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Short Reads: Jul 1, 2010


A week after his synthetic genome paper appeared in Nature, J. Craig Venter and others appeared before the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce to discuss the burgeoning technology. In particular, lawmakers were interested in what synthetic biology is, its future, its regulation, and whether it is dangerous.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission charged former senior vice president of research and development for Sequenom, Elizabeth Dragon, with making false statements to investors about the firm's prenatal test for Down syndrome. Dragon and former President and CEO Harry Stylli were fired last year after an investigation into the mishandling of test data for the Down syndrome test.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced that it is awarding grants, totaling $79 million, to support undergraduate science education. $70 million of those funds will go to 50 research universities in 30 states and the District of Columbia to develop more creative curricula, and $9 million will go to 13 professors to solve problems facing science education.

Martin Mackay is leaving Pfizer to lead research and development at AstraZeneca. He will be succeeded at Pfizer by Mikael Dolsten, the former head of R&D at Wyeth.

23andMe informed up to 96 customers that its contracted laboratory, Laboratory Corporation of America, incorrectly processed their samples, resulting in those customers receiving and viewing data that was not their own.

Illumina announced that it is cutting the price of its individual genome sequencing service to $19,500 from $48,000. A group rate of $14,500 per genome for five or more people with the same physician is also available. In addition, people with medical conditions who would benefit clinically from whole-genome sequencing can purchase the service for $9,500.

Victor Markowitz is the new chief informatics officer and associate director of the Joint Genome Institute. Markowitz will continue to lead the Biological Data Management and Technology Center at JGI.

Life Technologies has acquired a 74 percent stake in German synthetic gene company Geneart for €38 million. It also invested an undisclosed amount into Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics.

Cora Marrett was named acting director of the National Science Foundation. She is filling in for Arden Bement, who is leaving the agency to lead the Global Policy Research Institute at Purdue University.

Life Technologies is teaming up with Fox Chase Cancer Center, Scripps Genomic Medicine, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute to form the Genomic Cancer Care Alliance. This group plans to analyze the genomic information of people with cancer to help them find better treatments.

The European Personalised Medicine Association has named Anne Bruinvels as its executive director. Previously, Bruinvels founded the personalized healthcare advisory company Elixior, and was CEO and founder of Curidium.

Nick Glover will be taking on the newly created spots of president and chief operating officer of YM BioSciences, a life sciences product development company.

Tom Akin has resigned as the chairman of the board of directors of CombiMatrix. Brooke Anderson has also resigned from the board and plans to resign as chief operating officer when the company's Washington facilities close.

Bill Efcavitch left his position as senior vice president and chief technology officer of Helicos BioSciences. He served as senior advisor to the CEO until the end of June.

Stanford University's School of Medicine is creating a Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine, which the school says will integrate genomics information with every aspect of medicine. The center also plans to set up collaboration between clinical and basic scientists, and draw on technologies developed in Silicon Valley.

Stan Lapidus is the founder, president, and CEO of SynapDx, a new company that is developing diagnostic tests for the early detection of autism. He is a co-founder of Helicos BioSciences, Cytyc, and Exact Sciences.

Harvard professor David Weitz is a co-founder of DNA sequencing technology startup GnuBio. The company plans to develop an inexpensive, fast, and scalable microfluidics-based sequencer that uses $30-worth of reagents to read a human genome.

The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, which includes the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, is collaborating with the Karolinska Institute. This Frontiers of Biomedical Research group plans to establish fellowships for promising young investigators for exchanges in certain research areas, including genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics.

The Scan

Unwrapping Mummies' Faces

LiveScience reports that Parabon NanoLabs researchers have reconstructed how three Egyptian mummies may have looked.

Study on Hold

The Spectrum 10K study has been put on hold due to a backlash, leading the researchers to conduct consultations with the autism community, Nature News reports.

Others Out There Already

Reuters reports that Sanofi is no longer developing an mRNA-based vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.

PNAS Papers on GWAS False Discovery, PRAMEF2 Role in Tumorigenesis, RNA Virus Reverse Genetics

In PNAS this week: strategy to account for GWAS false-discovery rates, role of PRAMEF2 in cancer development, and more.