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Summit, NIAID, Scripps Research Institute, Stanford University, Institute for Systems Biology, Australian National University, Invitrogen, NC Biotechnology Center, NC Center of Innovation in Nanobiotechnology

Summit Inks Deal With Unnamed Pharma for Use of Z-fish Platform In ADME/Tox 
Summit said this week that it had signed a $450,000 deal with one of the world’s top five pharmaceutical companies to use Summit’s zebrafish technology platform as part of its drug discovery and development process.
The unnamed company will use Summit’s zebrafish platform to assess a “significant” number of its proprietary compounds for safety and toxicity effects in a range of organs that are conserved between the zebrafish and humans, including the heart, liver, brain, and gut.
This extended pilot deal follows the conclusion of an earlier successful validation study conducted between the two companies, Summit said.

NIAID Sets Aside $51M to Help Four Centers Study Systems Bio of Immunity
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease said last week that it will spread $51 million among four research institutes to help them use genomics, bioinformatics, systems biology, and other approaches to study the human immune system.
The goal of the five-year project is to develop a comprehensive model of immune responses that can be used to develop treatments and vaccines to combat disease. It will be run by the Scripps Research Institute, Stanford University, the Institute for Systems Biology, and the Australian National University in Canberra.
Long term, the project aims to develop approaches to “improving vaccines and immunotherapeutics that can be used against a wide range of diseases, particularly emerging or reemerging infectious diseases,” according to a Scripps statement.
Richard Ulevitch, a Scripps Research professor and chairman of the Department of Immunology, will lead the project as principal investigator, according to the NIAID.
Ulevitch said the project will take a systems biology approach to build a model of the immune system’s response to disease-causing agents. He said he and his collaborators will screen mutant mice for defects in their immune reactions to viruses, including influenza, mouse pox, and mouse cytomegalovirus, and to bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria.
After the screening process, the researchers will conduct systems-level analysis of multiple immune system signaling pathways and will study which genes and pathways discovered are relevant to humans.
Next, the group will conduct a systems-level analysis of the multiple immune system signaling pathways triggered by infection. The expanded project also will include studies aimed at determining the relevance to humans of genes and pathways discovered in mouse models.
As the research progresses, the consortium will provide a Web-based data portal to enable the scientific community to access the findings “without specialized training in informatics or computational analysis.”
Beside Ulevitch, the consortium includes: Alan Aderem, co-founder and director of the Institute for Systems Biology; Bruce Beutler, chair of the Department of Genetics at Scripps Research; Christopher Goodnow, director of the Australian Phenomics and Immunogenomics Laboratories at the Australian National University; Garry Nolan, director of the Stanford National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Proteomics Center; Ilya Shmulevich, director of Computational Biology at the Institute for Systems Biology; and Luc Teyton, professor in the Department of Immunology at Scripps Research.

Invitrogen's Q3 Revenues Rise 11 Percent As Loss Swings to Profit
Invitrogen this week reported that third-quarter revenues rose 11 percent as R&D spending increased 9 percent and a net loss last year swung to a profit this time around.
Total receipts for the three months ended Sept. 30 rose to $315 million from $284.2 million year over year.
Sales from Invitrogen’s Biodiscovery unit swelled 10 percent to $220.4 million for the third quarter, while receipts from its Cell Culture Systems division jumped 12 percent to $94.6 million year over year.
"Our focus from here is to sustain and expand upon these results by driving further sales penetration in high-growth regions, targeted investments in breakthrough technologies, and broader implementation of our reagent productivity strategies,” Invitrogen CEO Greg Lucier said in a statement.
R&D spending increased to $28.6 million from $26.3 million year over year.
The company recorded a $31 million profit compared with a $130 million loss in the year-ago period.
Invitrogen said it had around $648.4 million in cash and equivalents and short-term investments as of Sept. 30.
The company said it expects fourth-quarter revenue growth to be in the mid-single digits.

NC Biotech Center Awards Consortium $100K Seed Money for Nanotech Innovation Center
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center announced this week that it has
awarded a consortium of Piedmont Triad institutions a $100,000 planning grant to establish the state’s first center of innovation.
The North Carolina Center of Innovation in Nanobiotechnology, or COIN, will focus on the emerging field of nanobiotechnology.
The consortium will use the funding to develop a business plan leading to an application to the Biotechnology Center for a four-year Phase 2 grant request.
The COIN grant was made possible through the cooperation of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Wake Forest University.
The Piedmont Triad Partnership, a non-profit 12-county economic development corporation, will administer the grant for the university consortium, PTP President Don Kirkman said in a statement.

Recipients of Phase 2 grants must demonstrate how they’ll make the project self-sustaining after the grant money runs out. In addition, a successful Phase 1 grant won’t automatically lead to Phase 2 funding.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.