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Missouri Roundtable for Life, Life Sciences Research Trust Fund, New England Biotech Association, Science Foundation Arizona, Accelerator Corporation, Institute for Systems Biology, Amgen Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, OVP Venture Partners, Alexandria R

Missouri Judge Dismisses Stem Cell Lawsuit
A Missouri judge last week dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Roundtable for Life that sought to block $21 million in state funds from going to life sciences research.
According to news reports, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled that no genuine legal dispute existed and that the lawsuit amounted to a request for an advisory opinion.
Missouri Roundtable for Life said it would appeal the decision and threatened to sue anyone who receives the research grants.
"We will not let tax dollars go unrestricted to these groups that are privately controlled and may be used to make profits off abortions and research the Legislature banned," Fred Sauer, the group's founder, told the Associated Press.
The $21 million at issue is part of the state’s Life Sciences Research Trust Fund, which the state created in 2003 to spend a quarter of Missouri's tobacco settlement proceeds.
The law creating the fund bars spending money for abortion services and human cloning, but there has been some dispute over whether an amendment passed by the state in 2006 that allows stem cell research legal under federal law to conducted in Missouri overrides the 2003 law.

Report: Life Science Industry on the Rise in Southeast Michigan
Automation Alley, Southeast Michigan's technology business association, has released its fourth annual technology industry report, Driving Southeast Michigan Forward.
The report, prepared by the Anderson Economic Group, found that employment in the life science sector grew by 13.2 percent from 2005 to 2006, and the average wage for workers grew in 2006 by 4.4 percent to over $97,000.
The study shows that “despite overall economic declines and significant restructuring in the automotive industry, Automation Alley's technology industry has remained strong,” according to a statement. “From 2005 to 2006 there was a 2 percent employment gain outside the advanced automotive sector, with life sciences and advanced manufacturing leading the way.”
In 2006 there were a total of 12,194 science and engineering graduate students enrolled in Automation Alley universities, which is 335 more students than the prior year, and 64 percent of the total science and engineering graduate student enrollment in the state, the organization said.

New England Forms New Regional Biotech Association
A new non-profit organization comprised of more than 600 state biotech associations, companies, academic institutions, and other organizations in New England last week held its first board meeting in Cambridge.
The New England Biotech Association, or NEBA, “will serve as a regional policy and public affairs voice for the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industry, committed to ensuring that New England remains a global leader in biotechnology and the life sciences,” the group said in a statement.
NEBA said it plans to educate policy makers and the public about the biotech industry; promote public policies that foster innovation; encourage economic development in the biotech sector; and advocate patient access to biotechnology medicines.
NEBA members include the Biotech Association of Maine, Connecticut United for Research Excellence, the New Hampshire Bio/Medical Council, the Rhode Island BioGroup, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the Massachusetts High Technology Council, and the Biotech Association of Vermont.
The organization has been in planning for over a year, after members “identified the need to have a regional, umbrella group that focused outside of specific states and only on policy and public affairs issues,” NEBA said.

Arizona Science Foundation Awards C-Path Institute $9M
Science Foundation Arizona has awarded $9 million to the Critical Path Institute to support the institute’s mission to develop new tests that could help accelerate the process of getting new drugs and therapies to the public.
A Tucson-based non-profit, C-Path aims to lower the high failure rate of new drugs by “improving the current slow and unreliable process, thereby saving lives and billions of dollars each year,” according to a statement.
Specifically, the institute has a goal of improving the success rate at which new medicines that make it to human trials reach the market. C-Path said this success rate is currently 5 percent and that it hopes to move that to 95 percent. The institute also wants to speed that process up so that it takes less than three years.
The institute was formed in 2005 as one prong of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Critical Path Initiative.
The Science Foundation Arizona is a public-private partnership created in 2006 to support a range of technology development programs in Arizona.

Seattle's Accelerator Adds PPD as Investor
Seattle-based biotechnology investment and management company Accelerator Corporation said last week that drug discovery contract research organization PPD has joined as the sixth investor in its Accelerator III investment vehicle.
Accelerator provides resources to biotech companies, including capital financing, facilities, scientific and technical expertise and support, as well as business management and support.
The company did not disclose the value of PPD’s investment, but said that the commitment brings total investment in Accelerator III to more than $27 million.
Accelerator’s life sciences partners include the Institute for Systems Biology, Amgen Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, OVP Venture Partners, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, and WRF Capital.
Accelerator is currently involved in managing three startups, including Seredigm, Recodagen, and Mirina, and the company said that it has facilitated investment and managed nine early-stage companies in the past five years.

Wisconsin Grants $250K Loan to FluGen; Qualifies Promentis for Tax Credit
The Wisconsin Department of Commerce said last week that it is granting vaccine developer FluGen a $250,000 Technology Venture Fund loan.
“Facing uncertain economic times, it’s important we continue to invest in developing technology that will help Wisconsin compete at the high end of the global economy,” said Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle in a statement.
FluGen was founded in 2007 to develop and manufacture vaccines. The company’s research is based on virology and reverse genetics technologies developed at the University of Wisconsin. The company will use the loan to acquire equipment and to continue research and development of a vaccine for avian flu.
The company estimates that the total cost for the project is more than $2 million.
Separately, the Department of Commerce said that Promentis Pharmaceuticals of Milwaukee has qualified for investor tax credits under the state’s Angel Investor and Venture Fund Tax Credit programs.
Promentis was founded in March of 2008 to develop treatments for psychiatric, behavioral, and neurological disorders. The company’s initial focus is a novel class of antipsychotic medications for the treatment of schizophrenia.
The Angel Investor and Venture Fund Tax Credit programs offer Wisconsin income tax credits to angel investors and investors in seed-stage venture capital funds.

Oslo, Toulouse Cancer Research Clusters to Partner
The Oslo Cancer Cluster last week announced a strategic agreement with the Toulouse Cancéropole and Cancer-Bio-Santé Cluster, under which the Oslo and Toulouse clusters will integrate their cancer research efforts.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Oslo Cancer Cluster, the Cancer-Bio-Santé Cluster, and Toulouse Canceropole will work to “cooperate in the fight against cancer, to create new business and industries, and to stimulate exchanges and investments, through good practice and effective joint research activities,” according to a statement.
Both parties also plan facility expansions under the agreement. Oslo is planning a €150 million ($190 million) investment in a Cancer Innovation Park that it plans to complete by August 2012, while Toulouse is building the Cancéropole and “numerous other” facilities at a cost of €1 billion ($1.3 billion).

The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.