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Short Reads: Feb 1, 2010


The New York State Department of Health has granted Navigenics a clinical laboratory permit and has said that the company may offer its Health Compass service to state residents. Last summer, the state said it would regulate companies that offer educational information about genetic risk as if they were clinical laboratories.

Biogen Idec CEO James Mullen will be stepping down this summer after seven years at the helm of the company. His time there has been marked by numerous drug approvals, though one was linked to a rare, fatal brain infection, and criticisms from Carl Icahn. Recently, the company walked away from a $420 million bid to buy Facet Biotech.

The Nasdaq Stock Market notified Decode Genetics that the firm's common stock would be suspended from trading in early January. Decode said that it is possible its stock will be traded thereafter on the Pink Sheets.

Accelrys has appointed Michael Piraino to be senior VP and CFO and Paul Burrin to be senior VP and chief marketing officer. Piraino formerly was co-founder and CFO of M2 Technology Partners and Burrin previously was responsible for sales, strategy, and services for Google's Asia Pacific business.

The National Cancer Institute will grant up to $10 million in 2010 to help small businesses commercialize cancer diagnostics, prognostics, imaging tools, and therapeutics.

Bio-Rad Laboratories bought some of Biotest's diagnostics businesses, including its blood transfusion testing, transplantation, and infectious diseases diagnostic products, for €45 million.

Illumina has added a Human-OmniExpress BeadChip to its portfolio of microarrays for genome-wide association studies. This 12-sample Beadchip allows the interrogation of more than 700,000 variants per sample.

Allan Mandelzys is now the chief executive officer of Thallion Pharmaceuticals. He joined the company in 2007 as the executive vice president of licensing and corporate development. Lloyd Segal is also now the executive chairman of Thallion's board.

Abraxis BioScience awarded the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., a $1 million grant to search for genes and proteins that can serve as biomarkers for solid-tumor cancers.

John Burn, the head of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, has received a knighthood for his contributions in medicine. Burn helped to set up Newcastle's International Centre for Life, which last year reported growing human sperm cells from stem cells.

Strategic Diagnostics and the Fred Hutchinson Research Cancer Center will be collaborating to find biomarkers for use in the early detection of cancers, first focusing on pancreatic cancer. SDI will provide about 1,000 of its cancer antigen antibodies to the center.

The US Department of Agriculture has awarded a $500,000 grant to Texas A&M researchers to study how certain groups of genes may be used to improve corn crops. The scientist will focus on the LOX gene family in corn plants and plan to manipulate mutations in these genes to develop corn plants that are able to avoid specific weather-related problems.

Perlegen Sciences, the privately held, Mountain View, Calif.-based pharmacogenomics and genotyping services firm, ceased operations as of Oct. 30, 2009.

Klaus Lindpaintner has been hired by Strategic Diagnostics as VP of research and development and CSO.

OncoMed Pharmaceuticals and Fluidigm are working together to use microfluidic tools to analyze the heterogeneity of tumor cells, including cancer stem cells. The partnership will combine Fluidigm's microfluidic platforms with OncoMed's cancer stem cell sorting technology to generate tools to analyze, quantify, and develop treatments directed at a highly tumorigenic cell population.

The Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute received $3.2 million to start a new pharmacogenomics research center. The center will house the cancer institute's samples and it will be a resource and research center for translational studies focused on oncology drugs and prevention approaches. The funding came from the US Department of Defense Appropriation bill for 2010.

The National Institutes of Health plans to grant about $43 million to institutions to buy biomedical research equipment, as part of its Shared Instrument Grant program. These funds support the purchase of tools costing at least $100,000 and as much as $600,000.

Dow AgroSciences is partnering with KeyGene and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo., to improve tomato and cassava production, respectively.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.