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NIH, TCS Cellworks, CCS, EPA, NCCT, Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, ABI, BioTrove, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Aureus Pharma, CytRx, RXi Pharmaceuticals, Invitrogen, Abcellute, Biopta

NIH to Award $8M Annually for High-Throughput Screening Assays
The National Institutes of Health will issue approximately $8 million in grants annually between 2008 and 2010 to fund the development of biological assays for high-throughput screening, NIH said last week in a program announcement.
Applicants from public and private spheres may apply for up to $100,000 for direct costs in the first year and up to $25,000 for the second year. NIH said it expects to award around 40 grants per year under the program.
The funding, which is being administered by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, has been appropriated for these projects under the NIH’s Molecular Libraries and Imaging Roadmap Initiative.
The goal of the program is to develop “novel, scientifically and technologically outstanding assays that can be miniaturized, automated and further used for screening small molecules against structurally diverse libraries such as that maintained by the Molecular Libraries Production Centers Network,” NIH said. Assays developed under the program will be submitted to the MLPCN for screening against a library of more than 200,000 compounds.
The screening projects will be aimed at “enabling the design of pharmacological tools to explore cellular and physiological function,” NIH said.
The NIH said the researchers under this program will develop assay protocols for “novel molecular targets or phenotypes and transform them into automated screening projects by demonstrating the responsiveness and robustness required for their use in HTS.”
This program will be funded twice per year, and there are several dates for letters of intent including Dec. 20, 2007; April 8, 2008; Nov. 6, 2008; March 6, 2009; Nov. 6, 2009; and March 6, 2010.
More information about the HTS program can be found here.

TCS and CCS Ink Bilateral German, UK Distribution Deal
TCS Cellworks announced this week that it has entered into a bilateral distribution and support agreement with Cell Culture Service.
CCS will distribute and support the entire TCS Cellworks product range in Germany, including its angiogenesis assay based on the co-cultivation of fibroblasts and human endothelial cells. TCS in turn will distribute the CCS’s cell-based PRINCESS Instant Assays in the UK.
Additional terms were not disclosed.

NCCT, Hamner Institutes Enter Partnership Under EPA ToxCast Program
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Computational Toxicology has entered its first partnership under the EPA’s ToxCast program, the NCCT announced this week. The center will be collaborating with the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, based in Research Triangle Park, NC.  
Guided by a memorandum of understanding between itself and NCCT, the Hamner Institutes will use a complementary system of in vitro assays to look at a subset of the initial 320 chemicals being examined in ToxCast.
The Hamner will help the EPA build a better understanding of the relevance of the in vitro results by using mathematical models to predict the exposures that would result in similar effects in whole animals.
In a statement, NCCT director Robert Kavlock said, “We welcome other partners to help accelerate the process toward ultimately improving the protection of public health and the environment.”

ABI, BioTrove Collaborate on Integrated Genotyping Platform
Applied Biosystems and BioTrove have struck two agreements that cover the integration and marketing of genotyping and gene-expression applications, as well as other genomics tools, the firms said this week.
Under one agreement, ABI will develop and market custom arrays of TaqMan SNP genotyping assays pre-loaded on BioTrove’s OpenArray, which is a flexible array format that allows researchers to perform over 3,000 different high-throughput genotyping assays in different configurations, ABI said.
This integrated platform will enable researchers to conduct high-throughput genotyping studies at a “lower total cost compared to commercially available methods,” ABI said.
ABI will hold the rights to sell all genotyping applications, including some not based on its Taqman technology, for the OpenArray. The company expects to begin selling these tools in the second half of 2008.
ABI said the integrated Taqman and OpenArray platform will enable an end-to-end genotyping workflow of less than four hours, thus allowing researchers to analyze thousands of samples for large-scale genotyping projects in days rather than weeks.
The agreement also gives ABI an option to collaborate with BioTrove to develop and market the OpenArray for high-throughput gene-expression applications.
A second agreement gives BioTrove a worldwide license to ABI’s patents covering real-time thermal cyclers, microfluidics, and data analysis. This contract will allow BioTrove to make and sell real-time thermal cyclers and array sample loaders for life science research purposes and to develop more real-time PCR applications for the OpenArray, ABI added.
Financial terms of the agreements were not released.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Licenses Three of Aureus Pharma’s Databases
Aureus Pharma said this week that Bristol-Myers Squibb will license three of its databases.
Under the agreement, BMS has renewed its license for Aureus’ AurScope GPCR, and it has signed new agreements to license the AurScope Kinase and Ion Channel Knowledge databases.
Aureus said its databases provide information on drug target classes and other pharma topics, including ADME and drug-drug interactions. This information has been mined from the scientific literature to help researchers design and prioritize experiments, the company said.
BMS and Aureus Pharma have been license partners since 2002.
Financial terms of the license were not released.

CytRx's RXi Business Exclusively Licenses Invitrogen's RNAi IP for Rx Apps
CytRx subsidiary RXi Pharmaceuticals will exclusively license Invitrogen’s second-generation RNAi technology for “designated target genes in all human therapeutic categories,” the companies said this week.
The intellectual property covers Invitrogen’s Stealth technology and other tools related to chemically modified double-stranded RNA.
RXi CEO Tod Woolf said in a statement that the deal is “part of our strategy to enhance our proprietary rxRNA compounds for therapeutic applications.”
CytRx currently owns three clinical-stage compounds that use its small-molecule “molecular chaperone” co-induction technology, including candidates to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, diabetic foot ulcers, and stroke recovery.
Invitrogen’s Stealth RNAi synthetic duplexes are used for RNAi research across both in vitro and in vivo applications, Amy Butler, Invitrogen vice president of gene-expression profiling, said in a statement.
She said the company sees the use of the technology in therapeutics as “a natural next step in Invitrogen’s efforts to be at the cutting edge of in vivo gene regulation.”

Abcellute’s Non-Cryogenic Preservation Technology Maintains Vascular Viability in Scottish Trial
Abcellute’s non-cryogenic cell preservation technology has been used successfully in a trial conducted by Scottish CRO Biopta, Abcellute announced this week.
According to Abcellute, Biopta was able to use Abcellute’s matrix to maintain the viability of fresh blood vessels over five days for use on its cardiovascular in vitro testing systems.

Biopta’s Karen Macdonald said in a statement that the next stage is to repeat the trials with human vessels.

The Scan

Quality Improvement Study Compares Molecular Tumor Boards, Central Consensus Recommendations

With 50 simulated cancer cases, researchers in JAMA Network Open compared molecular tumor board recommendations with central consensus plans at a dozen centers in Japan.

Lupus Heterogeneity Highlighted With Single-Cell Transcriptomes

Using single-cell RNA sequencing, researchers in Nature Communications tracked down immune and non-immune cell differences between discoid lupus erythematosus and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Rare Disease Clues Gleaned From Mobile Element Insertions in Exome Sequences

With an approach called MELT, researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics uncovered mobile element insertions in exomes from 3,232 individuals with or without developmental or neurological abnormalities.

Team Tracks Down Potential Blood Plasma Markers Linked to Heart Failure in Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Researchers in BMC Genomics found 10 differentially expressed proteins or metabolites that marked atrial fibrillation with heart failure cases.