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Thermo Electron, Virtek, Bio-Rad, European Bioinformatics Network, NIH, Agilent

Thermo Opens Mass Spec Facility in Bremen, Germany

Thermo Electron this week announced the opening of a new European Center of Excellence for Mass Spectrometry in Bremen, Germany. The new site includes a manufacturing facility for Thermo’s mass spectrometers, a customer demo center and a research and development laboratory.

“This new facility is a critical component of our long-term strategy for the global mass spectrometry market,” Marijn Dekkers, president and CEO of Thermo, said in a statement.”

According to the company, the new application laboratory in Bremen features instruments for five mass spectrometer products: Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance, Organic Sector, Isotope Ratio, High Resolution Inductively Coupled Plasma and Thermal Ionization. It has a clean lab for semiconductor applications as well as a conference center.

Virtek settles Bio-Rad Claim

Waterloo, Ontario-based Virtek Vision International said recently it had settled a claim filed in April 2004 by Bio-Rad

Laboratories, which had purchased all assets pertaining to Virtek’s Biotech Instrument business for $7.1 million on June 28, 2002.

Virtek will transfer the rights to the company’s remaining biotech intellectual property, FONA (Fibre-Optic Nucleic Acid) detection technology, to Bio-Rad. Virtek will also pay approximately $140,000, and release claims to $350,000 held in escrow from the original sale agreement.

EU Awards European Bioinformatics Network
8.3M Euros to Improve Access to Databases

A consortium of European bioinformaticists has received an €8.3 million ($10.8 million) grant from the European Union to improve access to bioinformatics databases, the European Bioinformatics Institute said today.

The group, called Embrace Network of Excellence, comprises 17 institutes in 10 European countries and in Israel and is headed by Graham Cameron, the EBI’s associate director. The consortium plans to create a data grid that will provide standardized access to bioinformatics databases.

NIH Sets Aside New $100K-$500K
SBIR Grants for RNAi Research

The National Institutes of Health will be awarding grants to members of the small business community to support efforts that “develop new approaches and chemical modifications that will increase the long-term stability, delivery, and targeting of siRNAs in cells and tissues for laboratory and therapeutic applications,” the NIH said last week.

Budgets up to $100,000 per year, and time periods up to two years for Phase I programs, may be requested, the NIH noted. Budgets up to $500,000 per year, and up to three years, may be requested for Phase II programs.

Seeking to Avoid ‘Past Abuses,’ NIH Ethics Policy
Now Prohibits All Staffers from Working for Industry

The National Institutes of Health yesterday released a new ethics regulation that will prohibit NIH employees from working with pharmaceutical and biological companies, and research institutions, including NIH grantees.

A previous regulation only prohibited such relationships to upper-level employees. The ban has now been extended to all NIH staff.

Investments in companies that are significantly affected by the organization will also now be prohibited for employees that file financial disclosure forms, and will be restricted for other staff, under the new regulations. Non-filers' stock holdings in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies will now be capped at $15,000.

According to a statement from the NIH, the new ethics rules will take effect once they are published in the Federal Register — most likely in the next few days -- and will remain in effect indefinitely. Still, they will be subject to revision by the US Department of Health and Human Services, which will solicit public comment on the new regulation during a 60-day period following its publication in the Register.

The NIH specifically stated that the new regulations were a direct result of the activities of some employees who had been engaged in outside consulting with biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Reports in the media last year, such as those chronicled in ProteoMonitor, a Biocommerce Week sister publication, that showed NIH employees receiving money from the very firms they are in a position to benefit led to congressional hearings, as well as the recent tightening of the ethics rules.

NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said in a statement that the revised ethics regulations would “prevent the recurrence of past abuses and will go along way in preserving the historic role of NIH as the primary source of unscientific health information for the country.”

Agilent Products Get OK from Midwest Research
Institute for Use in Homeland Security, Biodefense

MRI, a leading center for biological and chemical defense research in the United States, said they have been submitting the Agilent 2100 bioanalyzer and Agilent 5100 automated lab-on-a-chip to "real-world" testing that the microarray company cannot perform in its own labs.

Though MRI is an independent organization, it has been providing the US government with its expertise and services for over 40 years.

A spokesperson for the company said that though the study doesn't guarantee that the Agilent products will be placed in anyone's biodefense or homeland security program, it is still significant for the company.

MRI is testing the capabilities of the analytical instruments in high-throughput pathogen detection, and used its multiplexing PCR technology with the Agilent products to monitor biological threat agents.

Steve Lufkin, MRI's senior vice president of technology and strategic business development, said in a statement that Agilent's 5100 lab on chip platform "is a promising instrument for automated high-throughput sample screening in biodefense applications."

Lufkin said that a need exists in the biodefense environment “to balance accuracy with the cost and speed of collecting and analyzing volumes of critical information.”

“It is essential to have bioanalysis equipment, such as the Agilent 5100, that makes full use of our multiplexing capabilities," he said.

The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.