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University of Pittsburgh, University of California, National Institutes of Health, Sumitomo, Oxford Finance, Ribonomics

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Preliminary Research Sees Microarrays Playing Predictive Role in MS Diagnosis

Preliminary results reported Feb. 2, 2004, in the online edition of the journal, Annals of Neurology, indicate that microarray analysis and simple blood tests can help identify different states of multiple sclerosis without the use of more invasive procedures such as spinal taps.

“Our study was not designed to study response to treatment and predict course, however it does provide support to the notion that microarray results could be used to predict course of disease and, potentially, therapeutic response,” Naftali Kaminski, director of the Dorothy P. and Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a co-author of the paper, said in a statement.

Kaminski and researchers at Tel Aviv University applied microarray analysis to blood stream lymphocytes and found significant differences in more than 1,000 genes between control subjects and MS patients, no matter their disease status, and were able to identify a subset of more than 200 genes whose expression levels changed in patients with MS flare-ups.


Researchers Sequence Microbial Genomes from Environment

A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with the Joint Genome Institute, have simultaneously sequenced several genomes from an entire community of microbes, the university said in a statement this week.

The researchers, led by Jillian Banfield, professor of earth and planetary science and of environmental science, policy and management, used random shotgun DNA sequencing to assemble near-complete genomes of Leptospirillum group II and Ferroplasma type II, and partially recovered three other genomes from a natural acidophilic biofilm collected from the floor of an abandoned mine in California.

Their work was detailed this week in the advance online publication of the journal Nature.

The project next will use the genomic data collected to create microarrays to further the investigation.


NIH to See Mild Increase in FY 2005; Mad Cow Programs Jump Nearly 40 Percent

The National Institutes of Health will have around 2.6 percent more money to spend in fiscal year 2005 than it had in fiscal 2004 if Congress approves President Bush’s budget, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

The NIH can expect its operating budget for fiscal 2005, which begins Oct. 1, to increase to $28.6 billion from $27.9 billion in fiscal 2004. The increase is slightly below the overall increase in the fiscal 2005 federal budget, which tipped the scales at $2.4 trillion — a 3.5-percent jump from fiscal 2004, the OMB said.

The budget also plans to set aside an additional $8.3 million to help the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture “enhance enforcement” of federal regulations guarding against the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

This increase, which is 40 percent more than the FDA or USDA spent on similar work in fiscal 2004, also includes programs for identifying and tracking BSE in cattle.


Sumitomo to Acquire Life Sciences VC Oxford Finance

Oxford Finance, which has backed several genomics companies, is slated to be acquired by Sumitomo of Japan, the companies said last week.

Oxford, privately held and based in Alexandria, Va., has provided financing to several life sciences tools companies, including US Genomics, Structural Genomix, and Cellular Genomics. The company said it has a total of 50 active portfolio companies.

If the deal closes, Sumitomo America will acquire all of Oxford’s assets for $51 million plus the assumption of certain liabilities related to its businesses, Oxford said.

Sumitomo said it believes the transaction will enable Oxford to triple its portfolio in the next three years and offer its clients and venture capitalists increased access to the Japanese life sciences community, as well as expand its client base and line of products.


Ribonomics Gets $150K NC Biotech Grant

Ribonomics of Durham, NC, said this week that the North Carolina Biotechnology Center has awarded the company a $150,000 grant to complete commercial development of its Ribonomics Analysis System (RAS).

In 2001, the company closed a $3.1 million Series A financing provided by Japanese diagnostic and reagent manufacturer Medical and Biological Laboratories.

The company said it plans to use the new funding to expand the technology for defining disease-related regulatory processes. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is a private, non-profit biotechnology initiative established by the state's General Assembly in 1981.

The Scan

Not Immediately Told

The US National Institutes of Health tells lawmakers that one of its grantees did not immediately report that it had developed a more infectious coronavirus, Science says.

Seems Effective in Kids

The Associated Press reports that the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for children appears to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic disease.

Intelligence Warning on Bioeconomy Threats

US intelligence warns over China's focus on technologies and data related to the bioeconomy, the New York Times reports.

PLOS Papers on Campylobacteriosis Sources, Inherited Retinal Dystrophies, Liver Cancer Prognosis

In PLOS this week: approach to uncover source of Campylobacteriosis, genetic risk factors for inherited retinal dystrophies, and more.