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Short Reads: Sep 1, 2010


The US Supreme Court upheld the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Bilski v. Kappos case, saying that certain business method patents are invalid. However, the court rejected the finding that such patents must be tied to a machine or undergo a "transformation" in order to be patentable. This upholds the patent eligibility of innovations such as software, data-driven processes, and medical diagnostics.

During its first meeting, the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues heard from supporters and critics of synthetic -biology as part of its effort to develop a report on the -topic. Speakers at the meeting included Synthetic Genomics' J. Craig Venter and Massachusetts Institute of -Technology's George Church.

Sir Paul Nurse has been named the chair of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation's Scientific Planning Committee as well as its inaugural director and chief executive. The appointment takes effect the first of January 2011.

Mark McGowan is the interim president and chief executive officer of CombiMatrix following the June departure of Amit Kumar.

In a report, the US Government Accountability Office says that direct-to-consumer genetics companies may be "misleading" consumers about what their services do and engaging in deceptive marketing practices. Following an investigation, the GAO says that these types of tests currently "are of little or no use."

The US Food and Drug Administration sent out warning letters in July to 14 companies, informing them that they were marketing unapproved genetic tests that require 510(k) approval or pre-market approval from the agency. The letters are similar to a set sent in June to 23andMe, DeCode Genetics, Navigenics, and Illumina. The companies that received letters in this wave include SeqWright DNA Technology Services, Interleukin Genetics, Consumer Genetics, and Sequenom.

As part of its shift to focus on blood-based microRNA biomarker discovery, Febit is undergoing restructuring. Cord Staehler resigned as president and CEO as well as from the company's executive board; he has joined Siemens Healthcare. Hartmut Voss and Jochen Kohlhaas have been named co-CEOs. Kohlhaas will also remain the company's CFO.

Jonathan Knowles is the new CSO of Caris Life Sciences.

Complete Genomics has filed documents for a proposed initial public offering to raise about $86.3 million.

Myriad Pharmaceuticals has changed its name to Myrexis. The company, which was spun out of Myriad Genetics, focuses on developing cancer treatments.

Cheryl Moore has been named the first chief operating officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She had been COO for the institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus since March 2004.

William Talman, a neurology and neuroscience professor at the University of Iowa, is the new president of the -Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Shortly after taking over, he urged lawmakers to increase the 2011 National Institutes of Health budget to $37 billion.

Sanofi-Aventis and the Scripps Genomic Medicine Program announced an alliance to advance research and development initiatives in personalized medicine. Sanofi-Aventis' R&D group will fund up to three Discovery Innovation Grants per year for Scripps investigators, and will be granted non-exclusive rights to any research tools developed through those grants.

Roche and IBM announced an agreement to develop a nanopore-based sequencer to directly read and decode human DNA. The work, funded by Roche, will build on IBM's "DNA Transistor" technology. Roche will also contribute expertise through its 454 subsidiary.

Illumina and its predecessor Solexa is suing Complete Genomics, saying it allegedly infringes three of Illumina's patents. One patent covers "DNA sequencing by parallel oligonucleotide extensions," another is for using "arrayed biomolecules" in sequencing, and the third is on a method to order restriction fragments.

Suzanne Pfeffer, a Stanford University School of Medicine professor, is the new president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Gary King is taking on the newly created position of executive vice president of international operations at Myriad Genetics. He was previously the CEO of AverDx.

The UK's Norwich Research Park has opened its new NRP Innovation Centre. This £5 million facility consists of more than 30 office and laboratory units.

Didier Hirsch is now the CFO and senior vice president at Agilent Technologies.

The Scan

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.

Survey Sees Genetic Literacy on the Rise, Though Further Education Needed

Survey participants appear to have higher genetic familiarity, knowledge, and skills compared to 2013, though 'room for improvement' remains, an AJHG paper finds.

Study Reveals Molecular, Clinical Features in Colorectal Cancer Cases Involving Multiple Primary Tumors

Researchers compare mismatch repair, microsatellite instability, and tumor mutation burden patterns in synchronous multiple- or single primary colorectal cancers.

FarGen Phase One Sequences Exomes of Nearly 500 From Faroe Islands

The analysis in the European Journal of Human Genetics finds few rare variants and limited geographic structure among Faroese individuals.