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Short Reads/Markers: Jan 1, 2003


It should come as no surprise that the man who seems to exist to be controversial managed to win a $3 million grant to create life (well, sort of). The DOE parceled out the funds to Craig Venter’s Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives — with scientific director Hamilton Smith — in a three-year grant to build a synthetic chromosome.


CuraGen laid off 128 employees, or 25 percent of its workforce, and postponed construction of a planned research center to trim research expenses. The measures will cost the company roughly $11 million in charges. The company also reported a collaboration with Mitsubishi Pharma to characterize schizophrenia-associated drug targets.


It’s that time of year. The semiannual Top 500 supercomputer rankings came out, prompting happy announcements from Intel and HP: Intel-based systems made up 56 of the entries, compared to two in 1999. Meanwhile, HP trumpeted itself as the “number one supercomputing supplier,” leading the list with both the HP Superdome and the Compaq AlphaServer.


Greenomics, a DNA sequencing facility in the Netherlands, joined up with Dutch food research institute NIZO to study how genomics can be used in fermentation processes.

Facing a shrinking endowment, Howard Hughes Medical Institute laid off staff, instituted a hiring freeze, and cut administrative costs by $3.5 million. It also eliminated its Research Resources program, funded at $114 million in 2001, and lab budgets are down as much as 10 percent across the board.


It’s the rodents’ turn to howl. Mouse researchers announced publication of the first analysis of their sequence, and rat fans announced their assembly of the genome last November.


In a Series B round, Psychiatric Genomics raised $17 million. The round was led by Catalytix and included Stanley Medical Research Institute, Oxford Bioscience Partners, GIMV, and Emerging Technology Partners, among others.


A structural genomics consortium headed up by Rutgers University was awarded a third year of funding from NIGMS, to the tune of $6.5 million.


Still glorying in its popular rolling circle technology, Molecular Staging has set out on another amplification project, this time aimed at microbial DNA. The company won a DOE grant from the Genomes to Life program for the work.


DeCode Genetics and Wyeth signed a pharmacogenomics agreement to use gene expression data to study a candidate drug for respiratory disease.

Rubicon Genomics won two SBIR grants worth $200,000 over four months to work on its multiplexed DNA-analysis tools.


Incyte Genomics will acquire San Diego’s Maxia Pharmaceuticals, a small molecule drug discovery company.


HTS Biosystems and Cienca snagged a $600,000 grant from NASA to continue work on protein microarrays to be used in space for studying proteins in low gravity.


The defunct Cereon Genomics has spawned Cantata Pharmaceuticals, a drug discovery firm based on assets from the ag genomics company, a joint venture between Millennium and Monsanto. Michael Pavia will be Cantata’s CTO; he formerly held the same post at Millennium. Mark Trusheim will be CEO of the company, and Roger Wiegand logs on as CSO.


Ag researchers sequenced the genome of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, a common pathogen that causes disease in cattle. The sequence was generated by scientists at the University of Minnesota and the USDA’s National Animal Disease Center.


Will it ever end? A letter to Nature from Darryl Macer called for the mapping of the “behaviorome,” a project to explain differences and similarities in both people and cultures. Macer will host a meeting next month to launch the project.


The Scan

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.

Study Explores Animated Digital Message Approach to Communicate Genetic Test Results to Family Members

In the Journal of Genetic Counseling, the approach showed promise in participants presented with a hypothetical scenario related to a familial hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome diagnosis.

Computational Tool Predicts Mammalian Messenger RNA Degradation Rates

A tool called Saluki, trained with mouse and human messenger RNA data, appears to improve mRNA half-life predictions by taking RNA and genetic features into account, a Genome Biology paper reports.

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.