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Fluidigm, CombiMatrix, FDA, Illumina, Gates Foundation, Amgen


Fluidigm Opens $40 Million Biochip Plant in Singapore

Fluidigm, a South San Francisco, Calif.-based microfluidics company, opened a $40 million manufacturing and R&D facility in Singapore this week, according to a company statement.

According to Fluidigm, the Singapore facility will assume full manufacturing by mid-2006 for its integrated fluidic circuit chips that are used in protein analysis. The first product to be shipped from the 15,000-square-foot facility will be the Topaz Screening Chip for protein crystallization, the company said.

Another product in development is Fluidigm's Dynamic Array IFC which will be used for expression assays as well as "to genotype DNA samples for SNPs using MGB Eclipse chemistry from Epoch Biosciences."

The privately held company said it seeks to use the Singapore location as a springboard to the Asian market, particularly China. A spokesperson for the company said that the company, which has been manufacturing its chips in California to date, has sales and support offices in Hamburg, Germany and Tokyo as well.

CombiMatrix Reports 94-Percent Jump in Q3 Revenue, Though Losses Jump 10 Percent

CombiMatrix last week reported a 94-percent increase in third-quarter revenues atop a jump in R&D spending and widened net losses.

Total receipts for the period ended Sept. 30 increased to $1.5 million from $753,000 year over year, the Acacia unit reported. The brunt of the growth came from product sales and services, which increased to $490,000 in the third quarter 2005 from $68,000 in the prior year. Revenue from government contracts increased to $973,000 from $685,000.

R&D costs increased 34 percent to $1.5 million from $1.1 million in the year-ago period.

Net losses in the third quarter widened almost 10 percent to $3.9 million from $3.5 million, CombiMatrix said.

The unit had around $24.7 million in cash and short-term investments as of Sept. 30.

FDA Schedules Microarray Quality Control Project Meeting for December

The US Food and Drug Administration said this week that the Microarray Quality Control Project will meet Dec. 1-2 to review datasets generated by the MAQC study.

According to the FDA, the MAQC project involves representatives from the government, industry, and academic spaces, and aims to evaluate quality control metrics and thresholds for assessing the performance of microarray platforms, and evaluating various data analysis methods.

The FDA said that MAQC members have compared microarray datasets generated with certain samples with data from PCR-based experiments on the same samples in order to assess cross platform comparability.

At the meeting in December, to be held at the Crowne Plaza in Palo Alto, Calif., each participating platform provider will summarize the datasets generated by its test sites and describe its analysis results. Each analysis site will also give a 15-minute presentation on its analysis results, FDA said.

NIH-Funded Group Will Use HapMap Data, Illumina Tools to Identify Statin Response

Illumina will provide the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute with reagents and instrumentation that will be used to identify and study SNPs involved in statin response, the company said last week.

The study, part of the NIH-funded Pharmacogenomics and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease program, also aims to identify SNPs associated with statin-related myopathy, an "uncommon" side effect, Illumina said.

Deborah Nickerson, co-principal investigator of the PARC study and professor of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, will perform sample genotyping for all phases of the research using an Illumina BeadStation system and four leased Illumina BeadArray Readers, the company said.

Researchers will draw samples from "large" clinical trials previously carried out by investigators at PARC and other programs that tested effects of the statin drugs simvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, and atorvastatin.

Phase I will involve whole-genome association analysis of more than 1,000 clinical samples using Illumina's Sentrix Human-1 BeadChip and a follow-on Sentrix HumanHap-1 BeadChip that can query over 250,000 TagSNPs derived from the International HapMap Project, of which Illumina is a participant. The study will also use Illumina's Infinium assay, which enables researchers to select and analyze SNPs.

After this phase, other phases will seek to evaluate haplotype blocks, specific haplotypes within each block, and SNPs within those haplotypes "to identify the most informative variants and those that have causal association with clinical phenotypes," Illumina said. More than 10,000 samples will be tested in the latter phases of the project, which will employ Illumina's GoldenGate assay protocol, custom panels of SNP markers, and Sentrix Universal Array Matrices, the company said.

Gates Foundation, Amgen Award ISB $13M to Support its Operations

The Institute for Systems Biology said last week that it has been awarded two grants worth $13 million — a $10 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and another award from Amgen worth $3 million.

The awards "provide critical support for a new Institute that is attempting to change the practice of biology and medicine in the 21st century," said Leroy Hood, ISB president and co-founder, in a statement.

ISB did not provide details on specific projects that the grants will support.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.