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Definiens, Cenix BioScience, Cell Signaling Technology, AstraZeneca, Cellexus Biosystems, Trinity College, UCLA, Pfizer, Cellartis, Evotec, CHDI Foundation, GeneGo, Netherlands Toxicogenomics Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Merck

Definiens, Cenix to Continue Cellenger Licensing Agreement
Definiens and Cenix BioScience have expanded their mutual licensing agreement, the companies announced this week.
Following an internal review, Definiens Cellenger was reselected to support Cenix in the development and implementation of high-content microscopy assays for HT-RNAi studies in cultured human and rodent cells, the companies said.
According to the manufacturer, Definiens Cellenger is an application for high content analysis that automatically extracts data from images used in cell-based assays. The flexible and platform-independent application automates and standardizes Cenix’s image analysis processes, which is particularly useful with multi-parametric cell-based assays, the company said.
The application will be integrated into the existing HT/HC-RNAi-based research infrastructure at Cenix.

AZ, CST Ink Fourth Deal to Use PhosphoScan for Kinase-Targeted Lead Discovery
Cell Signaling Technology announced this week that it has reached its fourth agreement with AstraZeneca, under which AstraZeneca will continue to use CST's PhosphoScan technology to identify phosphorylation profiles and prospective biomarkers of kinase-targeted lead compounds.
CST's PhosphoScan proteomics technology is a patented methodology that facilitates the elucidation of drug target phospho-profiles, or PhosphoSignatures, in cells and disease tissues. In the current research project, PhosphoScan will be used to validate phosphorylation site biomarkers on target kinases for antibody development, which is being pursued under a parallel research alliance between CST and AstraZeneca.

Cellexus Sells First CellMaker Unit In Ireland
Cellexus Biosystems has sold a CellMaker Lite2 disposable bioreactor to its first customer in Ireland, the company announced this week.
The customer is Amir Khan, who is a principal investigator at Trinity College in Dublin. Khan is using the system to grow Escherichia coli to produce proteins for structural studies.

UCLA Reprograms Human Skin Cells to ESCs
A team of UCLA stem cell scientists has reprogrammed human skin cells into cells with the same unlimited properties as embryonic stem cells without using embryos or eggs, the university announced late last week.
The researchers, led by Kathrin Plath and William Lowry, used genetic alteration to create cells that are nearly identical to human ESCs. Four regulator genes were used to create the cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.
The UCLA study confirms the work first reported in late November of investigators Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University and James Thompson at the University of Wisconsin (see CBA News, 11/30/07). The UCLA research appears in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
The UCLA work was completed at about the same time the Yamanaka and Thomson reports were published. Taken together, the studies demonstrate that human iPS cells can be easily created by different laboratories and are likely to mark a milestone in stem cell-based regenerative medicine, Plath said in a statement.

Pfizer, Cellartis Ink Deal to Use ESC Technology for Compound Screening
Cellartis this week announced that it has entered into a collaborative research agreement with Pfizer for the development of a novel model system for the in vitro detection of human toxicity.
The collaboration aims to generate a predictive developmental screening model for new chemical entities using the Cellartis human embryonic stem cell platform.
Cellartis will take the lead in the development of the human ESC model system and will conduct validation compound testing. Pfizer will provide expertise and capabilities in the design and optimization of the developmental toxicity prediction model.
Cellartis receives an upfront fee as well as research funding from Pfizer. In addition, Cellartis retains the right to sublicense, and to make, use, and sell the developmental toxicity screening model.

Evotec, CHDI Extend Huntington’s Drug Discovery Program
Evotec announced this week that the CHDI Foundation has extended its collaboration with the company to the end of 2010 to help it advance its Huntington's disease drug discovery programs. This contract extension is worth up to $37 million in research payments for Evotec.
Specifically, this collaboration includes biochemical and cellular assay development and high-content screening on cell lines of interest with the aim of identifying novel starting points for medicinal chemistry programs. In addition, Evotec supplies support in the area of medicinal chemistry and supporting biology optimization on multiple biological targets that are of high importance for the treatment of HD.
Using its resources in computational chemistry, structural biology, and protein crystallography, Evotec further characterizes active compounds and optimizes their potency and selectivity to generate lead molecules for subsequent progression into clinical trials.
Evotec and CHDI have worked together since March 2006. In addition to the contract extension announced this week, the companies also have an agreement whereby Evotec provides ultra-high-throughput screening support.

Dutch Toxicogenomics Center to Use GeneGo for Chemical Studies
GeneGo said this week that it will collaborate with the Netherlands Toxicogenomics Center on a project aimed at developing predictive screens that could evaluate the safety of chemicals for humans and could be used as replacements or refinements to some animal studies.
The NTC will use GeneGo’s MetaCore and MetaDrug data analysis software to manage and interpret data from proteomic, metabolomics, chemical, and gene expression research and to identify pathway functions that may contribute to adverse events caused by the introduction of foreign chemicals.
The company also will work with the NTC’s bioinformatics group to develop predictive models that could help identify adverse effects in animals from short-term in vivo experiments or from in vitro experiments in which cells are used instead of animals.
The company said the collaboration is part of a €25 million ($36.4 million) five-year, multi-party project.
Richard Brennan, director of toxicology at GeneGo, said the joint project will help the company “further validate and develop” its predictive systems toxicology capabilities.

Merck Taps Dana-Farber for Genomic Analysis of Cancer Therapeutics
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will use cross-species genomic analysis and validation testing in a cancer drug collaboration with Merck, the institute said this week.
Under the agreement, Merck will provide the Center for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber with upfront and research support funding and with milestone and royalty payments if a drug is approved for marketing. CACS will retain the right to develop its antibodies independently from the collaboration with Merck.
The CACS will work with Merck to develop assays for lead compound discovery, and then test the drugs in its model systems that “closely replicate human disease,” CACS said.
CACS faculty will work with Merck to further evaluate tumor pathobiology and clinical outcomes to better pinpoint the tumor types that are most susceptible to drug candidates.
Further terms of the alliance were not disclosed.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.