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Short Reads: Feb 27, 2009


The US Food and Drug Administration has a new position at the Office of FDA's Chief Scientist to focus on the agency's genomics-related programs. The first person to hold this post will be Liz Mansfield, who has been involved in policy and scientific positions at FDA and in the private sector. Mansfield will work on FDA's goal of providing agency scientists with tools and personnel capable of high-level analysis of complex genetic data.

The Canadian government has granted no money in its budget for the coming year to fund Genome Canada, the biomedical and biotechnology-focused funding agency. The failure to net new federal funds will hurt some high-profile programs that were expecting to lean on Genome Canada, including the International Barcode of Life project and the International Cancer Genome Consortium. However, currently funded researchers will keep their grants.

Complete Genomics signed up the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT to test its human genome sequencing services in a pilot project. Under the agreement, Complete Genomics will sequence five human genomes. It is also currently sequencing five human genomes for the Institute for Systems Biology under a partnership
established last year.

Harvard Medical School professor Gary Gilliland will replace Stephen Friend as vice president of Merck Research Laboratories. A specialist in stem cells and regenerative biology, Gilliland will also be Merck's head of oncology.

About half the labs that currently own a next-gen sequencer plan to buy another system in the next two years, according to a recent survey by the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities' DNA Sequencing Research Group.

Biosearch Technologies named several new hires: Jerry Ruth, formerly at Molecular Biosystems, will head up R&D; Chad Gerber from Third Wave Technologies will oversee IVD oligonucleotide manufacturing; and Adam Mazzo from Lonza Biologics is now the quality systems manager.

The data generated by genome-wide association studies so far is more relevant for understanding disease biology than for predicting individual disease risk, according to a PLoS Genetics study. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, Los Angeles, used a combination of real data and theoretical examples to conclude that SNPs identified in GWAS cannot yet classify individuals well enough for genetic testing.

Eric Lai, previously VP of pharmacogenetics experimental project coordination and analysis at GlaxoSmithKline, is now senior veep of research and development at GenProbe.

Washington University expects to buy 21 Genome Analyzers from Illumina in the coming months for its human genomics programs. This will bring the Wash U genome center's collection of Illumina sequencers to 35.

Stephane Perrey will serve as president of Qiagen KK, Qiagen's Tokyo subsidiary, taking over for Kazuo Tokushige, who retired. Perrey formerly worked at Third Wave/Hologic Japan.

Two researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have been awarded processing time on Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Cray XT supercomputers to simulate complex biological membranes for use in disease studies. Through the US Department of Energy's Novel Computational Impact of Theory and Experiment award, Mike Heroux and Laura Frink will get 1 million processor hours on ORNL's machines. The pair will focus on the role of antimicrobial peptides in new disease treatments.

Clemson University named Keith Murphy as acting director of its genomics institute.

Caliper Life Sciences has filed a suit against Shimadzu claiming that the Japanese firm's microfluidic system infringes 11 patents held by Caliper. The suit alleges that Shimadzu's MCE-202 Multi-NA instrument system, a microchip-based electrophoresis system that performs DNA and RNA size confirmation and quantification, infringes its patents.

Fernando Martinez will be interim director of University of Arizona's BIO5 Institute. Martinez is a principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health's National Children's Study.

The Research Foundation of the State University of New York has filed a suit against Bruker and Varian for allegedly infringing a patent it owns covering spectroscopic equipment used for protein research.

Sequenom hired Allen Bombard as its new chief medical officer. Bombard has previously had stints at Lenetix, the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, and Aetna, among others.

Gentel Biosciences has promoted Randal Durnell to be executive VP and COO, and it has hired Dan Clutter to be VP of commercial development.

The Scan

Sick Newborns Selected for WGS With Automated Pipeline

Researchers successfully prioritized infants with potential Mendelian conditions for whole-genome sequencing or rapid whole-genome sequencing, as they report in Genome Medicine.

Acne-Linked Loci Found Through GWAS Meta-Analysis

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics find new and known acne vulgaris risk loci with a genome-wide association study and meta-analysis, highlighting hair follicle- and metabolic disease-related genes.

Retina Cell Loss Reversed by Prime Editing in Mouse Model of Retinitis Pigmentosa

A team from China turns to prime editing to correct a retinitis pigmentosa-causing mutation in the PDE6b gene in a mouse model of the progressive photoreceptor loss condition in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

CRISPR Screens Reveal Heart Attack-Linked Gene

Researchers in PLOS Genetics have used CRISPR screens to home in on variants associated with coronary artery disease that affect vascular endothelial function.