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Writing grants, pharmacogenomics, IP

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The cover story for Genome Technology’s May 2004 issue delved into the nuts and bolts of grant writing — that tedious but unavoidable aspect of any academic scientist’s professional life. Not much about the process of appealing for research funding has changed over the course of a year; and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), the amount of money in the federal budget allocated for life sciences research hasn’t changed much either. For FY 2006, the proposed increase in funding for NIH is a mere 0.7 percent — well below the rate of inflation, according to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Perhaps to compensate for the tightening of budgets, FASEB offers resources for scientists hoping to polish their skills in grant writing.

Last year’s May issue also touched on the status of the field of pharmacogenomics, in a report from the HUGO meeting in Berlin. There, Klaus Lindpaintner of Roche Genetics made clear that he felt the scientific community should be skeptical of widely touted claims that pharmacogenomics will “revolutionize” medicine. In the near term, researchers should investigate bimodal responses to drug treatments in the hope that we can live up to at least some of the expectations laid out for the field, he said. More recently, FDA has made a concerted effort to encourage drug makers and academic researchers to incorporate pharmacogenomic approaches into drug discovery and development, in the hope that new technologies can chip away at the high costs of bringing a drug to market.

In a reprise of last May’s Legal Probe column, this issue revisits the legal controversy around the freedom of researchers to use patented technology free of charge. A year ago, an appeals court decided in favor of Duke University researchers who had continued to work with laser technology patented by a former university scientist, arguing that the university’s use of the technology still qualified as “experimental use,” and was therefore protected under the academic exemption to patent restrictions. The debates continue, and this month GT looks at a related case expected to be heard by the Supreme Court in April.

In the year since GT last looked at protein biochips, once-vaunted Zyomyx has sold $50 million worth of equipment, licensed much of its IP to Invitrogen, and laid off 80% of its employees to be reincarnated as a service provider. Proteome chip maker ProtoMetrix’s initial splash on the scene led to a similar result: acquisition by Invitrogen. The Yale spinout, now a part of Invitrogen’s Carlsbad, Calif.-based life sciences and reagent empire, now has two products on the market: a human proteome array, with 1,800 open reading frames, and a yeast proteome array, with 4,088 potential protein substrates.

Coming up: Next Month in GT

Don’t miss these features in the June issue:

Salary survey

In our third annual salary survey, we’ll bring you data from readers on wages in public- and private-sector systems biology, breaking information down to which technology categories pay the most. As usual, we’ll also report on perks such as benefits, bonuses, and patent privileges.

Mass spec sample prep

What’s the best way to get rid of high-abundance proteins and ensure the best quality data at the end? We’ll introduce you to technology pioneers working to overcome this hurdle, and let you know which new approaches seem the most promising.

The Scan

And For Adolescents

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

Also of Concern to WHO

The Wall Street Journal reports that the World Health Organization has classified the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.617 as a "variant of concern."

Test for Them All

The New York Times reports on the development of combined tests for SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses like influenza.

PNAS Papers on Oral Microbiome Evolution, Snake Toxins, Transcription Factor Binding

In PNAS this week: evolution of oral microbiomes among hominids, comparative genomic analysis of snake toxins, and more.