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A Bet on Biotech

This week, John Carroll at Fierce Biotech rounds up this year's "Fierce 15" — those "private life sciences companies [that are] out to do something truly exceptional, looking to pioneering technology and innovative business models to improve odds that, let's face it, would make most mortals cringe," he says. So, which firms made the cut? "A biotech billionaire with his own revolutionary dream for synthetic biology, startups out to make a name for themselves riding the wave of next-gen antibodies, a couple of companies that are into late-stage programs and several still in the pre-IND phase," Carroll says. View the complete 2011 Fierce 15 list, here.

Over at Xconomy, Luke Timmerman is making "Fantasy Football, uh, I mean Biotech, predictions for the season ahead," comparing top biotech and drug firms' expected performances with National Football League team match-ups. He says Vertex versus Merck face-off in the pharma world is akin to the Green Bay Packers taking on the Chicago Bears, saying that just as those two teams "have the oldest and one of the most intense rivalries in football … in the battle between Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Merck in the hepatitis C field, but this has the elements of a great rivalry: Vertex has superior data for its drug from clinical trials, but Merck’s drug is also a big step up over the old hepatitis C regimen, and it has money, manpower, and sales history with doctors that can’t be dismissed." Check out the rest of Timmerman's Fantasy Biotech predictions, here.

The Scan

Wolf Howl Responses Offer Look at Vocal Behavior-Related Selection in Dogs

In dozens of domestic dogs listening to wolf vocalizations, researchers in Communication Biology see responses varying with age, sex, reproductive status, and a breed's evolutionary distance from wolves.

Facial Imaging-Based Genetic Diagnoses Appears to Get Boost With Three-Dimensional Approach

With data for more than 1,900 individuals affected by a range of genetic conditions, researchers compared facial phenotype-based diagnoses informed by 2D or 3D images in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Survey Suggests Multigene Cancer Panel VUS Reporting May Vary Across Genetic Counselors

Investigators surveyed dozens of genetic counselors working in clinical or laboratory settings, uncovering attitudes around VUS reporting after multigene cancer panel testing in the Journal of Genetic Counseling.

Study Points to Tuberculosis Protection by Gaucher Disease Mutation

A mutation linked to Gaucher disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population appears to boost Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistance in a zebrafish model of the lysosomal storage condition, a new PNAS study finds.