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In Brief This Week: Response Genetics, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Stokes Bio, Cellectis, Sage Bionetworks, HairDx

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Response Genetics said this week that it is expanding its sales force for its ResponseDx genetic test panels by 50 percent.

Los Angeles-based Response Genetics said that it would increase its internal sales force from 10 to 15 to sell ResponseDx, a PCR-based test used to analyze the expression of genes that correlate to commonly used chemotherapy agents.

The company said that it plans to add the sales representatives to its sales force by the end of the first quarter this year.

Response Genetics noted that the sales force increase is in response to growing demand for the ResponseDx panels. The company recently saw an increase in sales of test, from 500 tests in 2008 to more than 4,300 tests last year.

Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, entered into pair of agreements this week to apply its targeted genome modification technology to improve cassava and tomato production.

In the first agreement, Dow and KeyGene will combine their technologies to develop traits to improve yield in tomatoes. Specifically, Dow will provide KeyGene with access to its Exzact Precision technology, its experience in targeted genome modification, and research support.

Meantime, KeyGene will apply its expertise in molecular breeding, vegetable genetics, and tomato protoplast technology to perform the research.

In the second agreement, Dow will collaborate with researchers from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo., to study how the Exzact Precision technology can help improve the root crop cassava.

Under the agreement, researchers at the Danforth Center will generate data demonstrating the utility of the Exzact technology in improving nutritional value and virus resistance in farmer-preferred varieties of cassava.

Dow will donate its technology to the effort and provide access to pertinent intellectual property, zinc-finger reagents, and expertise.

The financial terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

Monsanto and Limerick, Ireland-based biotech firm Stokes Bio said this week that they have entered into a licensing and R&D agreement to accelerate plant breeding research.

Under the agreement, Monsanto has exclusive rights to Stokes Bio's patented microfluidic technology for use in agricultural genotyping and gene analysis studies.

Stokes Bio's microfluidics technology uses much smaller sample sizes than conventional genetic analysis methods, the organizations said. The samples continually flow through the system in nanoliter-sized droplets, and the instrument can analyze up to 100,000 data points per hour.

Stokes Bio said that it will deliver a number of its genotyping instruments to Monsanto next year. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

French genome engineering company Cellectis said this week that it has licensed its patent family covering homologous recombination to Bayer HealthCare.

The global license includes the use of technology developed at Institut Pasteur and relating to homologous recombination to obtain and use certain transgenic animals in pharmaceutical research in all countries, including Japan.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Sage Bionetworks has entered into a research partnership with Pfizer to build, analyze, and use advanced network models of cancer, Seattle-based Sage said this week.

Under the agreement, Pfizer will provide an undisclosed amount of research funding to Sage to analyze large, globally coherent datasets from Pfizer, Sage, and the public domain.

Using network biology analysis, Sage will use the genetic, molecular, and clinical information to create predictive computational disease models, which will help identify therapeutic targets for oncology drug development and evaluate the efficacy and safety of drug candidates.

Sage is located on the campus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and works with a number of academic and commercial partners on integrative genomics projects, the company said.

HairDx said this week that the HairDx genetic test for predicting the risk of male or female hair loss is now available in sub-Saharan Africa and Greece.

HairDx will be available in sub-Saharan Africa through a distribution agreement between HairDx parent company PharmaGenoma and HairOptions Unlimited; while the test will be available in Greece through a distribution agreement with Dermamed.

Financial details of the agreements were not disclosed.