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Thermo Fisher, NanoDrop, Sigma-Aldrich, Bear Stearns, NHGRI, Virogenomics

Thermo Fisher Acquires NanoDrop
 
Thermo Fisher Scientific this week acquired NanoDrop Technologies, a privately held manufacturer of micro-volume ultraviolet visible (UV-Vis) instrumentation, for an undisclosed sum.
 
NanoDrop, which has annual revenues of roughly $35 million, will broaden Thermo Fisher’s portfolio of UV-Vis spectrophotometry instruments for applications such as measuring DNA and protein samples.
 
The Wilmington, Del.-based firm currently sells three products: the NanoDrop ND-1000 and ND-8000 UV-Vis spectrophotometers, and the NanoDrop ND-3300 fluorescence spectrophotometer. Its product line will be integrated into Thermo Fisher’s scientific instruments business as part of its Analytical Technologies segment.
 

 
Sigma-Aldrich to Provide Canadian Institute with RNAi Technologies
 
Sigma-Aldrich said last week that it has signed an agreement to provide its RNAi technologies to the University of Montreal’s Institute of Research in Immunology and Cancer.
 
Under the agreement, the institute's high-throughput screening facility will have access to Sigma-Aldrich’s Mission RNAi IP portfolio and its shRNA library collection for human and mouse genomes.
 
Funding for the research was provided by Genome Quebec and by Sigma-Aldrich.
 
The company said it plans to use feedback from the studies to “further its understanding of specific target function” and to continue to develop its high-throughput drug research tools.
 

 
Bear Stearns Raises Life Sciences Sector
 
Investment bank Bear Stearns upgraded its rating on the life sciences sector, which includes a handful of companies in the BCW Index, to “market overweight” from “market weight” last week.
 
In a research note, the bank recommended continued exposure to the stocks of firms that make scientific instruments.
 
Among the BCW Index firms included in the life sciences sector, as defined by Bear Stearns, are Affymetrix, Bruker BioSciences, Illumina, Invitrogen, and Waters.
 
In addition to raising the life sciences sector, Bear Stearns also raised its rating on Bruker to “outperform” from “peer perform.” It maintained its ratings on the other four stocks.
 

 
NHGRI Issues $80M in Grants for Next Phase of ENCODE Project
 
The National Human Genome Research Institute has fired up the second phase of its Encyclopedia of DNA Elements project by doling out $80 million in new grants over four years in hopes of building a “parts list of biologically functional elements” in the entire human genome.
 
The new ENCODE initiative, which comes four months after the program’s pilot project released its data, are aimed at investigating some of the questions left hanging by the pilot program.
 
The pilot project, which looked at 1 percent of the human genome, “produced findings that are reshaping many long-held views about our genome,” NHGRI Director Frances Collins said in a statement this week. The research will now move forward “with a full-scale initiative to build a parts list of biologically functional elements in the human genome.”
 
The scaled-up ENCODE project plans to “build a comprehensive catalog of the components of the human genome that are crucial to biological function,” Elise Feingold, program director for ENCODE in the NHGRI Division of Extramural Research, said in a statement.
 
The data generated from the ENCODE project will be dropped into public databases as soon as they are verified, according to Peter Good, the NHGRI’s extramural research director for genome informatics.
 
"Free and rapid access to this data will enable researchers around the world to pose new questions and gain new insights into how the human genome functions,” Good said.
 
Receiving funding for the scale-up phase will be:
  • Bradley Bernstein of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, who will use $4.8 million to investigate chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput DNA sequencing to map modifications of histones in various human cells; 
  • Gregory Crawford of Duke University’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, who will use $6.5 million to identify and characterize regions of open chromatin through DNase I hypersensitivity assays, formaldehyde-assisted isolation of regulatory elements, and chromatin immunoprecipitation;
  • Thomas Gingeras of Affymetrix, who will use $10.2 million to identify protein-coding and non-protein-coding RNA transcripts using microarrays, high-throughput sequencing, sequenced paired-end ditags, and sequenced cap analysis of gene-expression tags;
  • Tim Hubbard of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who will use $8.5 million to use “computational methods, manual annotation, and targeted experiments … to annotate gene features in the human genome;”
  • Richard Myers of Stanford University, who received $14.6 million to study global annotation of regulatory elements in the human genome, and will use high-throughput sequencing to determine the methylation status of CpG-rich regions in the human genome;
  • Michael Snyder of Yale University, who will use $11.5 million to start a production center for global mapping of regulatory elements;
  • John Stamatoyannopoulos of the University of Washington, Seattle, who will use $9.7 million to map and classify DNase I hypersensitive sites across major human cell lineages;
  • Scott Tenenbaum of the State University of New York at Albany, who received $2.2 million for research aimed at comprehensively identifying ENCODE RNA-based cis-regulatory elements;
  • Zhiping Weng of Boston University, who will use $1.5 million to identify transcriptional factor-binding sites in human promoters; and
  • W. James Kent of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who will use $5 million to establish the UCSC ENCODE Data Coordination Center, which will collect, organize, store, manage, and provide access to data from ENCODE projects.

 
Virogenomics to Use NIST Funding to Develop Multiplex Device
 
Virogenomics said last week that it has won a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a handheld assay that would test for multiple biomarkers at once.
 
The grant was awarded under NIST's Advanced Technology Program. The company said it is developing the technology, which it calls the Sensor System on Panel, or SSOP, test with a number of collaborators, including Sharp Labs of America's Materials and Device Applications Lab, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, and the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center.
 
The SSOP test will screen for autoimmune diseases, allergies, cancers, and infectious diseases, and is based on technology the company licensed from Oregon Health & Science University.
 
The company said that the SSOP “will include all the hardware and firmware required to do a complete analysis of the interaction of biological molecules and communicate the result.”
 
The device is expected to be “the size and shape of a typical USB flash drive, and could be read on a standard personal computer through a USB port,” the company said.
 
"The ability to rapidly screen for multiple disease markers and antibodies in real time on a microchip will enable healthcare providers to make on-the-spot medical decisions," said OHSU researcher Arthur Vandenbark, a co-inventor of one of the biochip designs to be developed for the SSOP.
 

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.