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Compugen, Cornell University, US National Science Foundation, Molecular Devices, Axon, Southern California Genotyping Consortium, Qiagen, Affymetrix, Perlegen Sciences, Institut Gustave-Roussy

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Compugen Establishes Small-Molecule, Drug Discovery Subsidiary

Tel Aviv, Israel-based Compugen last week announced Keddem Bioscience Limited, a small-molecule drug discovery company that formerly was the company’s chemistry division. The subsidiary’s offices and labs are located in Ashkelon, Israel.

The company said that its Keddem subsidiary would approach drug discovery by proposing the creation of a comprehensive, yet relatively small set of screening molecules (less than 100,000), and a suite of algorithms.


$3M for Cornell Crop Genomics Center Added to US House Bill

Cornell University could receive $3 million for the construction of its Center for Health Based Crop Genomics, in addition to $10.6 million in other agricultural genetics funding, under a $16.7 billion agriculture bill expected to be approved by the US House of Representatives later this summer, according to a report in the Ithaca Journal, an Ithaca, NY, newspaper

The Center for Health Based Crop Genomics, to be built on the Cornell campus, has been in development some time, and the university has been recruiting faculty for the center for a year.

US Congressman Jim Walsh, who represents the area of New York where Cornell is located, added the funding proposal to the agriculture bill. It also includes $3 million for construction of the Center for Grape Genetics Research at the Cornell Agricultural and Food Technology Park; $250,000 additional funds for grape genetics research at the Agriculture Research Service facility in Geneva; $2,400,000 in additional viticulture research; and $510,000 for research on the bacterial disease Apple fireblight, according to Congressman Walsh’s website.

The US House is slated to vote on the funding sometime after it returns from the Independence Day recess.


NSF Seeks Proposals for $8M Integrative Biological Research Program

The US National Science Foundation is seeking proposals for an $8 million program, Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research, according to a program announcement posted on its website last week.

This effort, the third FIBR program, “supports integrative research that addresses major questions in the biological sciences,” according to the announcement. It specifically encourages research that involves “integrating the scientific concepts and research tools from across disciplines including biology, math and the physical sciences, engineering, social sciences and the information sciences.” Research looking at specific diseases is not supported under the program.

Eligibility is limited to US academic institutions and non-profit research organizations as well as consortia of these organizations. The NSF plans to make up to eight awards in FY 2005. Preliminary proposals are due October 4, 2004, and final proposals are due February 16, 2005.


Molecular Devices Completes Axon Acquisition

Molecular Devices announced the completion of its acquisition of Axon Instruments for a total of $132.7 million in cash and stock, the company said last week.

Under the acquisition, first announced in March, Molecular Devices paid approximately $68 million in cash and issued 3.6 million shares of common stock (an approximately $64.7 million value as of July 1). Axon stockholders are receiving .00734 of a share of Molecular Devices common stock, and $0.1359 cash for each share of Axon common stock.

Molecular Devices additionally assumed employee options to acquire about 536,000 shares of Molecular Devices common stock, as well as other options to acquire approximately 38,000 shares of Molecular Devices common stock and approximately $700,000 in cash. The company also received about $26 million in cash that was held by Axon.

Axon, which makes instruments for electrophysiology as well as microarray scanners, is based in Union City, Calif., and has 128 employees.


Southern California Genotyping Consortium Buys an Illumina BeadLab

The Southern California Genotyping Consortium, a group of 30 academic investigators researching the pathogenesis of complex traits and diseases, has purchased a BeadLab, Illumina’s production-scale SNP genotyping laboratory, for installation at the University of California, Los Angeles, the company said last week.

Nelson Freimer, a professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences, and human genetics and director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics at UCLA, will lead the BeadLab facility. Freimer participated in beta testing of the company’s BeadStation benchtop platform earlier this year.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.


Qiagen Spins Out DNA Business to Managers; New Company To Be Operon Biotechnologies

Qiagen last week said that it had sold its synthetic DNA business for $24.3 million to a management team of former employees.

The spin-out company, Operon Biotechnologies, has operations in the US, Germany, and Japan. Qiagen, which will receives $17.8 million in cash and $6.5 million as a promissory note, retains a 16 percent minority stake in the company.

Qiagen’s siRNA business will not be part of the spin-out, and the company will keep its TOM-amidite chemistry. Qiagen will have preferred access to Operon’s manufacturing capacities and preferred purchasing rights to its products. In addition, it will have exclusive rights to Operon’s capacities for contract manufacturing of siRNA products.

Qiagen’s synthetic DNA business unit has been focusing on custom oligonucleotides and shelf products such as oligo sets for microarrays. The unit expanded in 2000, when Qiagen acquired Operon Technologies of Alameda, Calif., and in 2001, when it purchased the Sawady Group in Tokyo.


Affymetrix and Perlegen to Offer Custom Genotyping Services

Affymetrix and its spinoff Perlegen Sciences on Tuesday announced a partnership to provide custom genotyping services through Perlegen's high-throughput genotyping facility. Perlegen has developed some 1.5 million validated SNP assays, as well as those available through public sources, which will be available through this service, the companies said. Affymetrix will market the service, which is based on the use of its microarray technology. Financial details were not provided.


Swiss Cancer Institute Earns Certification As Agilent Microarray Services Provider

Geneva, Switzerland-based Institut Gustave-Roussy has received certification as an Agilent Technologies gene-expression services provider, the company announced last week.

The European cancer research center is the first European agency to certify as an Agilent microarray services provider. The center last year was appointed as an Agilent microarray training center.

To earn certification, laboratory personnel passed training courses and the laboratory was graded on its ability to analyze Agilent 60-mer microarrays on the complete Agilent gene expression platform consisting of a microarray scanner, hybridization and labeling kits, feature extraction software, and a Rosetta Resolver gene expression data analysis system.

Additionally, the center completed a skin melanoma research project conducted in collaboration with Leuden University of Belgium, Agilent said in a statement. The project used Agilent's whole-human-genome microarrays and extremely small samples, such as melanoma biopsies.

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.