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TTP LabTech, Cancer Research UK, PerkinElmer, Cerep Partner, MDS, Obrem Capital Management, Invitrogen, MitoSciences, NIH, Trans-NIH Zebrafish Coordinating Committee, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute of Diabetes

UK Cancer Institute Buys TTP LabTech's Microplate Cytometer
TTP LabTech has sold a microplate cytometer to Cancer Research UK for an RNAi-based whole-genome screening program aimed at identifying cytotoxic survival regulators, the company announced this week.
Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute will use the Acumen eX3 cytometer at a new high-throughput screening facility that will provide researchers with access to genome-wide siRNA and RNAi screening technologies. TTP said the Acumen X3 can help to speed genome screening time, and that it can read a 384-well plate in less than ten minutes.
The research techniques at the LRI are used in a range of research areas, “from yeast to flies to human cells,” the company said. The institute’s research includes studies of signaling processes that can control the intrinsic properties of cancer cells and their interactions with hosts as well as how the genome holds its integrity through environmental and endogenous changes.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

PerkinElmer, Cerep Partner on Drug Discovery Tools
PerkinElmer this week announced that it has signed a co-marketing agreement with Cerep to provide custom drug discovery tools and services to customers.
Under the agreement, PerkinElmer will exclusively market Cerep’s target screening and profiling services to its customers. The firms also will jointly promote PerkinElmer’s assay technologies and Cerep’s high-throughput screening and profiling services to the drug discovery market.
PerkinElmer said that the alliance provides its customers with an option to work with a single vendor throughout the entire drug discovery process.
“This agreement represents the latest step in our strategy to build the most comprehensive offering in biochemical and cellular screening for drug discovery,” PerkinElmer President and CEO Robert Friel said in a statement.
The firm rapidly expanded its cellular analysis and screening business early in 2007 with the acquisitions of Evotec Technologies, Euroscreen Products, and Improvision.
Paris-based Cerep specializes in custom binding, cellular, and tissue assay services. It also has developed the BioPrint pharmacoinformatics platform.

Investment Firm Discloses Stake in MDS, Suggests Spin-Off
Investment firm Obrem Capital Management disclosed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week that it has purchased roughly 6.2 million shares of MDS’ common stock and now owns a 5.1 percent stake in the company.
Obrem and its affiliates have been accumulating shares in the Mississauga, Ontario-based firm since late February.
In the SEC filing, Obrem said that it intends to recommend MDS take certain actions to increase shareholder value. In particular, Obrem believes that “significant shareholder value could be created through the spin-off or sale of one or several of [MDS’] business units,” and it intends to suggest that MDS hire financial advisors to explore such options. It did not specify in the filing which business unit it believes should be divested.
The New York-based investment firm also said it may choose to seek board representation or make proposals regarding changes to MDS’ capitalization, ownership structure, or operations.
MDS has three business units: MDS Analytical Technologies, MDS Pharma Services, and MDS Nordion. While the Analytical Technologies unit has continued to deliver strong growth over the past year — thanks in part to MDS’ $615 million acquisition of Molecular Devices during the second quarter of 2007 — the Pharma Services unit has struggled over the past few years with a US Food and Drug Administration review of bioequivalence studies conducted at a couple of its Canadian facilities from 2000 to 2004.
For its fiscal 2008 first quarter, MDS reported that its revenues grew 23 percent year over year to $296 million, due primarily to the Analytical Technologies unit, while Pharma Services revenues dropped 1 percent year over year.

Invitrogen to Distribute MitoSciences' Antibodies and Immunoassays
Invitrogen said this week that it will become the exclusive North American distributor of all of MitoSciences products, which includes monoclonal antibodies and immunoassays for researching mitochondrial proteins and diseases.
Invitrogen said that as MitoSciences’ existing distribution agreements expire, it would take over those agreements worldwide on an exclusive basis. The firms did not disclose how many of those distribution agreements exist.
The pact will add more than 200 new products to Invitrogen’s antibody and kit catalog, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based firm said.
August Sick, vice president and general manager of Invitrogen’s Cellular Analysis Business Unit, said in a statement that Invitrogen plans to offer prepackaged kits that will combine MitoSciences’ technology with its fluorescent labeling and cell separation technologies for mitochondrial research.
The firms did not disclose financial terms of the alliance.

NIH Seeks Research to Exploit Power of Zebrafish
The National Institutes of Health will fund grants to investigators who want to pursue zebrafish research projects, including those proposing specific genetic screens and new technologies to study the zebrafish, the NIH said this week.
These R01 grants will fund budgets under $500,000 in costs per year for project durations of up to five years, the NIH said in two program announcements.
The funding opportunity stems from an NIH initiative developed by the Institutes and Centers of the Trans-NIH Zebrafish Coordinating Committee, which is under the co-chairmanship of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
The objective of the research is to “broaden the range, power, and utility of tools for biomedical and behavioral research using zebrafish, and to develop genetic and genomic resources of high priority to the zebrafish community.”
The research under one program could include the development or application of novel screens for mutants; screens identifying novel development genes and pathways; screens for identifying genetic modifiers and/or gene variants; screens analyzing the genetic basis of adult phenotypes such as behavior, aging, organ diseases or cancer, and others; and development of high-throughput small molecule screens.
The second program seeks researchers looking to develop tools or techniques deemed important to the zebrafish community. NIH said these programs would develop technologies that can “advance the detection and characterization of genes, pathways, and phenotypes of interest in development, and aging, organ formation, neural processes, behavior, sensory processing, physiological processes, and disease processes.”

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.