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Short Reads: May 29, 2009

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Sequenom faces class action lawsuits on behalf of shareholders after the firm announced that it will delay the launch of a test for Down syndrome on discovering that employees had mishandled R&D test data and results. Sequenom CEO Harry Stylli said four employees had been suspended and that the company put a new team in place to oversee studies of its prenatal diagnostics.

John Rossi, co-founder of Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, won the 2008 Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' Editorial Board for work using microRNAs for gene silencing.

In a letter signed by businesses, patient advocacy groups, and researchers, the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Coalition for 21st Century Medicine asked new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to implement policy changes that will advance diagnostic and pharmaco-genomic technologies. The letter urged Sebelius to strike a balance between patient safety and encouraging innovation when it comes to the oversight of new personalized diagnostics. It also called for a mandatory registry that would include the names of labs performing specific tests as well as the names of the labs or makers that develop tests.

Paul Billings will be acting director and CSO of the Genomic Medicine Institute at El Camino Hospital in Silicon Valley, where he will help provide genomic medicine services for doctors and patients in a community hospital setting. Billings co-founded GeneSage and CBR Systems, and also worked for Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings.

NHGRI kicked off the second phase of its long-term planning process and is asking the research community to comment on updates made to a series of white papers it released late last year. Comments on the papers — which focus on genomics in clinical practice, the future of genome sequencing, and genomics education — are due June 30.

Last seen as bioscience team leader at Cargill BioTDC, Jose Laplaza is the new director of strain engineering and lab operations at Integrated Genomics.

The Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation announced that its Global Leadership Round in Genomics and Life Sciences will spend C$100 million to support collaborative research projects in the province. The money comes from the Ontario Research Fund, a C$625 million, four-year effort that is focused on developing research in the region while boosting industry and scientist recruitment.

Marco Scarpetta, previously at Orchid Cellmark, was named laboratory director at DNA Diagnostics Center.

Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist affiliated with the University of Maryland and UPenn, led an international team in what's billed as the largest study to date of African genetics, published in Science. The team looked at more than 1,300 polymorphic markers in thousands of individuals from more than 100 African populations, four African-American populations, and 60 non-African populations. The results confirmed relationships between some populations with shared language and culture, but uncovered shared ancestry in other groups that were previously thought to be unrelated.

Peter Collins was promoted to be senior VP of business development at DxS. Collins has held senior executive roles at Vysis Europe, Quantase, Gentronix, Biogenix, and Pronostics.

Amar Sethi, who has worked at NHLBI, will be VP of science and technology at Pacific Biometrics.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs filed suit against Myriad -Genetics and others, charging that its BRCA gene patents stifle research and limit options for medical care.

Case Western Reserve University received a three-year NIDA grant worth up to $3 million to conduct proteomic studies of hepatitis C and HIV infections. Researchers will use the funds to develop proteomic and epigenetic markers for chronic immune activation during HIV disease and for studies of the effects of current and prior drug use and HCV infection on disease progression and therapy.

Barbara Schaal, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis focused on quantitative genetics and molecular biology-based studies of evolution in plants, is joining the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and will be a science policy advisor for the White House.

PerkinElmer acquired Analytica, which produces electrospray ionization source technology for mass spectrometers, for an undisclosed amount of money.

The Minnesota State Legislature approved $16 million for the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics.

Helicos BioSciences reported $1.2 million in first-quarter revenues, including its first product revenues at $963,000 from an instrument sale last year, and from reagent sales. The company has installed three systems so far.

The Scan

Study Reveals New Details About Genetics of Major Cause of Female Infertility

Researchers in Nature Medicine conducted a whole-exome sequencing study of mote than a thousand patients with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Circulating Tumor DNA Shows Potential as Biomarker in Rare Childhood Cancer

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that circulating tumor DNA levels in rhabdomyosarcoma may serve as a biomarker for prognosis.

Study Recommends Cancer Screening for Dogs Beginning Age Seven, Depending on Breed

PetDx researchers report in PLOS One that annual cancer screening for dogs should begin by age seven.

White-Tailed Deer Harbor SARS-CoV-2 Variants No Longer Infecting Humans, Study Finds

A new study in PNAS has found that white-tailed deer could act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants no longer found among humans.