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California Life Sciences Industry Alliance, Maryland Stem Cell Commission, Cardinal Health, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, New York Biotechnology Association, New York Academy of Sciences

California Life-Sci Leaders Close to Completing ‘Alliance’ Issues Agenda
Leaders of California’s three regional life-science industry groups are close to announcing a common agenda on state and national issues of interest to them, but did not complete their work following a Sept. 29 meeting.
Meeting were leaders of BayBio, the group representing life-sci companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California; its San Diego region counterpart BIOCOM, and the Southern California Biomedical Council, or SoCalBio. The three comprise the California Life Sciences Industry Alliance, formed in June to step up industry lobbying on state and national issues [BRN, Sept. 2; June 23].
“We’re still working on it, but we’re going to announce the agenda pretty soon,” Ahmed Enany, president and CEO of SoCalBio, told BRN last week.

As Spending Cut Looms, Maryland Stem Cell Commission Issues Requests for Applications
The Maryland Stem Cell Commission warned last week that the state may cut its $19 million in planned spending for regenerative medicine research in this year’s budget, as Maryland officials scramble to plug a $432 million shortfall blamed on the weak economy.
Definitive word on a stem-cell cut is expected later this month following the Oct. 15 meeting of the Board of Public Works.
The prospect of a funding cut has not stopped the commission from issuing three official requests for applications by researchers seeking funding through the state’s Stem Cell Research Fund. This is the third round of funding from the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, to consist of grants for basic and translational research with human stem cells of all types.
The commission requires researchers to submit a one-page letter of intent by Nov. 14. Applications for funding under these RFAs will be due Jan. 15, 2009.
Details of the three RFAs:
  • RFA-MD-09-1 is soliciting applications for Investigator-Initiated Research Grants, designed for investigators with preliminary data supporting the grant application. Grants will fund $300,000 of direct costs per year, with the duration of grants extended for up to five years. Eligible are Maryland-based public and private, for-profit and nonprofit: universities, colleges, research institutes, companies, medical centers and others.
  • RFA-MD-09-2 is soliciting applications for Exploratory Research Grants, designed for investigators new to the stem cell field, and for new hypotheses, approaches, mechanisms or models “that may differ from current thinking in the stem cell field, without any preliminary data supporting the application,” the commission said. These Exploratory Research Grants will be for up to $100,000 of direct costs per year, for up to two years.
  • RFA-MD-09-3 is soliciting nationwide applications from pre-doctoral students and postdoctorial fellows who wish to conduct basic and/or transitional research on all types of human stem cells in Maryland. Each fellowship being awarded up to $55,000 per year for up to two years, which is inclusive of all direct, indirect and fringe benefits costs.
Maryland-based organizations of all types are eligible as training institutes, including public and private, for-profit and nonprofit: universities, colleges, research institutes, companies, medical centers, and others.
Work funded under these RFAs must be conducted in Maryland. The scientists and
clinicians conducting the work must be employed or retained by an eligible Maryland-based organization while doing so.
All applications must include an explanation of the translation potential and/or plan of the proposed research. Principal investigators funded through the three RFAs will be required to present their interim and final research results at an annual in-state symposium and in annual reports to the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission.
The commission said questions by applicants about the RFAs may only be addressed at [email protected].

Cardinal Health Eyes San Diego for Spinoff of Clinical and Medical Products businesses
Cardinal Health, a provider of healthcare products and services, said it would base in San Diego the clinical and medical products businesses it plans to spin off into a separate public company to be led by the company’s current vice chairman David Schlotterbeck.
The spinoff is expected to take place by the middle of 2009, the company said in a statement announcing the move, which would create a new medical technology giant with revenues of more than $4 billion and 10,000 employees, of which 2,000 are based in San Diego. That number would swell by another 1,000 over the next several years, company executives said during a conference call with analysts.
Cardinal’s revenue is more than $90 billion after accounting for the spinoff.
“Both companies are expected to benefit from enhanced management focus and sharper strategic vision, as well as better alignment of management and employee incentives with performance and growth objectives. In addition, both companies expect improved opportunities to access and allocate capital, and the ability to make investments in their respective growth areas,” Cardinal said in the statement.

NC Biotechnology Center Delivers $772,596 in Research Grants to University Scientists
The state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center has issued $772,596 in Biotechnology Research Grants to 11 scientists at five universities statewide. The grants, providing a maximum of $75,000, support research projects at academic and non-profit research institutions, and allow scientists to gather preliminary data that enable them to attract additional funding.
Wake Forest University scientists collected five grants totaling $372,221 in the 2007-2008 funding cycle. East Carolina University had three, worth $175,375. One $75,000 grant each went to North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The grant awards:
  • $75,000 to Garry Dawson of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, to study nanoparticle-enhanced separations for biomarker detection.
  • $75,000 to William Gmeiner of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, to develop multivalent aptamer complexes from triplex DNA scaffolds.
  • $75,000 to Ashok Hegde of WFU, to develop an Alzheimer’s disease treatment.
  • $75,000 to Omoanghe Isikhuemhen of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, to use biotechnology methods for the mass propogation, inoculation and screening of truffle-inoculated seedlings.
  • $75,000 to W. Todd Lowther of WFU, to develop cancer therapies from fatty acid synthase inhibitors.
  • $75,000 to Jed Macosko of WFU, to develop a nanoscale “lab-on-bead” that can process encoded chemical libraries.
  • $75,000 to Mary Thomassen of ECU, to explore carbon nanotubes as a tool for generating an experimental model of pulmonary sarcoidosis.
  • $75,000 to Sridhar Varadarajan of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, to develop a breast cancer therapy.
  • $74,960 to George Sigounas of ECU, to investigate screening tools to detect DNA damage in normal and cancerous human breast tissue.
  • $72,221 to Michael Robbins of WFU, to develop a rat model to study radiation-induced brain injury in children.
  • $25,415 to Colin Burns of East Carolina University in Greenville, to develop anti-HIV agents.
Scientists at the main campuses of Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are ineligible for these grants, “in order to allow researchers around the state more opportunities,” according to the center — but remain eligible for other biotech center funding programs.
Nearly $1.6 million in Biotechnology Research Grants have been awarded to 22 North Carolina scientists since the program began in 2006.

NYBA, NY Academy of Sciences Launch Joint Membership Alliance for Emerging Biotech Companies
The New York Biotechnology Association and the New York Academy of Sciences have announced an alliance designed to give emerging biotech companies reduced price access to academy corporate membership.
The new ‘Growth Partners’ program will allow emerging biotechnology companies who are NYBA members access to the programs and networking events provided by NYAS corporate membership. Current NYAS corporate members include Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and IBM. NYBA and the academy plan to inaugurate an annual event focusing on earlier-stage industry innovation and highlight NYBA members who become ‘Growth Partners’.

For more information on the ‘Growth Partners’ membership, contact Derek Brand at the New York Academy of Sciences, at [email protected] or 212-298-8671; or Joseph Tortorice at the New York Biotechnology Association, at [email protected] or 631-444-8861.

The Scan

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.

Survey Sees Genetic Literacy on the Rise, Though Further Education Needed

Survey participants appear to have higher genetic familiarity, knowledge, and skills compared to 2013, though 'room for improvement' remains, an AJHG paper finds.

Study Reveals Molecular, Clinical Features in Colorectal Cancer Cases Involving Multiple Primary Tumors

Researchers compare mismatch repair, microsatellite instability, and tumor mutation burden patterns in synchronous multiple- or single primary colorectal cancers.

FarGen Phase One Sequences Exomes of Nearly 500 From Faroe Islands

The analysis in the European Journal of Human Genetics finds few rare variants and limited geographic structure among Faroese individuals.