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Cancer Research UK, MolecularMD, Oregon Health and Science University, Simulations Plus, Northeastern University, Replikun Biotech, UniQuest, University of Queensland, CellCyte Genetics, Northwestern University — Feinberg School of Medicine, University of

Cancer Research UK Launches Translational Research Initiative
Research charity Cancer Research UK said this week that it has launched an initiative to assemble teams of academic scientists to focus on translational research in emerging areas of cancer as identified by CRUK.
The first project will focus on using cellular senescence to prevent the spread of cancers such as melanoma, CRUK said. The organization has already assembled a team of UK-based scientists who will attempt to design tests to screen for potential drugs that can stimulate senescence in cancer patients.
Two additional projects, focusing on cancer stem cells and the histone code, have been planned for 2009 and 2010, respectively, CRUK said.
Each new project will form a limited company, managed by a business team at Cancer Research Technology, CRUK’s commercialization and development arm. Initially, the projects will receive up to £500,000 ($991,000) from CRUK over a two-year period.
CRUK said that it hopes each team will then attract an industry partner that will bring additional know-how and financing to the project. In return, the partners would benefit by becoming a stakeholder in the new company, CRUK said.
Once the early development phase is complete, the industrial partner would have the option to acquire the company and progress any joint discoveries into the clinic. Any profits arising from the commercialization of research will be shared between the charity and the research partners, with CRUK reinvesting any proceeds into future research.
The first company established under the initiative, Vimcad, is being headed by Nicol Keith, a professor of molecular oncology at the University of Glasgow working out of CRUK’s Beatson Laboratory in Glasgow. Keith will work with other CRUK scientists out of London, Cambridge, and Liverpool; as well as with researchers from Cambridge-based biotech firm Horizon Discovery, CRUK said.

MolecularMD Licenses IP for Gleevec-Resistant Mutations from OHSU
MolecularMD this week said that it has entered into a licensing agreement with Oregon Health and Science University for intellectual property related to the detection of Gleevec-resistant BCR-ABL mutations.
Gleevec, also known as imatinib, is a targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug for the treatment of chronic mylogenous leukemia. The drug blocks the unregulated enzyme activity of the fusion tyrosine kinase protein BCR-ABL, which stems from a chromosomal translocation forming the Philadelphia chromosome present in malignant bone marrow cells of CML patients.
While most CML patients exhibit excellent primary response to imatinib, a proportion of patients develop acquired secondary resistance via point mutations in the ABL kinase domain. These mutations can interfere with the binding of imatinib to the BCR-ABL protein and lead to disease progression.
Through this exclusive license, MolecularMD plans to develop and commercialize novel approaches to detecting and quantifying BCR-ABL mutations. These efforts will be aimed at providing better performance, convenience, and reliability for patients, doctors, and drug developers, the company said.
The investigation and initial discovery of the imatinib-resistant mutations was led by Brian Druker and Amie Corbin from OHSU. Their research is the subject of a recently approved patent, US No. 7,326,534, which claims intellectual property covering all methods and applications for the detection of Gleevec-resistant mutations.

Simulation Plus Sponsors Drug-Solubility Research at Northeastern
Simulations Plus said this week that it will fund a research project at Northeastern University aimed at measuring solubilities in biorelevant fluids.
As part of the project, Simulations Plus will work with the laboratory of Rebecca Carrier, an assistant professor of engineering at Northeastern, to measure the solubility of approximately 200 drugs in simulated gastric fluid, fasted state simulated intestinal fluid, and fed state simulated intestinal fluid.
The researchers will use Simulations Plus’ GastroPlus and ADMET Predictor software in the study.
“We believe that with the data that will be generated from this study, we will be in a better position to estimate the solubility and dissolution of new drug molecules in various parts of the gastrointestinal tract,” Carrier said in a statement.
“We also expect to build a model to adjust solubilities measured in typical lab experiments to those that would be experienced in vivo, and to include that model as another valuable prediction in our ADMET Predictor software,” Carrier added.
Ron Creeley, vice president of marketing and sales for Simulations Plus, said in a statement that the database developed under the collaboration will be a “product in its own right. We believe many companies will be interested in licensing the database in order to better understand how in vivo solubility differs from that in buffer solutions.”
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Replikun Biotech Licenses West Nile Vax Tech from University of Queensland
Replikun Biotech, an Australian vaccine and immunotherapy company, said last week that it has exclusively licensed West Nile virus vaccine technology from UniQuest, the research and commercialization company for the University of Queensland.
The vaccine candidates listed under the license agreement were developed by researchers Alex Khromykh and Roy Hall of the University of Queensland. The technology is based on a modified form of the Kunjin virus, which has potential application as a preventative vaccine against West Nile virus.
Under the agreement, Replikun is responsible for all further development and commercialization of the vaccine technology and has agreed to provide UniQuest with royalties on the sales of licensed products and an undisclosed percentage of income from sub-licenses.

CellCyte Genetics to Test Stem Cell-Based AMI Therapy with NWU
CellCyte Genetics has entered into a collaboration with Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine to perform an acute myocardial infarction disease model study in mice using CellCyte’s CCG-TH30 stem cell-based therapy.
The goal of the study is to evaluate the functional benefit of the CCG-TH30 therapy in a disease model outcome study representative of the AMI indication. Douglas Losordo, director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute, will serve as the principal investigator on the study.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

U of Manchester Spinout Myconostica Closes $10.7M Series C to Advance Fungal Dx
British molecular diagnostics company and University of Manchester spinout Myconostica has raised £1 million ($1.98 million) to close out a round of Series C financing, according to Amphion Innovations, which owns around 23 percent of the firm.
Myconostica is developing a molecular diagnostic test for life-threatening fungal infections. It has raised a total of £5.4 million ($10.7 million) in the Series C round, Amphion said.
The final £1 million to close out the round came from the UMIP Premier Fund, which paid £40 per share for its stake in the company.
In April, the company raised £3.9 million from Amphion, the French company Innoven Partenaires, and other unnamed international and UK-based investors.
The Series C round is tabbed to support commercialization of the company’s first diagnostic, which simultaneously tests for Aspergillus and Pneumocystis, as well as its second product, a fungal DNA extraction system.
Amphion said in April that those products were in the process of CE marking in Europe, and that Myconostica expects to launch a product or products in the US in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Myconostica was spun out of the University of Manchester in 2006 by David Denning, professor of medicine and medical mycology at UM. The company, based in South Manchester, said it maintains strong links to one of UM’s teaching hospitals, Wythenshawe Hospital, as well as the Regional Mycology Laboratory in Manchester.

Thermo Fisher to Validate GMU's Protein Biomarkers
Thermo Fisher Scientific said this week that it will work with researchers at George Mason University to validate protein biomarkers GMU discovered using Thermo Fisher’s mass spectrometry technology.
Scientists at GMU’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine will use Thermo Fisher’s Quantum Ultra triple quadrupole mass spectrometers to discover cancer biomarkers, which the company will cross-validate at its Biomarker Research Initiatives in Mass Spectrometry Center.
"We're focused on developing a robust, reproducible protein biomarker analytical workflow that could shave years off the process of translating biomarkers into validated clinical diagnostic laboratory tests," Emanuel Petricoin, who chairs GMU’s Department of Molecular and Microbiology, said in a statement.
Additional terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Canada’s WEDC Funds $1.9M Drug-Discovery Lab at Simon Fraser U
Canadian economic development agency Western Economic Diversification Canada has provided CDN $1.9 million ($1.92 million) to Simon Fraser University to establish a new research facility aimed at furthering the commercialization of university-discovered drug candidates.
The new laboratory, called MedChem, will serve as a resource for academic and industrial researchers to produce larger amounts of promising therapeutic compounds for further testing and potential commercialization.
The facility will include an incubator for early-stage biotechnology companies, WEDC said.

Synthetic Blood Licenses Tissue Oxygenation, Wound Therapy IP from VCU
Synthetic Blood International has exclusively licensed technologies related to non-pulmonary oxygenation, enhanced oxygen transport to tissue, and gas-based wound and tissue therapeutics from Virginia Commonwealth University, SBI said this week.
The licenses will allow SBI to develop novel products with its Oxycyte perfluorocarbon therapeutic oxygen carrier in combination with hydrogen peroxide, Chris Stern, chairman and CEO of SBI, said in a statement.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Earlier this month, SBI said that it had leased space for a research office in the Virginia Biotechnology Park in Richmond to coordinate research between the company and sponsored researchers at VCU’s Reanimation Engineering Shock Center.

The Scan

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

US Survey Data Suggests Ancestry Testing Leads Way in Awareness, Use of Genetic Testing Awareness

Although roughly three-quarters of surveyed individuals in a Genetics in Medicine study reported awareness of genetic testing, use of such tests was lower and varied with income, ancestry, and disease history.

Coral Genome Leads to Alternative Amino Acid Pathway Found in Other Non-Model Animals

An alternative cysteine biosynthesis pathway unearthed in the Acropora loripes genome subsequently turned up in sequences from non-mammalian, -nematode, or -arthropod animals, researchers report in Science Advances.

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.