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NIH Funding Bill, Formac Pharmaceuticals, University of Leuven, Purdue University, Selenium, Texas Tech University, Scottish Enterprise

White House to Weigh Bill Boosting NIH Funding
The US Senate last week passed an appropriations bill that, if signed by the President, would raise the 2008 budget for the National Institutes of Health to $30 billion from the $28.7 billion the White House requested for NIH in its budget proposal earlier in the year.
The Department of Labor, Heath and Human Services bill left the Senate over a month late, as fiscal 2008 began on Oct. 1, and bounced between the two legislative branches in the last week after it was bundled up with two other spending bills, one for veterans affairs and one for a water resources act.
After President George Bush vetoed the bundled bill last week, the Senate agreed to break the bills back down and send them back to the White House as separate bills.
Mid-last week, the White House said if the combined bill arrived on the President’s desk then he would veto it, saying it “includes an irresponsible and excessive level of spending.”
Whether he will veto this newly unbundled bill is not known, but the administration’s comments to date have not been flattering, saying the bill is loaded with over 2,200 earmarks and that it proposes spending as much as $3.2 billion on programs that the President had slashed out of his budget because they are “duplicative, narrowly focused, or are not producing results.”
The increase in NIH spending would come after three years of flattening budgets that, when tallied against consumer and biomedical inflation indexes, amounted to minor decreases in funding. According to the National Science Foundation’s projections a year ago, the budget for the National Human Genome Research Institute, for example, actually was slated to drop by 1.5 percent after accounting for biomedical inflation, although the budget proposed by the White House was an increase.

U of Leuven Spinout Formac Pharma Nets $2.4M in Funding
Belgian drug maker Formac Pharmaceuticals last week said that it has raised €1.7 million ($2.4 million) to start up a new drug delivery business focused on developing improved oral formulations of small organic drug compounds.
Formac is a spinout based on four drug-delivery technologies developed at the University of Leuven.
The financing round was led by Allegro Investment Fund, Hunza Ventures, Gemma Frisius Fonds KU Leuven II, and Vinnof.
Formac said that it will use its technology platform to develop improved delivery forms of generic and branded drugs whose patent rights are near expiration. The company also said that it will provide access to its technology and in-house expertise in contract R&D and licensing collaborations with pharmaceutical companies.

Purdue Seeks Entrants for $174K Biz Plan Competition
Purdue University is seeking entrants for a business plan competition that will award a total of $174,000 in cash and business services to startup companies seeking to market life sciences, biotechnology, or biomedical products or services, the university said last week.
Teams based at universities and colleges, research and teaching hospitals, and other academic institutions engaged in bioresearch are eligible to enter, and must submit an e-mail entry form and executive summary by the end of the day today, Nov. 12.
Purdue said that there is no restriction on the number of team members, but that teams should have at least one member with prior business experience.
The Burton Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue’s Discovery Park conducts the annual competition with support from the Lilly Endowment, Baker & Daniels LLP, B&D Consulting, Ernst & Young, and BioCrossroads.

Texas Tech Spinout Selenium Wins STTR Grant for Antimicrobial Coating Tech
Startup chemical firm Selenium this week announced the receipt of a Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the development of antimicrobial dental devices and water lines.
Selenium was founded in 2004 based on discoveries made by Texas Tech University professors Julian Spallholz and Ted Reid. Its core technology, SeLECT, is based on coating surfaces with organo-selenium molecules to provide an impenetrable barrier to microbes and other cells.
Selenium is funded and managed by life sciences venture firm Emergent Technologies.

Scottish Enterprise Awards $6.8M in POC Funding to University Commercialization Projects
The Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept program said this week that it has awarded funding of £3.3 million ($6.8 million) to 16 commercialization projects at Scottish universities and research institutions in round eight of the program.
Round eight saw the introduction of in-depth feasibility studies to ensure that the commercial opportunities for each project are maximized, Scottish Enterprise said. The organization also said that six additional projects are nearing completion of this stage.
The program, created in 1999, aims to address the lack of available funding from the public and private sector to support the development of research concepts into commercial products or services. To date the program has invested a total of £36.4 million in 201 projects.
Awards were made to researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Edinburgh, University of St. Andrews, Heriot-Watt Univeristy, University of Aberdeen, Macauly Land Use Research Institute, Scottish Crop Research Institute, and Napier University in the areas of chemicals, energy, enabling technologies and engineering, life sciences, food and drink, electronic markets, emerging technologies, and construction.
A detailed list of awardees can be seen on the Scottish Enterprise website.

The Scan

Genes Linked to White-Tailed Jackrabbits' Winter Coat Color Change

Climate change, the researchers noted in Science, may lead to camouflage mismatch and increase predation of white-tailed jackrabbits.

Adenine Base Editor Targets SCID Mutation in New Study

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, report in Cell that adenine base editing was able to produce functional T lymphocytes in a model of severe combined immune deficiency.

Researchers Find Gene Affecting Alkaline Sensitivity in Plants

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have found a locus affecting alkaline-salinity sensitivity, which could aid in efforts to improve crop productivity, as they report in Science.

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.