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Chesapeake Crescent Innovation Alliance, Coradyn Biosystems, University of Texas-Austin, Inimex Pharmaceuticals, University of British Columbia, Babraham Institute-UK, NIH

Chesapeake-Area Research Universities form ‘Innovation Alliance’
Research universities from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, have formed a collaboration designed to drive regional innovation, economic performance, and global competitiveness, public/private collaborative Chesapeake Crescent said this week.
The new partnership, to be named the Chesapeake Crescent Innovation Alliance, will examine areas of potential cooperation in regional centers of excellence, entrepreneurial development, early-stage investment, and technology transfer.
Participating institutions include Johns Hopkins University, Virginia Tech University, the University of Maryland system, George Mason University, and George Washington University.
Specific goals of the alliance will be to “deploy existing resources more efficiently; to generate new sources of public and private investment in inventions and innovation; to heighten awareness of the existing quality and quantity of innovation in the region; and to promote public policies to increase investment in R&D technology and catalyze commercialization,” the organization said in a statement.
Potential research areas include energy, computer networking, homeland security and defense, life sciences, and aerospace.
The new alliance is being formed as an outgrowth of the Chesapeake Crescent Initiative, which was launched last year by Governors Tim Kaine of Virginia and Martin O’Malley of Maryland; Washington, DC, Mayor Adrian Fenty; federal legislative and executive officials; and more than 20 leading regional business executives.

Coradyn Biosystems Licenses ‘Smart’ Polymer Tech from UT-Austin
Coradyn Biosystems, a “smart materials” startup company, said this week that it has licensed a responsive, conductive polymer technology from the University of Texas at Austin.
According to Coradyn, the polymer has potential applications in molecular sensor devices for a wide array of industries, including RFID or wireless sensing, medical devices and diagnostics, personal health monitoring, food and beverage testing, and industrial processing.
Coradyn’s core technology consists of conductive polymeric materials that can be customized to recognize a broad range of analytes and convert that recognition into a measurable electronic signal.
The platform is label-free and applicable to a number of formats and industries. For clinical laboratory testing, the technology yields results similar to antibody-based assays, Coradyn said. Other biomedical applications include personal health monitoring through a hand-held or implanted device.
Coradyn is funded and managed by life sciences venture firm, Emergent Technologies, which specializes in forming and managing companies and funds to commercialize institutional and university-based technologies.

UBC Spinout Inimex Pharma Closes $22M Series B Financing
Vancouver-based Inimex Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has closed a US $22 million Series B venture financing round to conduct the first clinical trials of an innate defense regulator drug in patients and to evaluate IDR drugs in a broad range of disease models, particularly antibiotic-resistant infections.
Inimex was co-founded by Bob Hancock and Brett Finlay, researchers at the University of British Columbia. Finlay and Hancock also lead a team of scientists awarded an $8.7 million Grand Challenges in Global Health grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundaiton. Inimex is providing screening methods and test compounds as part of that collaboration.
Morningside Venture Investments led the financing round, and was joined by new investors Roche Venture Fund, Astellas Venture Management, and Advantage Life Science Fund II.
Completing the round were existing Candaian investors BC Advantage Funds, BDC Capital, British Columbia Discovery Fund, the Canadian Medical Discovery Fund managed by JovInvestment Management, and the Working Opportunity Fund managed by GrowthWorks Capital.

UK’s Babraham Institute Wins EEDA Grant to Beef Up Tech-Development Lab
The Babraham Institute in Cambridgeshire, UK, has received a £300,000 ($586,000) grant from the East of England Development Agency’s pilot innovative capital equipment competition to expand Babraham’s Technology Development Lab.
The new investment will “significantly enhance the TDL’s offering, providing a one-stop-shop for early-stage ventures in the drug discovery sector to road test their ideas, and reduce the need to out-source,” EEDA said in a statement.
David Hardman, chief executive of Babraham commercialization arm Babraham Bioscience Technologies, said in a statement that the new and improved TDL will allow BBT to better cater to the needs of growing biotech businesses in the region.
“Whether that's giving a company direct access to sophisticated labs and equipment, or providing a TDL scientist to carry out development work on their behalf, businesses in this region can tap in to a wealth of  facilities, without having to tie-up their early-stage capital in outsourcing,” Hardman said.
BBT will reinvest revenue from developers using the new facilities back into the labs, it said.
Babraham Bioscience Technologies and the Babraham Research Campus have provided support to 52 companies, and founded three biotech companies based on technologies developed at the lab, the institute said.

NIH Adds $533M to Clinical and Translational Science Push
The National Institutes of Health is aiming to improve upon the time it takes to move critical medicines and treatments from bench to bedside, and to expand genomics and genetics research programs, by pumping $533 million over five years into fourteen medical research institutes through its Clinical and Translational Science Award consortium.
The CTSA, which began supporting research centers in 2006, is part of the NIH’s aim to “re-engineer the clinical enterprise,” one of the "key objectives" of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the National Center for Research Resources said last week.
Most of the $533 million to support these 2008 grants will come from terminating grants to General Clinical Research Centers and some will come from the NIH Roadmap. NCRR said that when the CTSA program, which now includes a total of 38 member institutions, is fully implemented in 2012 it will fund a total of 60 centers with a total annual budget of $500 million.
Harvard University netted the biggest funding haul in this round of grants, landing $118 million. The University of Colorado, Denver, will receive $76 million and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will pull in $61 million.
Additional allotments include: $22 million for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University; $23 million for Boston University; $25 million for the Indiana University School of Medicine; $29 million for Northwestern University; $34 million for Ohio State University; $20 million for the Scripps Research Institute; $30 million to Stanford University; $20 million to Tufts University;$27 million for the University of Alabama at Birmingham; $26 million for the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; and $23 million for the University of Utah.
The CTSA program so far has assembled interdisciplinary teams including geneticists, biologists, clinical researchers, nurses, pharmacists, and a variety of other specialists, and it has funded a number of programs that have promoted partnerships and expansion of translational research partnerships and programs at many institutions.

The Scan

Enzyme Involved in Lipid Metabolism Linked to Mutational Signatures

In Nature Genetics, a Wellcome Sanger Institute-led team found that APOBEC1 may contribute to the development of the SBS2 and SBS13 mutational signatures in the small intestine.

Family Genetic Risk Score Linked to Diagnostic Trajectory in Psychiatric Disorders

Researchers in JAMA Psychiatry find ties between high or low family genetic risk scores and diagnostic stability or change in four major psychiatric disorders over time.

Study Questions Existence of Fetal Microbiome

A study appearing in Nature this week suggests that the reported fetal microbiome might be the result of sample contamination.

Fruit Fly Study Explores Gut Microbiome Effects on Circadian Rhythm

With gut microbiome and gene expression experiments, researchers in PNAS see signs that the microbiome contributes to circadian rhythm synchronicity and stability in fruit flies.