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Ups and Downs with NIH Funding, Friedrich von Bohlen, Affy and ParAllele, WARF's Stem Cell Patents, and Cancer


In April 2003, Genome Technology included a news article reporting on NIH Director Elias Zerhouni's triumph — he had successfully doubled the NIH budget in five years. The celebration didn't last long. By 2004, the institute's budget increase wasn't keeping up with inflation, and as every GT reader knows, for the past couple of years the budget has been flat — an effective loss of 10 percent or more, experts say. The budget proposed for fiscal 2009 is actually less than what was issued to NIH this year when you deduct the $300 million set aside for a Global AIDS program.

Another article five years ago profiled Friedrich von Bohlen, then head of Lion Biosciences. At the end of 2003, von Bohlen stepped down from his post, and in 2006 Lion sold the bioinformatics part of its business to BioWisdom. Von Bohlen is now with Dievini, a healthcare consultancy, and he sits on the boards of companies including Apogenix, Sygnis Pharma, and CureVac.

Also in 2003, GT updated readers on ParAllele, best known for commercializing molecular inversion probes. In late 2005, Affymetrix acquired ParAllele for about $130 million in cash and stock. Late last year, Affy said it would put more effort into developing assays based on the Par-Allele technology.

In last year's edition of the magazine, GT featured its third annual special issue devoted to cancer research. We profiled some of the most innovative science done in the previous year, including work done by Alea Mills at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, Jan Karlseder at the Salk Institute, and MIT's Michael Yaffe, among others. This year our cover story turns again to the cancer research field, covering scientific highlights from the past 12 months.

Last year we also included an article from the inaugural edition of our sister publication, Biotech Transfer Week, about the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation clarifying policies to ensure researchers broad access to the embryonic stem cell lines it governed. In the time since, WARF has undergone a number of challenges to the patent portfolio covering this stem cell line. Last month, WARF announced that the US Patent and Trademark Office had upheld the validity of one of its key stem cell patents.

The Scan

Researchers Compare WGS, Exome Sequencing-Based Mendelian Disease Diagnosis

Investigators find a diagnostic edge for whole-genome sequencing, while highlighting the cost advantages and improving diagnostic rate of exome sequencing in EJHG.

Researchers Retrace Key Mutations in Reassorted H1N1 Swine Flu Virus With Avian-Like Features

Mutations in the acidic polymerase-coding gene boost the pathogenicity and transmissibility of Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza viruses, a PNAS paper finds.

Genome Sequences Reveal Evolutionary History of South America's Canids

An analysis in PNAS of South American canid species' genomes offers a look at their evolutionary history, as well as their relationships and adaptations.

Lung Cancer Response to Checkpoint Inhibitors Reflected in Circulating Tumor DNA

In non-small cell lung cancer patients, researchers find in JCO Precision Oncology that survival benefits after immune checkpoint blockade coincide with a dip in ctDNA levels.