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Life Biosciences, University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center, SBIR, Stanford University, Sloning, MorphoSys, Leibniz-Institut fr Molekulare Pharmakologie, Genentech, City of Hope, TEDCO, Elixir Pharmaceuticals, University of California, Quaker BioVentu

Swiss Firm Life Biosciences Inks 10-Year Research Pact with MD Anderson
Swiss bioinformatics firm Life Biosciences said last week that it has entered into a 10-year strategic research agreement with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in the area of molecular medicine.
Under the agreement, Life Bio will receive exclusive rights to commercialize intellectual property discovered from joint research projects. Additional financial terms were not disclosed.
Specifically, Life Biosciences and MD Anderson will pursue joint research projects to discover, validate, and develop drug markers and targets, combinatorial treatments, alternative medical uses, adverse drug reactions, or modes of action of drugs, Life Bio said.
In addition, Life Bio said that the parties will also work together to develop in silico models to evaluate combinatorial therapies for cancer patients aimed at “maximizing the clinical and therapeutic impact of studies” performed at MD Anderson.
The agreement also provides a mechanism for initiating clinical and pre-clinical studies to validate these in silico discoveries, Life Bio said.

House Passes SBIR Renewal Bill; Senate to Hear Next
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that will extend the Small Business Innovation Research program scheduled to sunset this September.
The House, which also passed the Science and Technology Transfer Research program, agreed to pass the Science and Technology Innovation Act of 2008 last week on a vote of 368 to 43 after it was reviewed and advanced in the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation and the House Committee on Small Business.
The bill has now been read in the US Senate and has been referred to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. This bill would increase funding levels for Phase I awards from $100,000 to $300,000 and Phase II awards from $750,000 to $2.2 million.
The bill also would increase the flexibility of SBIR award policy by allowing applicants to apply directly for Phase II funding, and it would expand the requirements for databases of recipients, as well as interoperability and accessibility between databases.
"SBIR and STTR are good economic stimulus programs that support research and innovation among our country’s leading job creators – small businesses," House Science and Technology Committee chairman Bart Gordon (D – Tenn.) said in a statement.

Stanford to Use Sloning DNA-Engineering Platform
Synthetic biology company Sloning will use its DNA-engineering platform in a joint gene mutant library project with researchers at Stanford University, the Munich-based company said last week.
Sloning said that it will use its Slonomics platform to synthesize a gene mutant library where certain codons are introduced in a statistically expected and controlled ratio at pre-selected positions within a given DNA sequence.
The Stanford researchers, led by Roger Kornberg, will run in vivo screens based on Sloning’s gene mutant library to identify relevant mutants of a S. cerevesiae RNA polymerase II. Kornberg said the “mutant library will allow us to dissect and better understand the transcription mechanism."
Sloning uses its platform to synthesize customized mutant libraries for its customers in biopharmaceutical, agribiotech, industrial biotech, and food industries.

Germany’s MorphoSys and FMP to Co-Develop Ab-based Therapies, Diagnostics
German biotech firm MorphoSys last week announced a broad alliance with the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin covering the use of fully human recombinant research antibodies and commercialization of resulting products.
Under the agreement, the FMP will receive access to HuCAL GOLD-based research antibodies from MorphoSys’ AbD Serotec unit to identify and validate target molecules with potential medical applications.
MorphoSys retains commercialization rights for all antibodies emerging from the collaboration, both as research antibody tools distributed via AbD Serotec and in therapeutic or diagnostic applications.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

California Court Overturns $200M Award in Genentech-City of Hope Case
Genentech last week said that the California Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s ruling that Genentech pay the City of Hope $200 million in punitive damages resulting from a contract dispute brought by the hospital.
The damages were part of a 2004 decision by the California Court of Appeal to uphold a 2002 Los Angeles County Superior Court jury verdict that awarded approximately $300 million in compensatory and $200 million in punitive damages to City of Hope, Genentech said.
The contract dispute stemmed from a 1976 sponsored research agreement, under which Genentech paid City of Hope royalties on sales of products made using DNA produced by City of Hope and that used patented technology that resulted from the sponsored research.
Genentech said that City of Hope accepted these royalty payments, totaling more than $300 million, from Genentech for more than 20 years.

TEDCO Provides $250K in Funding to Maryland Incubators
The Maryland Technology Development Corporation this week announced that it has provided $250,000 to incubator members of the Maryland Business Incubation Association through TEDCO’s Incubator Business Funding program.
TEDCO said it has committed to funding 15 of Maryland’s incubators, including: Emerging Technology Center at Johns Hopkins University; Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore; Techcenter at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County; Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College; TowsonGlobal in Towson; Garrett Information Enterprise Center in Baltimore; NeoTech Incubator in Columbia; Prince George's County Technology Assistance Center; Frederick Innovative Technology [email protected]; Frederick Innovative Technology [email protected]; Chesapeake Innovation Center in Annapolis; Rockville Innovation Center; Shady Grove Innovation Center in Rockville; Silver Spring Innovation Center; and Wheaton Business Innovation Center.
Individual allocations were based on the individual square footage of the incubator and are to be used to support companies located in the facilities.
Assistance includes entrepreneurial training courses, marketing, branding and funding strategies, business planning services, market research, preparation for presenting to venture capitalists, assistance in writing Small Business Innovation Research grant proposals, website design, and human resources services, TEDCO said.

Elixir Announces Issuance of Patent Licensed from UC
Elixir Pharmaceuticals this week said that the University of California has been issued US Patent No. 7,351,542, which covers the discovery of new and existing chemical entities that modulate the activity of a human sirtuin, SIRT 2.
Elixir has exclusive rights to this patent through a licensing agreement with the University of California.
Sirtuins are a class of enzymes believed to play a significant role in diseases of aging, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Quaker BioVentures Closes $420M Venture Fund to Support Mid-Atlantic Bio Startups
Quaker BioVentures this week said that it has closed its second fund with $420 million in commitments, bringing the VC firm’s total assets under management to $700 million.
As with its first $280 million fund, which invested in 24 companies, Quaker will focus its investments on life sciences companies in the Mid-Atlantic region, it said.
The new fund, Quaker BioVentures II, was originally targeted to raise $300 million. The fund’s returning investors were joined by a number of new institutional backers, including several large US-based public pension funds and funds-of-funds.
Quaker said that it has already made commitments from its second fund to five regional life sciences companies: Argolyn BioScience, Diasome Pharmaceuticals, EKR Therapeutics, Optherion, and Transave.

Arch Therapeutics Licenses Bleeding-Control Patents from MIT
Arch Therapeutics, a life sciences company developing materials for controlling bleeding, has finalized a licensing agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Arch said this week.
The license provides Arch exclusive and non-exclusive commercialization rights to a range of patents and applications for technology that includes a family of compositions to control bleeding and the movement of other bodily substances.
The company’s core technology is based in part on research conducted by co-founder Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, a research scientist in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
Ellis-Behnke was a grant recipient from MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, which funds early-stage MIT research to increase its commercial viability.

USPTO and EPO to Launch ‘Patent Prosecution Highway’ Program
The US Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Office this week said that they will launch a trial cooperative initiative called the Patent Prosecution Highway in September.
The initiative will take advantage of fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both the US and European Union to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently, USPTO said.
It will also permit each office to benefit from work previously done by the other office, in turn reducing examination workload and improving patent quality, USPTO said.
The trial program is set for one year, but may be extended or terminated earlier depending on volume of activity and other factors.
The pilot project with the EPO builds on a similar program initiated earlier this month with the Intellectual Property Office of Australia; and one made permanent in January with the Japan Patent Office. The USPTO said that pendency to first action was substantially reduced in many cases relative to normal pendency in the particular technology area.

OPX Biotechnologies Licenses Microbial Gene Tech from CU-Boulder for Biofuel Apps
OPX Biotechnologies, a Boulder, Colo.-based renewable energy company, has exclusively licensed the University of Colorado’s SCALEs microbe optimization technology and other intellectual property covering the production of biorefined fuels and chemicals.
OPX will use the technology to develop microbial strains for biorefining and next-generation biofuel applications, the company said.
The SCALEs platform, together with other OPX technologies, can identify the role of each microbial gene and how to modify it to achieve the characteristics needed for specific fuel and chemical products 1,000 to 5,000 times faster than conventional methods, according to OPX.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

BASF and Harvard Launch $20M Advanced Research Initiative
BASF this week announced the launch of the BASF Advanced Research Initiative at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The initiative, which was first announced last October, will span departments and schools throughout the university, and will be set up as a “fully collaborative, integrated partnership” among Harvard and BASF researchers, Harvard said.
BASF will provide direct funding to Harvard researchers, and will initially support 10 postdoctoral students. Total funding over the next five years is anticipated to be as much as $20 million.
The institute researchers will pursue projects in areas including applied physics, physics, applied mathematics, chemical biology, systems biology, bioengineering, and materials science.
If proof of concept established in a research project, BASF will have the opportunity to further develop discoveries for possible commercialization.
Since the initiative was announced, 10 postdoctoral students from the US, France, Italy, Switzerland, and China have already begun working at Harvard labs on multiple projects, BASF and Harvard said.

Constellation Raises $32M to Develop Epigenetic Tech from NYU, Harvard, Rockefeller Labs
Constellation Pharmaceuticals this week said that it has closed a $32 million Series A financing round to establish its epigenetic-based discovery platform and accelerate the development of a pre-clinical candidate pipeline of epigenetic-targeted drug candidates.
Third Rock Ventures, the Column Group, and Venrock co-led the financing round.
Constellation was founded by Danny Reinberg, professor of biochemistry at the New York University School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator; Yang Shi, professor of pathology at the Harvard Medical School; and David Allis, professor and head of the laboratory of chromatin biology at Rockefeller University.
Epigenetics involves chemical modifications of both DNA and its packaging proteins, collectively called the epigenome, which plays a critical role in regulating the expression of genes, Constellation said.
The company is developing a pipeline of pre-clinical drug candidates based on the research of its founders and scientific advisory board, which includes scientists from Infinity Pharmaceuticals, Emory University, Max Planck Institute, Institute of Advanced Study, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and the University of California-Berkeley.
Constellation’s initial focus is modulating epigenetic function, particularly histone modification, to discover and develop novel drugs for oncology. The company said its technology platform is also applicable to areas such as autoimmune, inflammatory, and neurological diseases.

The Scan

Genetic Tests Lead to Potential Prognostic Variants in Dutch Children With Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Researchers in Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine found that the presence of pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants was linked to increased risk of death and poorer outcomes in children with pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy.

Fragile X Syndrome Mutations Found With Comprehensive Testing Method

Researchers in Clinical Chemistry found fragile X syndrome expansions and other FMR1 mutations with ties to the intellectual disability condition using a long-range PCR and long-read sequencing approach.

Team Presents Strategy for Speedy Species Detection in Metagenomic Sequence Data

A computational approach presented in PLOS Computational Biology produced fewer false-positive species identifications in simulated and authentic metagenomic sequences.

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.