy as vice president of research and development.

Illumina completed its acquisition of Avantome, a privately held developer of low-cost, long read-length sequencing technology, for $25 million in up-front payments and contingent payments of as much as $35 million. The startup was co-founded by Stanford's Mostafa Ronaghi, who joins Illumina as senior vice president and chief technical officer. Separately, Illumina announced that it named Stephen Pentoney to the post of VP for assay and reagent development in life sciences.

Joanne Sun is now director of protein analytics and high-throughput purification at the antibody discovery company Adimab. She formerly worked in clinical trials for Adnexus Therapeutics and in pre-clinical development at Abbott.

A group of scientists led by NHGRI's Colleen McBride published a commentary in Nature Genetics calling for an increased emphasis on translational research to make sure that personalized genomics delivers on its promise. They contend that regulators and members of the biomedical communities need a better understanding of how information from genetic tests is used in the clinic, how useful those tests are, and how genetic knowledge is viewed and used by patients before genetic technologies find their way into mainstream use.

An international team of researchers from Germany, the US, Croatia, and Finland used the Roche 454 sequencing platform to sequence the Neanderthal mitochondrial genome to about 35 times coverage. The publication in Cell was based on DNA isolated from a bone more than 38,000 years old that was discovered in Vindija Cave in Croatia in 1980.

The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis hired Barry Sleckman as director of the Division of Genomic Medicine. Sleckman, who joined the school 10 years ago as an assistant professor of pathology and immunology, studies DNA repair and development of the early immune system.

BioNanomatrix received a $399,020 grant from NHGRI to continue development of its nanoscale imaging platform for haplotyping and gene mapping in a massively parallel format. This is the fourth grant the company has won from NIH to work on the technology.

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard released its Integrative Genomics Viewer, an informatics tool that allows scientists to visualize genomic data. The tool's zooming and panning abilities make it feel like Google Maps, according to Broad scientists.

Celera named Jean Amos Wilson as president of laboratory operations at its Berkeley HeartLab subsidiary. She was previously senior director of genetic services at Sequenom.

Researchers from the University of Toronto used high-density oligonucleotide arrays to look at CNV frequency in the general population and in families with Li-Fraumeni, a syndrome predisposing individuals to cancer, finding that people with more CNVs in their genomes may also be at increased risk for cancer. The group, led by senior author David Malkin, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Larry Wellman joins OpGen as HR veep. He was previously in the same position at Digene, now part of Qiagen.

BioTrove hired Derek Potter as director of European business operations. Potter was previously European sales manager for Applied Biosystems, and he was involved in establishing Fluidigm's European operations.

OpGen, a single-molecule analysis company based in Madison, Wis., will open a facility in Gaithersburg, Md. The company says it expects to hire 80 people in the next two years to staff the facility, which will house R&D, service operations, and manufacturing.

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.