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Merck Serono, EPFL, Derma Sciences, Maryland Technology Development Corporation, American Type Culture Collection, The Valley Hospital of Ridgewood, Zymeworks, Simon Fraser University, NC Biotech Center

Merck Serono and EPFL Sign Research Pact in Neuroscience, Oncology Drug Delivery
The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGgA, last week announced the signing of a research collaboration in the areas of neuroscience, oncology, and drug delivery.
Under the agreement, three Merck Serono-endowed chairs will be created at EPFL in the three research areas, and Merck Serono will make a total donation of CHF 12.5 million ($10.8 million) to the chairs.
Merck Serono also said that it will open a research fund at EPFL of up to CHF 3 million per year over five years to support the collaboration.

Derma Sciences Licenses Wound-Healing Compound From USC
Derma Sciences last week announced that it has acquired from the University of Southern California a global exclusive license for DSC127, a topical application for the treatment of wounds and reduction of surgical scars.
Under the terms of the agreement, Derma paid USC $840,000 up front, and will pay milestone payments to USC based on regulatory and sales milestones, and royalties based on annual sales. The license also includes a commitment by Derma to develop the product and contribute an estimated $4 million to $5 million through Phase II clinical trials.
Derma, based in Princeton, NJ, said that the compound is patented in the US and has shown strong efficacy in pre-clinical animal models in accelerated healing of excisional injuries in diabetic animals and reduction of scars.
The US Food and Drug Administration granted an Investigational New Drug status to the compound in 2006. Derma said the compound has completed Phase I clinical trials and is expected to begin Phase II safety and efficacy clinical trials in the first half of 2008, to be completed by the second half of 2009.

TEDCO Awards Maryland Firms Through J&J Investment Program
The Maryland Technology Development Corporation, or TEDCO, this week announced that early-stage healthcare companies Biomedica Management, Neuronascent, and 20/20 Genesystems have received funding from TEDCO’s joint investment program with the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology.
Biomedica Management and Neuronascent each received $100,000 through the program, while 20/20 Genesystems received $150,000, TEDCO said.
The joint investment program awards up to $150,000 to existing TEDCO portfolio companies or up to $75,000 for Maryland companies that have not received a Maryland Technology Transfer Fund award in the past. In 2006, J&J provided an initial investment of $250,000 to seed the fund, which TEDCO matched.
In order to be eligible for funding, companies must be early-stage businesses engaged in healthcare technology transfer with a university or federal laboratory in Maryland.
Biomedica Managament, Neuronascent, and 20/20 Genesystems are all MTTF portfolio companies, TEDCO said.
Biomedica, located in Baltimore, is working with the US Army Institute of Surgical Research to develop therapeutics in the areas of inflammation, coagulation, and tissue regeneration.
Neuronascent, located in Clarksville, is working with the University of Maryland at Baltimore to develop small-molecule agents for neurodegenerative disorders.
Rockville-based 20/20 Genesystems is collaborating with the National Institutes of Health to develop and commercialize protein-identification and -detection products for life sciences research, homeland security, and diagnostic pathology.

ATCC to Use NJ Hospital Samples in Pancreatic Cancer Biomarker Hunt
American Type Culture Collection will use certain genomic technologies to study pancreatic tissue samples collected at a New Jersey hospital for biomolecules that can be used to help detect, monitor, and potentially treat pancreatic cancer, ATCC said last week.
Under the agreement, ATCC will use its biomarker-discovery platform on pancreatic cancer samples from The Valley Hospital of Ridgewood, and the hospital will provide blood and clinical advice on validation and application of biomarker discoveries stemming from the collaboration.
ATCC scientists will also use the company’s Cell Biology Collection to test for the presence or absence of “various biomarkers across a wide range of cell lines,” the company said. ATCC and The Valley Hospital will form a Joint Research and Development Committee to address the objectives and progress of the research initiatives.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Canada’s Zymeworks Collaborates with Simon Fraser U Through Accelerate BC
Zymeworks, a Canadian bioinformatics company, last week said that it has entered into a pair of research collaborations with Simon Fraser University in conjunction with undisclosed funding from provincial internship program Accelerate BC.
Zymeworks, based in Vancouver, BC, will work with three members of the laboratory of Mario Pinto at Simon Fraser in the area of antibody modeling and in the development of an enzyme-based tuberculosis therapy.
Accelerate BC is BC’s graduate research internship program administered by the Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems, or MITAC program, a Canadian Network of Centers of Excellence for mathematical sciences.
“These new collaborations clearly demonstrate that Accelerate BC is helping to connect companies such as Zymeworks with the world-class expertise within BC’s universities,” Arvind Gupta, CEO and scientific director of MITACS, said in a statement.

NC Biotech Center Awards $100K in Seed Money for Nanobiotech Center
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center last week said that it has awarded a consortium of Piedmont Triad institutions a $100,000 planning grant to establish the state’s first center of innovation.
The North Carolina Center of Innovation in Nanobiotechnology, or COIN, will focus on the emerging field of nanobiotechnology.
The consortium will use the funding to develop a business plan leading to an application to the Biotechnology Center for a four-year Phase 2 grant request.
The COIN grant was made possible through the cooperation of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Wake Forest University.
The Piedmont Triad Partnership, a non-profit, 12-county economic development corporation, will administer the grant for the university consortium, PTP President Don Kirkman said in a statement.
Recipients of Phase 2 grants must demonstrate how they’ll make the project self-sustaining after the grant money runs out. In addition, a successful Phase 1 grant won’t automatically lead to Phase 2 funding.

The Scan

Study Reveals New Details About Genetics of Major Cause of Female Infertility

Researchers in Nature Medicine conducted a whole-exome sequencing study of mote than a thousand patients with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Circulating Tumor DNA Shows Potential as Biomarker in Rare Childhood Cancer

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that circulating tumor DNA levels in rhabdomyosarcoma may serve as a biomarker for prognosis.

Study Recommends Cancer Screening for Dogs Beginning Age Seven, Depending on Breed

PetDx researchers report in PLOS One that annual cancer screening for dogs should begin by age seven.

White-Tailed Deer Harbor SARS-CoV-2 Variants No Longer Infecting Humans, Study Finds

A new study in PNAS has found that white-tailed deer could act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants no longer found among humans.