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Agilent Technologies, TILL Photonics, Raven Biotechnologies, Bioprocessing Technology Institute, National Scientific Foundation

Agilent Closes Purchase of German Photonics Company
Agilent Technologies announced this week that it has closed the acquisition of TILL Photonics, a developer and maker of optical, fluorescence microscopy products, for an undisclosed sum.
Agilent said the acquisition of the Munich, Germany-based company, which was founded in 1993 by a professor at the BioImaging Center of the University of Munich, will complement its atomic force microscope platform.
Agilent plans to add TILL Photonics to its Materials Science Solutions Unit, which is part of its Life Science and Chemical Analysis business.

Raven and BTI Ink Deal to ID Novel Cancer Stem Cell Abs
Raven Biotechnologies and the Bioprocessing Technology Institute this week announced a collaboration to advance the discovery of novel cancer stem cell antibodies.
Under the terms of the agreement, Raven will license its proprietary whole cell immunization technology for use with BTI's stem cells. Raven will screen the resulting antibodies against its collection of cancer lines, including its cancer stem cell lines.
Raven will have the rights to the antibodies BTI generates using Raven's immunization technology for use in cancer therapeutics and diagnostics and BTI will retain the rights to the antibodies it raises for all other stem cell therapeutic areas.

Unemployment Among US Biologists, Life Scientists 'Flat' Between '03 and '06
The number of unemployed biological and life scientists in the US grew very slightly between 2003 and 2006 even as their peers in other scientific fields, including computer and mathematical sciences, experienced a decline, according to a government report released this month.
The increase in unemployment was so small that the author of the report classified the numbers as “flat” over the four-year study period.
In addition, while biological scientists lost jobs over the four-year period, the unemployment rate for the entire US labor force during that time declined 1.4 percent, according to US labor force statistics.
The National Scientific Foundation’s biennial unemployment survey found that unemployment between 2003 and 2006 among biological, computer, physical, social, and engineering scientists declined .7 percent to 2.5 percent from 3.2 percent.
Likewise, unemployment among computer/mathematical scientists dipped 1.3 percent to 2.5 percent from 3.8 percent between 2003 and 2006, while unemployment among computer/information scientists fell 1.4 percent to 2.6 percent from 4 percent, the survey found.
However, unemployment among biological and medical scientists inched up .1 percent to 2.6 percent in 2006 from 2.5 percent in 2003, according to the NSF. By comparison, the broader category of “biological/agriculture/other life scientist” saw a .3 percent reduction in unemployment during that period to 2.1 percent from 2.4 percent.
To be sure, not all individuals affected by the numbers are necessarily biological or biomedical scientists. “There are a lot of other occupations that these folks fall into, including technical managers, teachers, and lawyers who have a scientific background,” survey author and NSF senior analyst Nirmala Kannankutty told CBA News sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News this week. “So we have to consider them in both ways.”
Moreover, Kannankutty said that the .1-percent increase in biological/life science unemployment isn’t that large, adding that “the increase can be seen as a flat change over the four-year period.”
“I would consider [the 2003 versus the 2006 numbers] about the same” in that group, she said. “It’s not a significant difference.”
Explaining the “flat” unemployment data for that segment, Kannankutty said the findings are from “sample surveys; we’re not surveying everybody, so .1 percent isn’t necessarily .1. It could be plus or minus.”
Plus, “it would be really hard from our data [to explain] why this happened,” she said. “What we’re really reporting is what people are telling us they are doing. There’s nothing in it that tells us what the labor market is asking for.”
According to the broader findings in the report, entitled “Unemployment Rate of US Scientists and Engineers Drops to Record Low 2.5 Percent in 2006,” unemployment rates “dropped for most” science and engineer occupations.
“The overall unemployment rate of scientists and engineers in the United States dropped from 3.2 percent in 2003 to 2.5 percent in 2006,” according to the NSF survey. “It continues a trend of lower unemployment rates for scientists and engineers compared with unemployment rates in the rest of the US economy.”
Kannankutty, who is currently collecting data for the 2008 study, said that these numbers are the “real story” behind her survey.
The NSF report is based in part on 2006 demographic data showing that the US employed 18.9 million individual scientists with a variety of education levels, employer types, and disciplines, compared to 18 million in 2003.
It broke that number into around 5 million individuals who were characterized as “all science and engineering,” 487,000 as “biological /agricultural/other life” scientists; 2.1 million “computer/math” scientists;” 334,000 “physical” scientists; 470,000 “social” scientists; 1.6 million “engineers;” 5.2 million “science and engineer”-related,” which includes managers and pre-college teachers, architects and actuaries; and 8.7 million “non-S&E” jobs.
— Kirell Lakhman

The Scan

Guidelines for Ancient DNA Work

More than two dozen researchers have developed new ethical guidelines for conducting ancient DNA research, which they present in Nature.

And Cleared

A UK regulator has cleared former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in concerns he should have registered as a consultant-lobbyist for his work with Illumina, according to the Financial Times.

Suit Over Allegations

The Boston Globe reports that David Sabatini, who was placed on leave from MIT after allegations of sexual harassment, is suing his accuser, the Whitehead Institute, and the institute's director.

Nature Papers on Esophageal Cancer, Origin of Modern Horses, Exome Sequencing of UK Biobank Participants

In Nature this week: genetic and environmental influences of esophageal cancer, domestic horse origin traced to Western Eurasian steppes, and more.