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News Scan: Jan 30, 2009


The Automation Partnership to Distribute Aviso’s Stem Cell Picker

Aviso this week announced it has entered into a distribution agreement with The Automation Partnership. Under the terms of the agreement, TAP will market and support CellCelector, Aviso’s automated stem cell picker within the US and Canada.

Forma, Cubist Sign Deal to Develop Antibacterial Drugs

Forma Therapeutics announced this week that it has signed a collaboration agreement with Cubist Pharmaceuticals to use Forma's transformative chemistry platform to discover novel antibacterial compounds for development by Cubist.

Under the terms of the agreement, Forma will receive an upfront payment, equity investment, payments for compounds delivered, and research funding over the three-year collaboration term totaling up to $14 million, and is eligible to receive up to an additional $54 million in milestones plus royalties on programs that Cubist elects to develop and commercialize.

Forma's discovery capabilities include a cell-based screening platform that allows the screening of discrete targets in cells, and quantitative genome/proteome-wide profiling and target identification.

Cisbio to Offer BioTrove Mass Spec Screening In US; Installs CyBio’s Workstation

Cisbio Bioassays will offer BioTrove's mass spectrometry screening service for assay development and drug screening to customers in the US, BioTrove said this week.

Under the co-exclusive distribution agreement, Cisbio will offer BioTrove's RapidFire high-throughput service as a label-free detection method in conjunction with its Homogenous Time-Resolved Fluorescence, or HTRF, technology and services. BioTrove will perform the RapidFire services at its screening facility.

HTRF detects molecular interactions of proteins in vitro and is used for primary and secondary drug development screening.

The RapidFire and HTRF technologies will be used together to study standard drug targets in the lead discovery phase and around 20 percent of drug targets that are difficult to study using fluorescent or radiolabel screening, BioTrove said.

"Cisbio's expertise in HTRF technology and significant sales presence among biopharma clients, combined with BioTrove's unique mass-spectrometry technology, will now provide customers access to a single, comprehensive source for drug discovery screening analysis," BioTrove President and CEO Al Luderer said in a statement.

Cisbio also announced this week that it has installed CyBio's robotic workstation in its laboratory to use in its assay development services.

The company said that using the CyBio workstation will help to reinforce its custom assay development services for creating and optimizing homogenous time-resolved fluorescence assays.

The CyBio HTRF workstation is a customized, modular automation platform for high-throughput applications, which allows for testing under different assay conditions and applied research using high-density plate formats. It is used to help detect molecular interactions for the high-throughput screening phase of drug development.

Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Argenta, Zafgen Enter Antiobesity Drug-Discovery Collaboration

Argenta Discovery and Zafgen this week announced that they have entered into a drug discovery collaboration.

Under the terms of the agreement, scientists from the two companies will exploit Argenta's experience in computer-aided drug design, medicinal chemistry, assay development, in vitro screening, drug metabolism, and pharmacokinetics to accelerate development candidate nomination for one of Zafgen's therapeutics programs for obesity.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement does provide options to expand the relationship.

Cellumen, DESC Announce Webinar Poll Results

Cellumen and the Drug Safety Executive Council this week announced findings from their Jan. 15 webinar, “Using In Vitro Methods to Predict In Vivo Toxicity: Where Are We, Where Do We Need to Go?”

During the webinar, participants were polled on four key areas of focus. Of responding participants, 54 percent felt that hit-to-lead was the stage of drug development where early toxicity assessment is most valuable; 75 percent believe that both rodent-predictive in vitro models and human-predictive in vitro models are important; 23 percent of participating organizations will spend up to $100,000 in early in vitro toxicology testing in 2009; and 33 percent of participating organizations plan to spend up to 35 percent of their budget for early in vitro toxicology on an outsource basis.

The webinar was moderated by Ernie Bush, vice president of collaborative projects for the DSEC, and attended by more than 170 participants. Joining Bush on the panel were David Brewster, vice president of preclinical safety at Roche; Patricia Johnston, chief scientific officer and vice president of collaborative development at Cellumen; Klaus Krauser, senior director of drug safety evaluation at Arena Pharmaceuticals; Warren Ku, senior director and head of exploratory safety differentiation at Pfizer Global R&D; and Laszlo Urban, global head of preclinical safety profiling at Novartis.

SAFC Opens California Lab Facility

SAFC Pharma this week announced that it has begun operations at its 7,000-sq.-ft. laboratory complex in Carlsbad, Calif. Located adjacent to the company's viral substance production facility, the new laboratories support SAFC Pharma's biologics offering for customers in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology markets, and complement its existing portfolio of biologics capabilities through process improvement, technology transfers of processes and assays, and characterization of active ingredients.

The new complex includes a dedicated PCR facility, a tissue culture laboratory and stability suite supported by microbiology and regular testing labs, and houses a scientific team focused on quality control, process development, and assay development and validation.

In addition to PCR assays, the facility is capable of performing cell-based, molecular, and immunological assays, as well as analytical assays such as high protein liquid chromatography. All suites are equipped for independent air handling with air pressure gradients to prevent cross-contamination.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.