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Short Reads: Nov 1, 2011

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The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation said they would ask the US Supreme Court to review the case of American Molecular Pathology et al. v. US Patent and Trademark Office et al., which challenges the validity of gene patents held by Myriad Genetics. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of Myriad in August.

Washington University in St. Louis' Genome Institute laid off 54 employees, about 17 percent of its workforce. The school says the layoffs are in response to reductions in funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute. This move affects employees throughout the institute, including analysis, assembly, production, informatics, and administration.

Bio-Rad Laboratories has purchased digital PCR systems maker QuantaLife for $162 million in cash and possible future milestone -payments.

Michael Glynn is the new chief commercial officer at Pacific Biosciences. He previously served as Genzyme's regional president of Japan and Asia Pacific.

Sammy Farah has been appointed president of Synthetic Genomics Vaccines. Prior to this, he was chief business officer at Immune Design.

Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann, and Ralph Steinman received this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work on the human immune system. Steinman died days before the award announcement unbeknownst to the Nobel committee, which decided to still award him the prize.

The Jackson Laboratory won a $25 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to support its Mouse Genome Database.

GnuBio's Vice President of Informatics John Healy says the company's microfluidics-based sequencing system will have read lengths of 1,000 base pairs when it launches in the second quarter of 2012.

RXi Pharmaceuticals is spinning out its gene-silencing technology into a new publicly traded company with the RXi name. Its immunotherapy activities will be conducted under the name Galena Biopharma.

John West is the CEO and co-founder of Personalis, which was launched in August and will focus on the clinical interpretation of genomic sequencing data. West is the former CEO of Solexa, which was acquired by Illumina.

23andMe launched a pilot program that provides personal exome sequencing direct to consumers for $999.

The University of Utah School of Medicine's John Opitz has won this year's William Allan Award.

Vermillion CEO, President, and Chair of the Board Gail Page resigned her position as chair after the company separated the post from the CEO office. James Burns is the new chair. In addition, Donald Munroe is the new chief scientific officer and vice president of research and development while Eric Fung, the company's former chief scientific officer, is now the chief medical officer.

David Flanders has been named CEO of Eagle Genomics. He previously led StemCells' UK operations. Flanders replaces co-founder and founding CEO Abel Ureta-Vidal, who stepped down.

Stanford University's Ronald Davis has won the 2011 Genetics Prize of the Gruber Foundation.

Brian Ward is the new CEO of in vitro diagnostics company DiaDexus, and Michael Richer is the new chief business officer. Also, Executive VP and COO Bernard Alfano is leaving the company. Interim CEO Jim Panek will remain on the board of directors.

Martin Madaus is now Quanterix's permanent CEO. Madaus had been serving as interim CEO since David Okrongly left the company.

Thomas Christely is Silence Therapeutics' new CEO. He was previously the company's COO, and replaces Philip Haworth, who left the company as part of its reorganization.

A team led by researchers at the University of Tübingen reconstructed the genome of the Yersinia pestis pathogen that caused the Black Death plague. The team found that the ancient Y. pestis is genetically almost identical to modern strains.

BGI will sequence the genomes of 10,000 participants in the Autism Speaks biobank. The two-year collaboration aims to produce the world's largest library of sequenced genomes of patients with autism spectrum disorders.

Tyler Aldredge is the new vice president of laboratory operations at Expression Analysis. Previously he was the director of laboratory operations at Genzyme Genetics.

Gary Levine is the new CFO of Zygem, and Jeffrey Hickey is the new director of reagents development for forensics there. Levine was formerly CFO and treasurer for Bostwick Laboratories, and Hickey worked for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.

The Scan

Study Tracks Responses in Patients Pursuing Polygenic Risk Score Profiling

Using interviews, researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics qualitatively assess individuals' motivations for, and experiences with, direct-to-consumer polygenic risk score testing.

EHR Quality Improvement Study Detects Demographic-Related Deficiencies in Cancer Family History Data

In a retrospective analysis in JAMA Network Open, researchers find that sex, ethnicity, language, and other features coincide with the quality of cancer family history information in a patient's record.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Linked to Gut Microbiome Community Structure Gradient in Meta-Analysis

Bringing together data from prior studies, researchers in Genome Biology track down microbial taxa and a population structure gradient with ties to ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

Ancient Greek Army Ancestry Highlights Mercenary Role in Historical Migrations

By profiling genomic patterns in 5th century samples from in and around Himera, researchers saw diverse ancestry in Greek army representatives in the region, as they report in PNAS.