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Broad Institute Endowment Grows by $400M; Will Become 'Permanent' Nonprofit
 
The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT said last week that philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad have committed an additional $400 million to the institute, bringing its total endowment to $600 million.
 
The interdisciplinary collaborative institute, which includes more than 1,200 researchers from both MIT and Harvard, was announced in 2003 and launched the following year as a “venture experiment” with a $100 million commitment from Eli and Edythe Broad. The philanthropists doubled that gift the following year.
 
The institute said the additional funding will allow it to transform itself into a “permanent biomedical research organization aimed at transforming medicine.”
 
Broad said the latest gift, the largest such commitment for biomedical research in the world, according to the Broad, will help it “transition to a permanent non-profit organization, with both universities continuing to help govern it.”
 
Eli Broad, founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, said in a statement that the institute’s “unique collaborative model for scientific research has resulted in remarkable accomplishments in a very short period of time.”
 
He added that despite the size of the gift — the largest the foundation has ever made — “it is only a fraction of what will be needed to unlock the enormous promise of biomedical research at MIT and Harvard.”
 
Broad said that the organization hopes to see the endowment grow to $1 billion through investment and additional contributions.
 
“We are convinced that the genomics and biomedical work being conducted here at the world’s leading genomics center by the world’s best and brightest scientists will ultimately lead to the cure and even the prevention of diseases,” he said.
 

 
UK Agency Unveils $350M in Programs for Northwest Region Businesses
 
The UK’s Northwest Regional Development Agency has announced a series of initiatives intended to help revitalize regional businesses:
 
A £140 million ($246.4 million) Venture Capital Loan Fund, half of which will come from the £521 million 2007-13 European Regional Development Fund Programme. The fund will provide equity and mezzanine funding to smaller and medium-sized businesses. It will begin accepting its first applications in 2009.
 
A £40 million package to stimulate business investment in worker skills development.
 
A £10 million program to fund what NWDA called “intense coaching and support” for 1,000 high-growth businesses, defined as either being capable of growing to £500,000 a year in revenue in three years, or established small- and medium-sized businesses with the ambition and capability of achieving a minimum 20 percent annual growth. The program will begin taking applications later this year.
 
A new, enhanced Access to Finance service for businesses, to be made available next month via Business Link Northwest. The service will diagnose business needs for finance, provide small- and medium-sized businesses with expertise to secure private funding, and work directly with their sources of financing.
 
Other initiatives in the works by NWDA include a £4 million ($7 million) Innovation Voucher Scheme designed to help more than 1,000 businesses work on collaborative projects with universities, the agency said in a statement.
 

 
Haldey, Mass., Planning Board Balks at Adopting New Biotech Zoning Measure
 
The Hadley, Mass., Planning Board will not pursue a new zoning category designed to encourage biotechnology companies to locate in the town, as was adopted last fall in neighboring Amherst, Mass., the Amherst Bulletin reported last week.
 
Board chairman James Maksimoski, who chairs the Hadley Planning Board, told the newspaper his town only had one site where biotech would be suitable, a section near where Route 9 intersects with Route 116. Other sites, he said, were unsuitable because they were over an aquifer, on floodplains or prime farmland, on steep slopes, or were too far from existing sewer and water hookups.
 
“We're inclined to think biotech may be the latest thing, but it doesn't seem we have suitable land for it,” Maximoski told the newspaper.
 
The board can already authorize research labs, but in sites that allow a broader range of commercial uses.
 
Amherst’s bio zoning law was designed to take advantage of life sciences work at the University of Massachusetts and establish regulations for related businesses.
 

 
In Shadow of Mendel Monastery, Czech Republic City Eyes Four Life Science Projects
 
Oficials in the Czech Republic are working to transform the 13th Century city of Brno — where Gregor Mendel pioneered the field of genetics some 150 years ago — into a modern biotech hub to attract firms eager to tap into a skilled work force.
 
"We are trying to connect industry, education, and infrastructure to make it easier for companies to come here to create an environment that suits biotech companies best," Brno Mayor Roman Onderka told Reuters.
 
The Czech Republic now hosts around 60 biotech firms, mainly near Brno and the capital of Prague.
 
But Brno, the country's second biggest city, has one biotech selling point — a partnership with the Mayo Clinic. The venture in Brno, about halfway between Prague and Vienna, marks the first time the Mayo Clinic has looked abroad and is one of four potential new research centers for the city.
 
The plan for Brno also includes a "Medipark" life science campus at Masaryk University, a regional European Union center focusing on biotech, and an electron accelerator to aid drug development.
 
The government plans to invest some $500 million to support the four projects -- with some money also coming from the European Union — in hopes of successfully competing directly with established biotech hubs in California and newer ones in Asia.
 
By establishing itself as a research hub, the Czech Republic hopes to keep its economy humming as wages are rising enough to drive out low-cost manufacturing jobs, said Tomas Sedlacek, a former government adviser who is now chief macroeconomic strategist at Czech bank CSOB.
 
“It would be wonderful if the Czech Republic could become a clinical research center, or something like the hospital of Europe,” he said.
 

 
Northern England to Host New National Industrial Biotechnology Facility
 
The UK’s investment and business development agency has signed contracts to create an $11 million National Industrial Biotechnology Facility in northern England.
 
The new center at Wilton, Middlesbrough will be designed to create new chemical and pharmaceutical products using biological enzymes as catalysts. The center will draw on a collaboration of Manchester and York universities known as the COEBio3 initiative.
 
The facility will be housed in the Centre for Process Innovation, a center of excellence created to develop new products and processes for the chemical sector. CPI hopes the NIBF will be completed at the end of the year and will be able to sustain itself financially within two years.
 
The center will allow companies located in the region to take advantage of new technologies and carry out trials on new products before bringing them to market.
 

 
NC Biotech Center Awards $540K in Educational-Enhancement Grants
 
The state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center has awarded a total of $540,481 in Education Enhancement Grants to a dozen educational institutions and individuals statewide. The grants are designed to support science education at colleges and universities statewide. Grant winners were:
 
Steffen Heber of North Carolina State University, $80,146 to develop a library of interactive bioinformatics animations and to organize a symposium about bioinformatics education. The results of the animation library, the symposium, and additional links to related educational resources will be made available online.
 
Mickael Cariveau of Mount Olive College, $71,807 to develop a new cell biology course, with an accompanying laboratory, for undergraduate juniors and seniors. The course is being designed to better prepare Mount Olive graduates for careers in North Carolina biotechnology companies. Some student research will be done in collaboration with the department of radiation oncology at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
 
Shea Tuberty of Appalachian State University, $62,000 to help buy instruments to be used for sewage sleuthing, to detect toxic threats in the waste stream.
 
Warren DiBiase of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, $59,000 to develop and implement a graduate-level biotechnology course for science teachers who work in North Carolina’s middle schools and high schools. The course will model the use of techniques that teachers are encouraged to employ in their classrooms, such as open-ended inquiry and problem-based learning.
 
Lori Seischab of Western Carolina University, $52,410 to help equip a new biotech teaching laboratory. The lab includes specialized rooms for molecular, chemical, and microscopic analyses and provides eight laboratory workstations accommodating 12 to 24 students per class in molecular biology, microbiology, and forensics.
 
Libby Puckett, also of ASU, $49,916 to help integrate modern biotechnology/analytical instrumentation and data-handling technology into some of her university’s advanced chemistry labs.
 
The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center's DESTINY Traveling Science Learning Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, $48,770 for hands-on curriculum that introduces high school students to the use of polymerase chain reaction. The curriculum uses genetic testing for breast cancer as its context, melding classroom instruction, laboratory activities, and the NC Standard Course of Study.
 
Russell Reeve of the Campbell University Clinical Research Center, $33,650 to develop continuing-education courses aimed at helping scientists around the state better prepare themselves to work in research-based pharmaceutical companies.
 
Jens Carlsson, visiting assistant professor at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, NC, $27,000 for a program in which students will develop forensic field kits for genetic testing in marine conservation pursuits.
 
Cynthia Warrick of the School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology at Elizabeth City State University, $18,000 to help her school develop multi-disciplinary science curricula in fields such as bionanotechnology and bioinformatics.
 
Joy Callahan of Johnston Community College's Continuing Education Division, $15,482 to develop an aseptic-environment certificate program to add to the workforce training offerings of the division’s Business and Industry Services. The program will teach such fundamentals as gowning, environmental monitoring and operating a product fill line in an aseptic, or sterile, environment typical of those found in the state’s growing number of biopharmaceutical manufacturing sites.
 
Mary Farwell of East Carolina University, $15,000 to develop a certificate program in applied biology for MBA students who have not completed degrees in biology.
 
Jameson McCann, of the Biotechnology Institute at Guilford Technical Community College, $7,383 to boost the program’s biotechnology workforce training program.
 

 
Colorado BioScience Association Seeks Entries for BioWest Venture Showcase Award
 
The Colorado BioScience Association is seeking entries for its annual BioWest Venture Showcase award. Six companies in biotechnology, medical devices or biofuels will be chosen to present to a panel of national venture capital investors on Nov. 13 at the 2008 BioWest Conference and Expo, to be held Nov. 13-14 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Denver. The winner will receive $10,000.
 
The entry deadline is Oct. 1. Click here for information about the venture showcase award.
 

 
DuBioTech Announces December Completion for Research Laboratory
 
Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, known as DuBiotech, said last week its Dh250 million ($68.1 million) research laboratory will be up and running in December. Comprising about 250,000 square feet, the research lab will be able to accommodate about 100 companies.
 
The research lab is one of three main buildings that comprise the project’s Dh1.2 billion first phase. The science and business park for life sciences industry, launched in 2005, currently has 42 companies who have set up offices in the free zone, with other businesses in the pipeline.
 
Of the total project space, about two million square feet is allocated to manufacturing. About 50 percent has already been taken up by companies who are in the process of constructing their facilities, Marwan Abdul Aziz, director of sales for DuBiotech, told Gulf News.
 
While companies in the park are concentrating on therapeutics at the moment, there is growing interest by companies focused on agriculture and environment, Rudaina Al Refai, director of regulatory affairs for DuBiotech, told Gulf News.
 

 
Massachusetts Opens New Trade Office in Beijing, In Part with Biotech in Mind
 
Massachusetts officials said last week the commonwealth would open a new, separate trade office in Beijing, as well as maintain a satellite contact office in Shanghai. Massachusetts previously shared a Shanghai-based office with four other states.
 
Daniel Ding, a professional based in Beijing, will serve as director for both Massachusetts offices in China [see BioRegion Newsmakers, this issue]. He will report to the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, and support the China efforts of the Massachusetts Export Center.
 
The Massachusetts Beijing office is centrally located within Beijing’s financial district; the contact office in Shanghai is within Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, which is home to more than 6,000 global companies.
 
“Companies here at home, specifically in the life sciences and clean energy industries, will have more opportunities to expand and create new jobs in Massachusetts,” Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Daniel O’Connell said in a press release trumpeting the Beijing and Shanghai offices.
 
The offices offer Massachusetts companies assistance with customized market entry studies, agent/distributor searches, due diligence as well as other local market support. Exports from Massachusetts companies to China have increased by 79 percent since 2005 — a key reason why the state upgraded its presence in the world’s most populous nation.

The Scan

Rise of B.1.617.2 in the UK

According to the Guardian, UK officials expect the B.1.617.2 variant to soon be the dominant version of SARS-CoV-2 there.

Anne Schuchat to Retire

Anne Schuchat is retiring after more than 30 years at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Politico reports.

US to Share More Vaccines

CNN reports that the US will share 20 million doses of the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson SARS-CoV-2 vaccines with other countries.

PNAS Papers on Gene Therapy Platform, Aspergillus Metabolome, Undernutrition Model Microbiome

In PNAS this week: approach to deliver protein-based treatments to cells, pan-secondary metabolome of Aspergillus, and more.