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Short Reads: Jun 30, 2009

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Microsoft has agreed to acquire Rosetta Biosoftware, a unit of Rosetta Inpharmatics, from parent company Merck for an undisclosed sum. According to the software giant, the acquisition will add genetic, genomic, metabolomic, and proteomic data management software into its own translational research Amalga Life Sciences platform.

The US National Cancer Institute will fund research using a range of large-scale biology tools to develop and validate biomarkers for malignancies of the blood under two new grant programs. The five-year R01 and two-year R21 grant mechanisms will support scientists developing genomic, proteomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic delivery and development methods, as well as the use of standardized biospecimens for validation studies.

Eric Schadt, best known for leading pioneering work on combining GWAS with data from other sources to shed new light on diabetes, was hired as chief scientific officer of Pacific Biosciences. Schadt was previously executive scientific director of genetics at Merck subsidiary Rosetta Inpharmatics.

Mainz, Germany-based TheraCode bought JPT Peptide Technologies, a wholly-owned subsidiary of German drug maker Jerini, for €5 million.

Nanogen plans to lay off 89 employees based in San Diego as it moves ahead with the sale of its assets to French firm Elitech for $25.7 million. Earlier this year, Nanogen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Elitech will buy almost all of the company's assets, including an Italian affiliate.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute hired Kostas Petritis to head its Center for Proteomics, which will work with the Partnership for Personalized Medicine, an alliance between TGen, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, and Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Petritis was previously a senior research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

Avesthagen, a company based in Bangalore, will collaborate with Harvard Medical School's genetics department on population genetics research and data analysis. The partnership is part of the Avestagenome Project, a research study begun by the firm to establish linkage between genes, disease, and environmental factors. Through the deal, Avesthagen will provide Harvard with data sets from genome-wide array experiments, genotyping, and other data sets from experiments analyzing population structure.

A New Zealand consortium led by the University of Otago will receive US$16.5 million from the government to develop a genomics research facility. The group plans to use the money to buy genetic sequencing tools, bioinformatics equipment, and hire staff.

Scientists from the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institutes of Health's Intramural Sequencing and Clinical Centers published a study of microbial communities residing on human skin. The team found that these communities vary with skin microenvironment, time, and between individuals. The researchers used 16S rRNA sequencing and analysis to characterize the microbes found at 20 skin sites in 10 individuals.

Fan Chen, most recently a principal scientist at Quest subsidiary Focus Diagnostics, was named chief technical officer of genomic diagnostic startup Medomics. Chen has also served as R&D director at Clingenix and worked at MJ Research, Iris Biotechnologies, and Warner Lambert Pharmaceuticals.

In personal genomics news, Illumina launched prescription-based consumer genome sequencing at $48,000. Also, Knome partnered to offer its sequencing service through SeqWright's CLIA lab.

Through its Pilot-Scale Libraries for High-Throughput Screening program, NIH will support the development of new chemical libraries by funding as many as eight programs in 2010 with as much as $2.5 million for three years. Researchers may pursue various approaches, including high-throughput synthesis or combinatorial chemistry, isolation and purification of discrete compounds from living organisms (natural products), and target-oriented synthesis, including synthesis of analogs of natural products or other lead compounds.

Alexander Bearn, an early leader in human genetics research, died at the age of 86. Bearn studied the genetic components involved in Wilson's disease, among others. During the course of his career he worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Cornell University Medical College, and Merck.

Illumina launched the HumanOmni1-Quad BeadChip, which has 4 million features and will replace the 1.2-million feature Human1M-Duo BeadChip as the company's main offering for researchers conducting genome-wide association studies. The chip is the first of a new family of arrays that include rare variant content generated by the 1,000 Genomes Project and other sources.

The Scan

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.