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Short Reads: Jun 1, 2011

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Due to a budget cut of nearly 1 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year, the US National Institutes of Health plans to scale back grants for all of its institutes and centers. With the exception of the National Cancer Institute, non-competing research awards will be reduced to 1 percent below the award level for FY 2010, and inflationary adjustments for recurring costs in FY 2012 and beyond will be set at 2 percent. Modular and non-modular research NCI grants face a 3 percent reduction.

The Broad Institute plans to sell up to $353.4 million in bonds to help finance the building of a new biomedical research lab.

The University of California, Berkeley, has launched a new synthetic biology and bioengineering institute. Agilent Technologies will be the first industry partner for the Synthetic Biology Institute.

LabCorp plans to eliminate 169 jobs at its recently acquired Genzyme Genetics facility in Westborough, Mass., during the next year.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs plans to expand its large-scale project to collect medical and genomic information from 1 million veterans. The project started at one VA institute and now will be implemented nationwide.

Elizabeth Dragon, the former R&D chief at Sequenom who pleaded guilty to the US Securities and Exchange Commission's charge that she made "materially false and misleading statements" regarding the firm's trisomy 21 test results, has died. She was scheduled to be sentenced at the end of July. Dragon was 62.

The University of Virginia and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation have teamed up to establish the UVA Coulter Translational Research Partnership with $20 million in funding.

Myriad Genetics is acquiring protein-biomarker discovery firm Rules-Based Medicine for $80 million in cash.

Brown University received a $5.1 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources' Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program. The grant is to fund ongoing activities at Brown's Center for Genomics and Proteomics.

Verinata Health, formerly Artemis Health, has appointed Caren Mason as its CEO. Mason was previously diagnostics firm Quidel's president and CEO.

The National Academy of Sciences has announced its new members. They include MIT's David Bartel, Harvard's George Church, and Baylor's Arthur Beaudet.

King's College London and Imperial College London are joining the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation, which is slated to open in 2015. They will contribute £40 million each to fund the new institute.

Pacific Biosciences has shipped its first two commercial PacBio RS single-molecule sequencers, following an early-access program at 11 customer sites. The company booked six additional orders during the first quarter, for a total of 44 systems. It expects to fill these orders by the end of the year.

The National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust plan to launch a bioinformatics resource in Africa and are seeking investigators interested in working with grantees.

The Ontario Genomics Institute has started a new C$400,000 technology development fund for high-risk, high-impact genomics research.

Genome British Columbia has joined the CanEUCre project and will develop tools for understanding the pathogenesis and mechanisms of major human diseases.

Scientists in South Africa, the US, and elsewhere have sequenced the eucalyptus tree genome, which they will publish in early 2012.

Researchers led by scientists at Iowa State University have been awarded nearly $3 million to use microarray and next-generation sequencing technologies to identify functional structural diversity among maize haplotypes.

The American Clinical Laboratory Association asked Congress to enact a statutory change to keep laboratory-developed tests under the purview of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and not to make them subject to Food and Drug Administration oversight.

Illumina has lowered the cost of its human whole-genome sequencing services to $5,000 per genome for 10 or more samples, and $4,000 per genome for projects of 50 samples or more.

In a new report, the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice says the $3.8 billion investment in the Human Genome Project has contributed to a total of $796 billion in economic output impact.

The FDA has cleared Affymettrix's Gene Profiling Reagents as accessories to the GeneChip Microarray Instrument System for in vitro diagnostic use.

At a Senate hearing, NIH Director Francis Collins warned that the fraction of funded grants could drop below 20 percent for FY 2011.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.