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Montpellier Rio Imaging, Definiens, Znomics, Oregon Health and Science University, ReachBio, Axiogenesis, Caliper Life Sciences, Duke University-RNAi Facility, Velocity 11

MRI Taps Definiens for HC Image Analysis and Data Management
Montpellier Rio Imaging has decided to use Definiens technology, the life science imaging facility announced this week. Definiens will now provide its key technology for high-content image analysis and data management to MRI.
MRI said it needed a new high-content image analysis and data management solution to complement its recent investment in new image-acquisition devices for the screening of cell culture plates and the scanning of histology slides.
During the process of choosing such solutions, MRI said it felt that Definiens met all of the following requirements: speed and performance; flexibility; processing of high volume files; centralized data management; and integration of MRI’s researchers’ expertise.
MRI is supported by the French Ministry of Scientific Research, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Nationale de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, International Relief and Development, and Montpellier University and shared by leading French federal research institutes and universities.

Znomics Moves to Expanded Facilities at OHSU
Znomics this week announced that it has expanded its facilities to include additional laboratory space in the new Biomedical Research Building on the campus of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
The approximately 1,600-square-foot space will support the company's drug discovery operations and will include a laboratory, fish facility, and offices, increasing Znomics' current facilities by one-third.
The company expects to occupy the additional space in March 2008.
Znomics was originally a spin-out company from OHSU. Three of its co-founders, one of its research directors, and one of its scientific advisory board members have or had positions in OHSU academic departments or research centers. The new space is in close proximity to the laboratories of President and CSO Roger Cone and scientific advisory board member Thomas Scanlan.

ReachBio to Distribute Axiogenesis Cell Analysis Products in North America
Seattle-based ReachBio this week said that it would distribute Axiogenesis' full product line to the North American life science research and drug discovery markets.
Cologne-based Axiogenesis sells tissue-specific cells derived from specially engineered mouse stem cell lines that are used in basic research, drug discovery, and toxicity testing of new drug candidates. According to a ReachBio statement, the first cell types available from Axiogenesis are pure atrial cardiomyocytes used for cardiotoxicity screening, electrophysiology studies, and as a cellular model system for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Heribert Bohlen, CEO of Axiogenesis, said in a statement that ReachBio “share[s] our philosophy that cellular model systems for drug discovery and toxicity testing should utilize highly relevant cells that are as close to the natural state as possible. The biopharma industry is trying to find ways to move away from the use of artificial cell lines that have questionable biological significance in the drug development process, and towards more biologically relevant cellular systems.”
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Caliper's Q4 Revenues Rise as Net Loss Falls; Settles Litigation With AntiCancer
Caliper Life Sciences this week reported a 16 percent increase in fourth-quarter revenues, driven by sales of its IVIS molecular imaging systems and microfluidics instruments, and a 56 percent drop in its net loss year over year.
The Hopkinton, Mass.-based firm reported revenues of $40.3 million for the three-month period ended Dec. 31, 2007, up from revenues of $34.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2006. Caliper said sales for its IVIS systems increased 44 percent year over year, with 51 unit placements during the quarter. Its microfluidics instrument revenue grew 26 percent, while its automation instrument revenue was flat with the fourth quarter of 2006, the company said.
Caliper posted a net loss of $5.7 million, or $.12 per share, down from a net loss of $8.9 million, or $.19 per share, in the comparable period a year ago.
The firm’s R&D expenses fell 12.3 percent to $5.7 million from $6.5 million, while its SG&A costs increased 14.7 percent to $15.6 million from $13.6 million.
For full-year 2007, Caliper reported revenues of $140.7 million, a 30 percent increase over revenues of $107.9 million in 2006. The firm posted a net loss of $24.1 million, or $.51 per share, compared to a loss of $28.9 million, or $.75 per share, in 2006.
Its R&D costs increased slightly in 2007 to $24.8 million from $24.6 million, and its SG&A costs rose to $55 million from $43.6 million.
Caliper finished the year with $15.7 million in cash and cash equivalents.
The company expects to report first-quarter 2008 revenue of between $26.5 million and $29.5 million, and full-year 2008 revenue of between $142 million and $148 million.
In a separate announcement this week, Caliper said that it has entered into a cross-licensing agreement with AntiCancer, and the parties have agreed to end all outstanding patent litigation between the firms.
Under the terms of the cross-licensing pact, Caliper acquired the right to sublicense AntiCancer's fluorescent protein optical imaging patents to third-parties in combination with Caliper's own in vivo fluorescent and bioluminescent optical imaging patents. In return, San Diego-based AntiCancer acquired the right to sublicense Caliper's optical imaging patents in the field of fluorescent protein imaging to a specified annual number of third parties throughout the life of the agreement, along with its own fluorescent protein optical imaging patents.
In addition, each company received a royalty-free license from the other for internal and contract research operations. The firms will share in any revenues generated by the licensing of their imaging technologies in the field of fluorescent protein imaging. No other payments will be made for either the settlement or cross-licensing agreements, and further financial details were not disclosed.
The partners also expect to enter into an OEM pact, under which Caliper will market and sell certain mouse and cell lines developed by AntiCancer for use in fluorescent protein-based optical imaging experiments.

Duke RNAi Facility Buys Velocity 11 System For Large-Scale Screening
Duke University’s RNAi Facility, which was established in 2005 to expand university researchers’ access to the gene-silencing technology, has purchased a custom-made Velocity 11 system that will allow the facility to perform genome-wide screening experiments, CBA News sister publication RNAi News reported this week (see RNAi News, 2/28/08).
Earlier this month, the core facility received a $276,599 grant from the National Center for Research Resources to purchase the instrument system, which will provide “the automation required for RNAi library formatting, plate handling, liquid dispensing, plate sealing, and plate identification/management,” according to the grant’s abstract.
The system was pre-configured by Velocity 11, which was acquired by Agilent Technologies in December, “for the multiple workflow options necessary to maintain and deliver siRNA libraries via lipid-based transfection or viral-based transduction of mammalian cells, while maintaining the flexibility to be useful in small-molecule library screening,” the abstract adds. Once installed, it will “complete the suite of tools necessary to make whole-genome, RNAi-based screening a reality for the Duke research community.”
The grant will also be used to purchase a Baker BioProtect bio-containment enclosure for use with the instrument system.
James Pearson, manager of the RNAi Facility, told RNAi News that the system is expected to be in place by June, at which point the facility will run a series of pilot screens in order to “fully vet our standard operating procedure so that when we do start providing [screening services], we can ensure the product will be there.
Pearson also said that the first pilot study is likely to involve the research of Duke Professor Mariano Garcia-Blanco, who is also the director of the RNAi Facility and the Duke Center for RNA Biology.
Although Pearson said he expects the RNAi Facility will be conducting screening experiments for other Duke investigators before the end of the year, he cautioned that it will likely take some time for these projects to get underway.
— Doug Macron, editor, RNAi News

The Scan

Wolf Howl Responses Offer Look at Vocal Behavior-Related Selection in Dogs

In dozens of domestic dogs listening to wolf vocalizations, researchers in Communication Biology see responses varying with age, sex, reproductive status, and a breed's evolutionary distance from wolves.

Facial Imaging-Based Genetic Diagnoses Appears to Get Boost With Three-Dimensional Approach

With data for more than 1,900 individuals affected by a range of genetic conditions, researchers compared facial phenotype-based diagnoses informed by 2D or 3D images in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Survey Suggests Multigene Cancer Panel VUS Reporting May Vary Across Genetic Counselors

Investigators surveyed dozens of genetic counselors working in clinical or laboratory settings, uncovering attitudes around VUS reporting after multigene cancer panel testing in the Journal of Genetic Counseling.

Study Points to Tuberculosis Protection by Gaucher Disease Mutation

A mutation linked to Gaucher disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population appears to boost Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistance in a zebrafish model of the lysosomal storage condition, a new PNAS study finds.