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News Scan: Dec 19, 2008

Accuri Awards Mizzou Researcher C6 Flow Cytometer
Accuri Cytometers last week announced that Heather Newkirk, the executive director of business development and quality assurance/regulatory affairs at Clinical Reference Laboratory, and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is the first recipient of its Accuri Flow Cytometer Creativity Awards Program.
Newkirk will receive a free Accuri C6 Flow Cytometer System as her award. Accuri's twice-yearly Creativity Awards program was created to foster innovative research that taps the unrealized potential of flow cytometry and expands its use to novel applications.
Newkirk plans to use bead-based assays to detect direct genomic translocations, an approach that could be applied to a myriad of genomic rearrangements, including detecting specific translocations in certain cancers. 

Fluxion Inks Deal with German Distributor
Fluxion this week said that IUL Instruments will handle sales and service of the firm’s BioFlux research tools for live cell image analysis in drug discovery in Germany and Austria, under an exclusive distribution deal.
Königswinter, Germany-based IUL specializes in selling instruments for microbiology, cell biology, and biotech applications, said Fluxion. IUL’s efforts will mark Fluxion’s entry into the German and Austrian markets.
Mark Atlas, director of sales for San Francisco-based Fluxion, said that IUL has “strong customer relationships in pharmaceutical and academic markets.”

Emory University Purchases Corning Epic System for Drug Studies
Emory University has purchased a Corning label-free screening system for use in its drug discovery research programs, the company said this week.
The university bought the Epic System for use in its Emory Chemical Biology Discovery Center, which is part of the National Institutes of Health-funded Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network. The MLSCN includes 10 screening centers that work to develop new chemical probes for drug research.
The Epic System is able to conduct biochemical and cell-based assays without radioactive or fluorescent dyes that could interfere with chemical reactions, said Corning.
Ron Verkleeren, who is business director for the Epic System, said in a statement that the instrument’s ability to monitor real-time responses of small molecular compounds in living cells will help streamline the university’s search for new drugs.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Horizon Discovery to Screen Actelion Drug Compounds; OSI to Evaluate Horizon Discovery Cell Lines
Translational genomics company Horizon Discovery announced this week that it will use its X-MAN technology to screen a number of drug compounds and potential patient groups for Actelion Pharmaceuticals.
The agreement covers screening of “a number of Actelion’s lead compounds on a wide panel of genotypes,” Horizon said. The aim is to enable the drug company to predict the selectivity of their compounds against patient genotypes, the drug mechanisms conferred by secondary mutations, and the patient groups that are most likely to respond in clinical trials.
Actelion will pay Horizon an undisclosed sum. The companies will begin work on the project in January 2009, said Horizon.
Horizon Discovery hopes that the project will help it “further prove the potential of our human X-Man models in a screening environment,” Horizon’s Commercial Director, Darrin Disley, said in a statement.
Horizon also announced this week that it has signed a non-exclusive commercial agreement with OSI Pharmaceuticals. Under the agreement, OSI will evaluate nine of Horizon’s X-MAN cell lines and matched cells with normal genetic backgrounds for 12 months, starting this month.
OSI intends to characterize the cell lines and to use them for testing both known and internally developed compounds directed at genotypes of interest. The company will share key datasets with Horizon during that evaluation period. In addition, Horizon and OSI will reportedly work together to generate new data for research areas in which both companies are interested.
The X-MAN lines are isogenic human cell lines representing genetically defined in vitro models of human cancer. The cancerous and non-cancerous cell types were developed to aid in drug discovery and help assess treatments in clinical trials.
The financial terms of neither agreement were disclosed.

VistaGen Licenses Stem Cell Patents for Predictive Assays from WARF
Stem cell technology company VistaGen Therapeutics and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation announced this week that they have signed an agreement for patents to technology developed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison that may be used as predictive drug screening assays.
South San Francisco-based VistaGen plans to use the technology to speed up development of customized, next-generation stem cell-based predictive toxicology and drug screening assays.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Jexys, Teva Ink Deal to Develp Yeast-Based Drug Discovery Platform
Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced this week that its subsidiary, Jexys Pharmaceuticals, has signed a strategic research and development agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Under the terms of the agreement, Teva will finance Jexys' R&D program for the development of a high- throughput drug discovery platform and, in return, will receive a minority equity interest in Jexys Pharmaceuticals.
Following the completion of the program, Teva will have the option to in-license five drug candidates discovered by Jexys. This agreement is an extension of a collaborative agreement that Jexys and Teva Pharmaceuticals signed in Oct. 2006.
Jexys Pharmaceuticals has developed a yeast-based, high-throughput drug discovery platform. The company, founded by David Engelberg from the Hebrew University, takes advantage of the fact that the cellular biology of yeast is very similar to that of humans. Jexys induces in yeast various diseases that affect humans, and uses the "sick" yeast in order to quickly and cost-effectively screen drug candidates.
The technology is suitable for a wide range of diseases caused by aberrant protein function, such as cancer, inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases. The yeast cells are engineered to express the flawed proteins, which usually inhibit the growth of the yeast cells. Therefore, drugs that restore growth are promising candidates for further preclinical development.
Jexys has already used its system to screen molecules that could treat inflammatory conditions by inhibiting the enzyme p38. Jexys' in vivo screening system ensures that the newly discovered compounds are not cytotoxic, are capable of crossing the cell's membrane, and are specific.

Millipore, Guava to Award a Flow Cytometer to Cell Biology Researcher
Millipore and Guava Technologies plan to award one of Guava’s flow cytometers to a scientist who is involved in cell biology research, the companies said this week.
The companies will assess applications from researchers around the world who submit proposals between Jan. 1, 2009, and April 30, 2009.
"This award will enable research into such critical areas of cell biology as stem cell differentiation, cell signaling, mechanism of action of a particular therapeutic agent, and insight into the molecular basis of a specific pathology," said Millipore Life Science VP Geoffrey Crouse in a statement.
The companies will decide which researcher will win the flow cytometer, which is valued at over $100,000, after applications are reviewed by a panel of representatives for both companies.
Millipore and Guava struck a partnership in March of this year to integrate their flow cytometry instruments, reagents, and support capabilities (see CBA News, 3/7/08).

Since that agreement was formed the companies have been jointly developing a new flow cytometry instrument, and they have launched 17 kits for stem cell characterization and chemokine receptor quantification.

The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.