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CombiMatrix's New Dx Unit In Talks With Potential Distributors, Customers

CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics, a newly created subsidiary of CombiMatrix, has begun negotiating with undisclosed potential distributors and customers, the company said this week.

The wholly owned business was created in May to focus on microarray-based diagnostics (see BioArray News 5/11/2005). Specifically, the business aims to be a testing center for clinicians who wish to use CombiMatrix' array technology for certain molecular diagnostics applications.

CombiMatrix said it hopes the subsidiary can take advantage of US Food and Drug Administration guidelines that allow the use of homebrew microarrays in creating diagnostics, thereby generating revenue before its technology gets FDA approval. Under the FDA's home-brew rules, labs that make the diagnostic array in their facilities and test it there do not require FDA approval.

The unit will initially focus on developing cancer diagnostics using the CombiMatrix Desk Top Synthesizer, which was designed to enable researchers to build their own chips, Bret Undem, vice president of research at the Mulkiteo, Wash.-based CombiMatrix, said in May.

The unit has "begun efforts to build our first cancer diagnostic products based on CombiMatrix's CustomArray technology," Matthew Watson, CMD CEO, said in a statement this week. He added that CMD has applied for "all appropriate licenses," including its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment certification, which would enable its homebrew business. "We have also begun strategic alliance discussions with potential distributors and customers," Watson said.

Additional details were not disclosed.


Investment Bank Downgrades Affy Stock; Shares Slide Nearly 8 Percent

An investment bank on Monday downgraded Affymetrix stock, forcing shares in the microarray marker leader to slide 7.8 percent from its opening price of $58.62 on Monday to $54.03 by press time on Tuesday.

Robert W. Baird said it downgraded the stock to "underperform" from "market perform." In a statement, the investment bank said that "While we continue to believe Affymetrix will maintain its dominant position with robust growth potential, we think current estimates already adequately reflect anticipated future revenue and earnings," according to CBSMarketwatch.


UW, Nanogen Among Groups Awarded Grant to Develop Hand-Held Dx Tool

The University of Washington has won a $15.4 million grant as lead partner of a regional consortium to develop a "portable" diagnostic device.

The award is part of 43 other grants announced last week that won a total of $436 million from the nonprofit Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. The grants went to industry and nonprofit groups, including PATH, Nanogen, and Micronics, each of which have facilities in Washington state.

The project aims to develop and test prototypes of a calculator-sized device that could be used in remote locations to diagnose diseases such as malaria and typhoid fever, the university said.

Additional details were not disclosed.


Oxford Gene Technology Signs Partnership Agreement With Schott Nexterion

Oxford Gene Technology announced last week that it has signed a partnership agreement with Schott Nexterion to serve as a reference site for its glass substrates for oligonucleotide microarraying.

"Our partnership with OGT strengthens our company's research and development capabilities by combining our knowledge of surface chemistries and glass slides with OGT's expertise in the development of new array technologies to generate high quality oligonucleotide microarrays," said Lutz Wehmeier, Schott Nexterion's general manager.


ParAllele, Merck to Search for SNPs Linked to Cancer Risk, Drug Response

ParAllele BioScience and Merck plan to co-discover SNPs linked to cancer susceptibility, prognosis, or drug response, the companies said last week.

The deal, which is being funded by Merck, ParAllele will use its SNP-genotyping technology to "characterize the genetic changes in tumor samples" identified by the US-based drug maker.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

This is at least the second such collaboration for the companies. Almost exactly two years ago, ParAllele said it would use its lab-in-a-tube technology to develop assays, perform multiplexed genotyping, and provide data analysis for Merck.


J.K. International to Distribute CombiMatrix Arrays in Japan

Japanese distributor J.K. International will sell CombiMatrix microarrays in Japan, CombiMatrix parent company Acacia Research said last week.

Under the terms of the non-exclusive agreement, J.K. International will market, sell, and service CombiMatrix' CustomArray line of microarrays.

J.K. International said that it also sells products from Roche, BioRad, and other life science providers in the Japanese market.

CombiMatrix inked a similar deal with Inter Medical of Japan in May, and signed up In Bio as a distributor for the Australia and New Zealand markets in January (see BAN 5/4/2005).


EC Issues $456M Call For Life Science, Genomics Proposals

The European Commission has launched a €382.6 million ($456.6 million) call for proposals under its Sixth Framework funding program that address a variety of topics in the life sciences, genomics and biotechnology fields.

Topics for proposals include gene expression and proteomics, structural genomics, comparative genomics and population genetics, bioinformatics, pharmacogenomics, diagnostics, and in vitro tests to replace animal experimentation. Conditions to be addressed include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, brain and nervous system diseases, aging, and resistance to antibiotics and other drugs.

The deadline for submitting proposals is Sept. 11.

More information about the call for proposals is available here.

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The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.