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North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Affinergy, Aldagen, BASF, Targacept, Tengion, Geron, Exeter Life Sciences, Start Licensing, ViaGen, UTMB-Galveston, Genologics, Alnylam, Max Planck, Miraculins, Mount Sinai Hospital, Quest Product Development, Universi

NCBC Names Sponsoring Companies for Industrial Fellowship Program
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center this week announced the five sponsoring companies chosen for the first year of its Industrial Fellowship Program.
The sponsoring companies are Affinergy, a Durham-based biotech firm developing site-specific biological delivery systems; Aldagen, of Durham, which is developing proprietary cell therapies; BASF's plant science group in Research Triangle Park; Targacept, a Winston-Salem-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company; and Tengion of Winston-Salem, which develops neo-organs and tissues.
A total of 18 companies applied for the program, which pays two years of salary and benefits for a post-doctoral researcher with academic-only lab experience to work in an industrial setting. Additionally, the Industrial Fellows will have access to programs in business, intellectual property, regulatory affairs, and other areas to complement their training, the NCBC said.
The NCBC is accepting applications through Aug. 22 from PhD scientists who want to work in industry. Fellows selected and hired by sponsoring companies will begin on Oct. 15.

Geron, Exeter Affiliates Merge to Create Livestock Cloning Shop
Geron and Exeter Life Sciences said this week that Start Licensing, a joint venture between the two firms, and ViaGen, a subsidiary of Exeter, have merged to form a new entity that will focus on animal cloning.
Start Licensing manages and licenses a portfolio of intellectual property rights related to animal reproductive technologies, including nuclear transfer cloning technology that was developed at the Roslin Foundation to clone Dolly the sheep. ViaGen is an animal genomics and livestock cloning firm.
Geron and Exeter said that the merger of the firms combines the “full breadth” of Start’s nuclear transfer cloning IP with ViaGen’s in-house breeding services and expertise in advanced reproductive technologies, including cloning, “to provide a one-stop licensing and operating company” for animal cloning.
"We believe it makes sound business sense to join a patent estate for nuclear transfer that has been tested and is recognized as dominant with a leading operating company in the field," said David Greenwood, Geron's executive vice president and CFO, in a statement.
Jonathan Thatcher, Exeter Life Science's CEO, said that the combined firm will allow customers to either secure a license to practice or contract cloning services.

UTMB-Galveston, Genologics to Co-Develop Software for Biospecimen Management
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston will collaborate with GenoLogics to develop an integrated software solution for use in UTMB-Galveston’s translational medical bioinformatics research programs, GenoLogics said this week.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company said it will work with the Sealy Center for Molecular Medicine at UTMB-Galveston to develop biospecimen-management software.
The SCMM, which is part of the Institute for Translational Sciences, is focused on developing new tools for studying biomarkers and human diseases at the molecular level.

Alnylam, Max Planck Ink Research Pact for siRNA Transport
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals this week announced that it has entered into an exclusive research agreement with the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics to investigate and characterize the molecular mechanisms of siRNA transport.
Alnylam scientists will work closely with the laboratory of Marino Zerial at the Max Planck Institute, and will have an option to license any intellectual property that results from the collaboration.
Additional terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Miraculins Licenses Preeclampsia Biomarker Panel from Mount Sinai
Candian diagnostics developer Miraculins has agreed to license a panel of biomarkers from Mount Sinai Hospital that it will use to develop diagnostic assays to detect preecleampsia, the company said last week.
These markers have shown evidence that they may help to diagnose the disease in its earliest stages, Miraculins said.
Preeclampsia affects 3 million expectant mothers worldwide every year and it is associated with premature births and infant illnesses such as cerebral palsy, blindness, epilepsy, deafness, lung conditions, and in severe cases it can cause death.
If the markers are developed into a reliable prenatal screen that is used for all pregnant women, it would have a potential US market of as many as 6.4 million women each year, said Miraculins, which is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
The biomarker technology involved in the agreement was discovered at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto, and at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Miraculins Director of Research and Development Stephen Frost said the company plans to immediately “begin executing an aggressive development plan with the objective of helping millions of women around the world at risk from this potentially fatal condition."
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Quest Product Development and CU Win $1M STTR for Next-Gen Endoscope
Quest Product Development and the University of Colorado have been awarded a $1 million Small Business Technology Transfer grant by the National Institutes of Health to continue developing a next-generation endoscope.
The endoscope uses Quest’s MicroFlex technology, which is derived from aerospace engineering and uses shape metal alloys and micro-actuators that allow active control over the shape of the scope for minimally invasive surgery.
A team of researchers from the lab of CU-Boulder researcher Dale Lawrence, physicians at the Health Sciences Center, and an engineering team from Quest Product Development will develop the endoscope.
The group said that MicroFlex technology may provide a useful tool for diagnostic and surgical care for a variety of medical uses including ear-nose-throat, lung, neurosurgery, neonatal and cardiac applications.

ImQuest Wins $6.4M NIH Grant to Develop Microbicide with Four US Research Universities
ImQuest BioSciences said this week that it has been awarded $6.4 million from the National Institutes of Health to support the development of a combination topical microbicide product.
Under the grant, which is co-sponsored by the Division of Microbiology and Disease in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, ImQuest and a consortium of microbicide researchers from four major US-based universities will develop a product from the portfolio of microbicides being developed by ImQuest, including the highly active dual-acting pyrimidinediones, the virus attachment and fusion inhibitor ISIS 5320, and the virus-inactivating NCp7-targeted thioesters
The studies will be led by principal investigator Robert Buckheit, Jr., executive vice president and CSO of ImQuest. Other participating investigators include Patrick Kiser of the University of Utah, David Katz of Duke University, Kathleen Morrow of the Miriam Hospital/Brown University, and Lisa Rohan and Charlene Dezzutti of the University of Pittsburgh.

CU Spinout Hiberna Licenses Python Cardiac Hypertrophy Model from School
Hiberna, a Boulder, Colo.-based drug developer, has exclusively licensed from the University of Colorado technology using the python as a model to identify targets and potential therapies for cardiac hypertrophy.
The licensed technology is based on the ability of the python to increase the muscle mass of its heart by up to 60 percent, and speed up its metabolism 40-fold after consuming a large meal. These changes are reversed with no ill effects after the python has digested its meal.
The model was developed by Leslie Leinwand, a professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at CU-Boulder, and director of the CU Cardiovascular Institute. Leinwand is also a co-founding scientist of Hiberna, along with Sandy Marting at UC-Denver.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The Scan

Study Points to Tuberculosis Protection by Gaucher Disease Mutation

A mutation linked to Gaucher disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population appears to boost Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistance in a zebrafish model of the lysosomal storage condition, a new PNAS study finds.

SpliceVault Portal Provides Look at RNA Splicing Changes Linked to Genetic Variants

The portal, described in Nature Genetics, houses variant-related messenger RNA splicing insights drawn from RNA sequencing data in nearly 335,700 samples — a set known as the 300K-RNA resource.

Automated Sequencing Pipeline Appears to Allow Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Lineage Detection in Nevada Study

Researchers in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics describe and assess a Clear Labs Dx automated workflow, sequencing, and bioinformatic analysis method for quickly identifying SARS-CoV-2 lineages.

UK Team Presents Genetic, Epigenetic Sequencing Method

Using enzymatic DNA preparation steps, researchers in Nature Biotechnology develop a strategy for sequencing DNA, along with 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, on existing sequencers.