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UW-Madison, EMD Biosciences, Compugen

New UW-Madison Research Program Awards $3M in Grants; Projects Include hESC Production, Cell-Based Drug Discovery
The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this week announced the results of a campus-wide competition for around $3 million in “Discovery Seed Grants.”
The eight winning proposals included research on methods for large-scale production of human embryonic stem cells; new tools for zebrafish-based anti-inflammatory drug discovery; and a system for identifying compounds that can regulate cellular ligand-gated ion channels.
The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is funded by gifts from UW-Madison alumni John and Tashia Morgridge, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the state of Wisconsin. The WID building is slated for completion in 2010.
UW-Madison said that the seed grants will represent WID’s first research activities.

EMD Biosciences to Market siRNA, DNA Transfection Reagents from DNT
EMD Biosciences, part of Merck KGaA’s Performance and Life Science Chemicals division, has signed an exclusive license and supply agreement with Dendritic Nanotechnologies for siRNA and DNA transfection reagents, the companies said this week.
Under the terms of the agreement, DNT, a US subsidiary of Australian firm Starpharma, will supply EMD Biosciences with its Priofect transfection reagents. EMD will market the reagents through its Novagen product line.
DNT retains full rights to all in vivo aspects of transfecting nucleic acids with the Priostar technology. Additional terms of the agreement, which includes royalties and milestone payments, were not disclosed.
According to DNT, PrioFect transfection reagents offer nanometer-size control, which will enable EMD to offer siRNA transfection reagents with sizes optimized for individual cell lines.

Compugen Finds Eight Novel GPCR Peptide Ligands With New Discovery Engine
Compugen said this week that it has discovered eight novel peptides that activate G protein-coupled receptors using a new GPCR ligand discovery engine.
The discovery engine uses proprietary machine-learning algorithms to analyze the predictive peptidome. Using the discovery engine, Compugen researchers discovered hundreds of peptides likely to activate GPCRs, of which 33 novel peptides were synthesized and screened in a functional assay against a panel of 152 GPCRs, Compugen said in a statement.
Eight were shown to activate six different GPCRs in a concentration-dependent manner. Some of the GPCRs have no known endogenous ligands. The receptors for which novel ligands have been discovered include the MAS 1 and MAS-related GPCRs, MRGX 1 and MRGX 2, FPRL 1, and the two Relaxin family receptors, RXFP 1 and RXFP 2.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.