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Short Reads: Sep 26, 2008

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NIH awarded $280 million to nine centers in the second phase of its Molecular Libraries and Imaging Initiative. The centers will comprise a probe production network in this four-year effort. Funding went to chemical genomics centers at: the Burnham Institute, the Broad, Scripps, Johns Hopkins, Southern Research Institute, University of New Mexico, University of Kansas, Vanderbilt, and NIH's own chemical genomics center.

Pathwork Diagnostics, which recently received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to market its Tissue of Origin test, closed a $20 million round of private financing. Funding was led by Abingworth, and the round also included Advent Venture Partners, Novus Ventures, Prospect Venture Partners, Venrock, and Versant Ventures.

The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT announced that philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad have committed an additional $400 million to the institute, bringing its total endowment to $600 million. The money enables the Broad to become a permanent nonprofit organization, the institute said.

Victor Ambros, David Baulcombe, and Gary Ruvkun were jointly honored with the Lasker Award and $300,000 for their discovery of microRNAs.

Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems will hold a special meeting of shareholders on Oct. 16 to vote on the proposed $6.7 billion merger of the two firms. Shareholders of both firms must approve the transaction, and the merger requires the approval of the European Commission.

The National Science Foundation issued a three-year, $1.6 million grant to three scientists at New York University and at the American Museum of Natural History to study the proteomes of Arabidopsis thaliana and Oryza sativa, and to make their data publicly available.

NIH awarded some $42 million through its EUREKA program, which targets "exceptional, unconventional research." The awards, averaging $200,000 per year for up to four years, were distributed to nearly 40 biomedical and biotech researchers.

Eurofins and Operon Holdings are engaged in a legal dispute over Operon's financial obligations to the Eurofins Genomics venture that was formed by the companies last November. The venture formed through a combination of Eurofins' subsidiaries MWG Biotech and Medigenomix with Operon Biotechnologies. In this dispute, Eurofins charges that Operon has failed to contribute the full $5 million it agreed to as part of the deal.

Exosome Diagnostics named Wayne Comper as chief scientific officer and Tom Tsakeris to director of regulatory affairs. Comper was previously at AusAm Biotechnologies, while Tsakeris was a director within the Office of Device Evaluation for the US FDA.

NIH announced the first winners of its Avant-Garde award, which gives $500,000 per year for five years to scientists engaged in groundbreaking HIV/AIDS research. Ileana Cristea, an assistant professor at Princeton University, was one of the winners; she will use her funds to study chromatin remodeling in HIV infections with a proteomic technology she developed to track protein localization and interactions.

Stan Letovsky joins Helicos BioSciences as vice president for scientific informatics. Letovsky has previously worked for Codon Devices, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Monsanto, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Genetix Group, a cancer diagnostics company, won a contract from the National Health Service of Scotland to develop and build a national network of automated cytogenetic analysis systems. The network will replace microscope-based chromosome analysis methods and allow labs to share digital images.

German life sciences company 5 Prime donated $500,000 worth of molecular biology technologies and reagents to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. The institute expects to use the donation to develop rice strains that are cheaper and easier to cultivate than current strains.

Millipore will partner with Agilent Technologies to develop chromatin immunoprecipitation kits for the epigenetics research market. The goal is to combine Millipore's ChIP expertise with Agilent's microarray platform.

Working with scientists from Uppsala University, Olink has formed a new company called Olink Genomics, which aims to commercialize technology for sample-prep applications in next-generation sequencing. Olink says the technology will be available as a service or as reagent kits.

Susan Hertzberg, previously at Abbott Diagnostics and Quest Diagnostics, is now president of Ipsogen.

Joe Beery joins Invitrogen as head of its global information technology efforts. Beery was CIO at US Airways and America West, and also worked at Motorola Semiconductor and NV Philips.

Roche received FDA approval for a qPCR test to quantify hepatitis B viral load in blood.

The Scan

Booster Push

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With Help from Mr. Fluffington, PurrhD

Cats could make good study animals for genetic research, the University of Missouri's Leslie Lyons tells the Atlantic.

Man Charged With Threatening to Harm Fauci, Collins

The Hill reports that Thomas Patrick Connally, Jr., was charged with making threats against federal officials.

Nature Papers Present Approach to Find Natural Products, Method to ID Cancer Driver Mutations, More

In Nature this week: combination of cryogenic electron microscopy with genome mining helps uncover natural products, driver mutations in cancer, and more.