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Neoprobe, University of California-San Diego, UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Apoptos, University of Edinburgh, Geron, Technology from Ideas, Strategic Diagnostics, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, San Diego State Unive

Neoprobe Gains Development Rights for UCSD-Developed Tracing Agent
Neoprobe, a developer of cancer and cardiovascular diagnostics, said this week that it has signed an agreement with the University of California, San Diego, that gives it development rights to a tracing agent developed by the university.
The deal is an expansion of an existing agreement that gave the company rights to develop the compound as a radiotracer. The new agreement gives Neoprobe the right to develop the compound for human medical applications involving optical or ultrasound technology. In addition, the company now has development rights to the compound in veterinary applications.
The compound is covered by US Patent No. 6,409,990, “Macromolecular carrier for drug and diagnostic agent delivery,” assigned to the University of California system, as well as corresponding issued patents in the European Union and Japan.
David Bupp, Neoprobe’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the company chose to expand the agreement “because of the success to date of the clinical testing of the molecule in our development of Lymphoseek,” a radioactive tracing agent that the company is developing for use with gamma detection devices in a surgical procedure referred to as intraoperative lymphatic mapping.
“The expansion of the use of the compound to include optical and ultrasound applications is a natural progression beyond its initial use as a radiotracer. We wanted to include veterinary applications for the compound based upon our experience in the non-clinical studies of Lymphoseek,” Bupp added.
Last week, Neoprobe said that the US Food and Drug Administration had cleared a Phase 3 trial for Lymphoseek.

UK’s BBSRC Launches Biotech Entrepreneurship Programs
The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has launched two initiatives designed to foster entrepreneurship among academic biotechnology researchers.
In the first initiative, the BBSRC is collaborating with the Royal Society of Edinburgh to offer “enterprise fellowships” to researchers who are “actively involved” in commercializing research that was largely funded by BBSRC, the agency said in an announcement of the program.
These fellowships will provide training to help develop a business plan, a year’s salary hosted at the fellow’s university or research institute, and access to mentors, business experts, and professional advisors.
The salary for the fellowships will be in the range of £23,577 to £35,663 ($46,000 to $69,600). Travel, consumables, and equipment costs up to £6,000 will be reimbursed. 
The fellowships are available to academic staff, research staff, and postgraduates employed by a UK higher-education institution or a BBSRC-sponsored research institute.
The closing date for applications is June 16 and the fellowships are expected to begin in October. Further information on the program and application forms are available here.
In the second initiative, called the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme, or Biotechnology YES, the BBSRC is recruiting teams of postgraduate and post-doctoral bioscientists who will compete “to develop a hypothetical business idea with the help of expert mentors from the fields of biotech, finance, and intellectual property,” BBSRC said.
Workshops will be held throughout the UK and will feed into a national final where the prizes include £1,000 and a trip to the US for the winning team.
The closing date for the competition is June 27.
Further information is available here.

Apoptos Raises $28M in Series A Financing
Apoptos, a developer of oncology therapeutics, said this week that it has secured $28 million in Series A funding that it will use to advance its portfolio of small-molecule drugs directed at inducing tumor cell apoptosis.
Major investors in the two-tranche financing round include Venrock, ARCH Venture Partners, OrbiMed Advisors, and Advanced Technology Ventures.
Apoptos said it expects the financing to fund it through 2010.
The company was founded in 2007 and is based on technology licensed from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies.

U of Edinburgh Wins $7.2M in UK Awards for Stem Cell Alliance with Geron
The University of Edinburgh has been awarded two grants worth a combined £3.6 million ($7.2 million) over two years from two UK funding agencies to support an ongoing stem-cell collaboration with Menlo Park, Calf.-based Geron.
The awards were granted through the UK Stem Cell Foundation, with funding from the UK’s Medical Research Council and Scottish Enterprise.
The funding will support a collaboration that began in August 2006 between Geron and the University of Edinburgh to develop hepatocytes derived from human embryonic stem cells for the treatment of liver failure and for use in cell-based assays.
The partners are also developing hESC-derived osteoblasts and chondrocytes for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoporosis, bone fractures, and osteoarthritis.
The new awards will support two projects led by Brendon Noble and John Iredale at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine.
In the first project, the partners will conduct preclinical studies to assess the safety and efficacy of the hESC-derived hepatocyte-like cells with the goal of developing the cells for drug testing.
In the second project, the university and Geron will study the safety and efficacy of hESC-derived bone and cartilage cells in preclinical models. The university has developed bioactive scaffolds and cell carriers that will be used to promote tissue regeneration in vivo as part of this assessment.

Ireland’s TfI Secures $1.6M VC Funding Round
Irish technology commercialization and investment firm Technology from Ideas, or TfI, said last week that it closed a €1.05 million ($1.6 million) round of funding from Enterprise Ireland, 4th Level Ventures, and the Business Angel Partnership.
TfI said it will use the funding to increase the number of development projects it supports from Irish and UK universities.
Dan Richardson, TfI’s managing director, said in a statement that the company is now “scaling our sales activities as we move to commercialize our first tranche of technologies.”
To date, TfI has signed technology-commercialization agreements with the National University of Ireland, Galway, Trinity College, and University College Cork.

Strategic Diagnostics to Create Antibody Library for UNC Chapel Hill
Strategic Diagnostics said this week that it will use its Genomic Antibody Technology to generate a library of antibodies for Jason Lieb’s laboratory at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Lieb will use the antibodies to identify and characterize DNA sequence elements and proteins that control genome activity in C. elegans and Drosophila.
SDI said it will retain the commercial rights to the antibodies produced in the project and will be the sole commercial distributor to the scientific community through its SEQer antibody catalog.
Lieb, a faculty member in the department of biology and Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, said in a statement that the GAT system “eliminates my team’s need to generate antigens — allowing us to focus on our scientific goals and not reagent production.”

SDSU to Offer MBA for Life Science Executives
The College of Business Administration at San Diego State University said last week that it will launch an MBA for Executives in Life Sciences program in the fall.
The program will focus on “efficiently bringing life science products from concept to market,” the university said in a statement.
SDSU is offering the program in partnership with Kelley Executive Partners, an affiliate of Indiana University.
SDSU said that it has designed the program’s curriculum “to accelerate the process for working executives who can retain their jobs by taking courses online while completing the program.”
The 20-month program includes course work in core business, managing innovation, and regulatory affairs.
Classes will begin at SDSU’s campus on Aug. 29 and will include a residency period in Indiana where students will visit “medical device companies, life science contract manufacturing facilities, and a large pharmaceutical company.”
The program also includes a residency period in Washington, DC, so that students can meet with US Food and Drug Administration experts.

The Scan

Follow-Up Data Requests to Biobank Participants Ineffective, Study Finds

An effort to recontact biobank enrollees for additional information reports low participation in a new BMJ Open study.

Study Finds Widespread Transmission of Resistant Bacteria in Vietnam Hospitals

A sequencing study in The Lancet Microbe finds widespread transmission of drug-resistant Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Acinetobacter baumannii in two Vietnam ICUs.

Novel Brain Cell Organoids Show Promise for Autism Research

University of Utah researchers report in Nature Communications on their development of brain cell organoids to study SHANK3-related autism.

Study Finds Few FDA Post-Market Regulatory Actions Backed by Research, Public Assessments

A Yale University-led team examines in The BMJ safety signals from the US FDA Adverse Event Reporting System and whether they led to regulatory action.