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News Scan: Feb 27, 2009

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DiscoveryBioMed, ArtusLabs Partner for Image and Numerical Data Management

High-throughput screening services provider DiscoveryBioMed of Birmingham, Ala., said last week that it is partnering with ArtusLabs of Research Triangle Park, NC, to identify the best methods for image and numerical data management.

ArtusLabs' web-based platform Ensemble for Life Science will serve as the data-management platform in this partnership.

"In addition to its own internal drug discovery initiatives, DBM is currently working on behalf of more than 15 active cell engineering and drug discovery clients," DBM CEO Erik Schwiebert said in a statement. He said that Ensemble will add value to this client interaction.

"One of the benefits of Ensemble is the ability to automatically bring machine data from our 'robot' into the system using the mass importer," Tom Barr, DBM's chief operations officer and co-director, said. "Once set up, the data is up to date, accessible by the project team, and organized into the appropriate folder ... without me ever needing to touch it."


Heptares Therapeutics Scores $30M in Series A Funds to Develop GPCR-Targeted Drugs

Heptares Therapeutics announced this week that it has raised £21 million ($30 million) of equity finance in a Series A private round from three blue-chip international venture capital firms. Clarus Ventures led the syndicate, which includes the founding investor, MVM Life Science Partners, and the Novartis Option Fund. All three investors contributed equally.

Michael Steinmetz for Clarus Ventures and Anja Koenig for the Novartis Option Fund have joined the Heptares Board of Directors as non-executive directors.

Over the next three years, Heptares intends to use these funds to develop its own pipeline of small-molecule drug candidates using its proprietary Stabilised Receptor, or StaR, technology platform. These novel drug candidates will be developed against currently intractable GPCRs that are highly validated targets for disease treatment.

Further progress in the application of StaR technology over this period is also expected to yield commercial partnering opportunities outside Heptares' core focus.

The StaR technology platform allows Heptares' scientists to engineer and purify GPCRs in stable and functional conformations that retain their drug-binding characteristics. They can then apply contemporary drug discovery approaches, such as crystallization and structure-based design, biophysical analysis of ligand interactions, and fragment screening, to stabilized GPCRs.


Gentronix to Provide GSK with Genotoxicity Assay

Gentronix this week said that it will provide GlaxoSmithKline with its GreenScreen HC genotoxicity detection assay.

According to Manchester, UK-based Gentronix, GreenScreen HC uses green fluorescent protein to detect GADD-45a up regulation, which is a key indicator of DNA damage, said Gentronix.

It is the first human cell-based assay technology that combines high sensitivity for detecting genotoxic chemicals and high specificity for reducing false-positive results, the company said.

Gentronix CEO John Nicholson said that the firm had previously worked with GSK on early validation of the technology.

Financial terms of the alliance were not disclosed.


BioFocus Extends Drug Screening Pact with Lilly

BioFocus DPI said this week that it has extended a drug screening pact with drug giant Eli Lilly until the end of 2009.

Under terms of the deal, BioFocus, which is the service division of Galapagos, will identify active compounds by screening Lilly's library of drug candidates. BioFocus has been conducting research work on compounds that target specific cellular signal transduction pathways for Lilly since March 2005.

Financial and other terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.


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Millipore Acquires Epitome's EpiTag Technology

Millipore has acquired the assets associated with Epitome Biosystems' EpiTag technology for an undisclosed sum, the Billerica, Mass.-based firm said this week.

The acquisition provides Millipore with a bioinformatics-driven technology for developing antibodies. The firm said it intends to use the EpiTag technology to develop a range of new multiplex immunoassay kits that can be used with the Luminex xMAP platform, to which Millipore holds a license.

The kits will enable researchers to "more efficiently measure, detect, and analyze proteins and cell signaling pathways," said Millipore.

"The EpiTag technology will allow us to develop multiplex immunoassays for cellular targets that were previously very difficult to detect and quantify," Rick Ryan, VP of Millipore's drug discovery business unit, said in a statement.

Millipore currently sells its Milliplex MAP assays, which run on the Luminex platform, for research in the immunology, inflammation, and metabolic disease areas.


ChanTest Acquires Applied Cell Sciences

ChanTest this week announced that it has acquired Applied Cell Sciences, a Rockville, Md.-based contract research organization specializing in G-protein coupled receptors.

Cleveland-based ChanTest provides ion channel testing services and validated cell lines. The privately held firm said that it would maintain both sites and ACS' Founder and CEO Jesse Baumgold would join the company as vice president of business development and product strategy.

ACS' products will now be marketed under the ChanTest name. Among the acquired firm's products and services are optimized GPCR functional analysis tools, high-throughput screening reagents and reagent-development services, stable GPCR cell lines, cell membranes for binding studies, cryopreserved growth-arrested cells, custom cell line construction, gene-to-screen cell line construction and validation, large-scale cell cryopreservation, and specialized screening services.

ChanTest President and CEO Arthur Brown called ACS "the perfect fit." He added, "Ion channels and GPCRs are natural partners, critical and often-interrelated components of cell signaling."

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.


Embryome to Market RGI hESC Lines for Research

BioTime announced this week that its wholly-owned subsidiary Embryome Sciences has entered into an agreement with Reproductive Genetics Institute of Chicago, Ill., granting Embryome the rights to market new human embryonic stem cell lines that it will select from 294 hESC lines derived by RGI.

Embryome will initially select 10 RGI hESC lines, and may add additional cell lines at its option. The RGI hESC lines include both normal cells and 88 cell lines identified as carrying inherited genetic disease genes that Embryome Sciences plans to sell as research products to universities and pharmaceutical companies.

RGI is a leading fertility center that screens embryos for genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, prior to implantation.


ASU to Get VisionGate Cell Imaging Platform

Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute announced this week that it will acquire the first commercially available Cell-CT imaging platform from VisionGate.

The Cell-CT is an optical instrument that uses patented computed tomographic scanning methods to generate high-resolution, 3-dimensional images of individual cells.

VisionGate will install the Cell-CT instrument at the Biodesign Institute's Center for Ecogenomics in the first quarter of 2009.

The agreement includes standard provisions for the sale of research instruments, including a short acceptance period following delivery.

The Scan

Could Cost Billions

NBC News reports that the new Alzheimer's disease drug from Biogen could cost Medicare in the US billions of dollars.

Not Quite Sent

The Biden Administration likely won't meet its goal of sending 80 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad by the end of the month, according to the Washington Post.

DTC Regulation Proposals

A new report calls on UK policymakers to review direct-to-consumer genetic testing regulations, the Independent reports.

PNAS Papers on Mosquito MicroRNAs, Acute Kidney Injury, Trichothiodystrophy

In PNAS this week: microRNAs involved in Aedes aegypti reproduction, proximal tubule cell response to kidney injury, and more.