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AutoMate Scientific, Fluxion, NIH, BTEC, Alnylam, Merck, Cellartis

AutoMate Scientific Will Distribute Fluxion’s BioFlux System
Fluxion Biosciences this week announced that it has signed a distribution agreement with AutoMate Scientific that covers Fluxion's BioFlux platform for studying cellular interactions.
The BioFlux system is used to screen potential medications that can prevent biofilm formation. It is also used as a research tool to discover the principal mechanisms of how biofilms form, propagate, and ultimately get eradicated.
AutoMate Scientific's distribution agreement with Fluxion is effective immediately.

NIH to Implement Executive Order to Look at Ways to Increase the Number of Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines
The National Institutes of Health announced this week that it will begin implementing President Bush's Executive Order to explore methods to expand the number of approved pluripotent stem cell lines "without creating a human embryo for research purposes or destroying, discarding, or subjecting to harm a human embryo or fetus."
The Executive Order calls on Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, who in turn is directing NIH, to conduct and support research that takes advantage of emerging potential alternative methods for generating pluripotent stem cells.
The NIH plan includes a number of new or accelerated activities. For example, the NIH Stem Cell Task Force will develop several funding opportunity announcements, including a Program Announcement. In addition, the Stem Cell Task Force will create two supplemental programs designed to stimulate research in specific areas.
The plan also calls for aggressively pursuing an assessment of the potential of alternative sources of pluripotent stem cell lines, including altered nuclear transfer, single cell embryo biopsy and reprogramming, or de-differentiation of somatic cells such as skin cells.

Biotech Employee Education Center Opens in NC
The 82,500-square-foot Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center opened this week on the campus of N.C. State University. The BTEC provides hands-on training for both students and industry employees, and supports research into new biomanufacturing technologies.
The BTEC building, located on NCSU's Centennial Campus, is shared by the university, the Community College BioNetwork, and the BioNetwork Capstone Center. It will serve 2,000 students annually when fully operational.
At the BTEC facility, NCSU offers a new biomanufacturing sciences minor, a new degree program in bioprocessing sciences, and a new degree in biomanufacturing sciences within chemical and biomolecular engineering majors. The BioNetwork Capstone Center offers a range of industry-specific short courses for community college biotech students and employees.
The BioNetwork Bus, a mobile laboratory staffed by a Capstone Center Instructor that offers biotechnology training at industry sites, also calls BTEC home when not on the road.
Industry has contributed an estimated $13 million of in-kind support such as equipment donations and employee time for facility design and engineering at BTEC. Most of the contributions have been provided or arranged by members of NCBIO's Biotech Manufacturers Forum, including Biogen Idec, Diosynth Biotechnology, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceutical Industries, Novozymes,
Talecris Biotherapeutics, and Wyeth Vaccines.
BTEC begins its pilot program with seven courses and will increase its course offerings to nearly a dozen in the spring.
Every course but one has an associated advanced, hands-on laboratory in a current Good Manufacturing Practice environment using facilities and equipment that match those in place at biomanufacturing companies.

Alnylam and Merck Scuttle $120M-Plus RNAi Drug-Development Partnership
Alnylam and Merck today said they have ended an ongoing RNAi drug-development alliance, and Alnylam has rescinded its IP grants related to any Merck development programs.
The deal was worth more than $120 million to Alnylam and ended on a mutually agreed upon note. The companies did not elaborate.
The scuttled agreement comprised two deals the firms consolidated in July 2006, and that focused on nine therapeutic targets. The amended deal also offered Alnylam accelerated funding.
The 2006 agreement offered Alnylam more than $120 million in milestones and royalties from products developed and commercialized from the programs, and gave Alnylam the opportunity to co-promote RNAi therapeutic products in the US.

Cellartis Opens Dundee R&D, Manufacturing Facility
Scotland’s Minister for Public Health Shona Robison this week officially opened Swedish stem cell company Cellartis’ new R&D and manufacturing facility in Dundee. The facility is located at Mclagan House in the city's Medipark.
Cellartis initially came to Scotland to take part in a three-year, £9.5 million ($19.1 million) ITI Life Sciences program and was supported with a Scottish executive grant of £1.2 million in Regional Selective Assistance funding.
The program involves researchers at the University of Glasgow, the University of Dundee, and Heriot-Watt University.

The Scan

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.

Study Examines Relationship Between Cellular Metabolism, DNA Damage Repair

A new study in Molecular Systems Biology finds that an antioxidant enzyme shifts from mitochondria to the nucleus as part of the DNA damage response.

Stem Cell Systems Target Metastatic Melanoma in Mouse Model

Researchers in Science Translational Medicine describe a pair of stem cell systems aimed at boosting immune responses against metastatic melanoma in the brain.

Open Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas Team Introduces Genomic Data Collection, Analytical Tools

A study in Cell Genomics outlines open-source methods being used to analyze and translate whole-genome, exome, and RNA sequence data from the Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas.