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VistaGen Therapeutics, Sanwa Kagaku Kenkyusho Co., RainDance Technologies, Becton Dickinson, National Institutes of Health, Galapagos — BioFocus DPI, University College London

Sanwa Licenses VistaGen's ES Cell Assays for Diabetes Drug Development
Japanese pharmaceutical firm Sanwa Kagaku Kenkyusho has licensed VistaGen Therapeutics’ embryonic stem cell-based assay systems for use in diabetes drug development, VistaGen said this week.
Under the terms of the license agreement, Sanwa will use three of VistaGen’s customized beta-islet differentiation assay systems to identify and screen new small-molecule drug candidates to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The companies co-developed the assays under an ongoing joint research and development agreement that used VistaGen’s ES Cell technology and bioinformatics databases to identify biomolecules for cell differentiation and insulin production.
VistaGen also has the right to participate with Sanwa on future drug development programs involving joint discoveries based on VistaGen's technology in the field of diabetes.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

BioSeek, Merck KGaA Ink Drug Discovery Deal for Multiple Therapeutic Areas
BioSeek announced this week that it has entered into a collaborative agreement with Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany, acting for its division Merck Serono.
Under the terms of the collaboration, BioSeek will apply its BioMAP Systems to evaluate Merck Serono small-molecule compounds and proteins across multiple therapeutic areas for preclinical development.
Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed.
“We are delighted that Merck Serono has chosen BioSeek as a partner to explore the utility of predictive human biology for the enhancement and acceleration of modern drug discovery,” Michael Venuti, CEO of BioSeek, said in a statement.
“BioMAP Systems should provide an important value-added tool for the evaluation of compounds in Merck Serono’s autoimmune and inflammatory disease programs, with additional applications in neurodegenerative diseases and oncology,” Venuti added.

RainDance Relocates to Massachusetts
RainDance Technologies said this week that it has relocated its operations from Guilford, Conn., to Lexington, Mass.
The firm, which makes microdroplet systems for life science applications, also announced that its new manufacturing and commercial operations facility will open May 27. RainDance currently has around 35 employees and expects to hire another 30 during the coming months.
“With the launch of our first life sciences applications scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, it’s important for RainDance to be located in the nation’s preeminent biotechnology center,” RainDance President and CEO Chris McNary said in a statement.

BD Board Approves Dividend
Becton Dickinson said this week that its board of directors has declared a quarterly dividend of $.285 per common share.
Shareholders of record on June 9 will receive the dividend on June 30, the firm said. It noted that the indicated annual dividend rate is $1.14 per share.

Senate Passes $400M in Supplemental NIH Funding Along with War Bill
The US Senate passed legislation this week that would give the National Institutes of Health an extra $400 million this year to supplement the funding it received under the 2008 budget.
The NIH money is just a side note on a domestic spending attachment to a $156 billion war and veterans’ appropriations bill that has become a point of contention between presidential candidates and the sitting President.
All of the domestic spending attached to the war bill passed, Kei Koizumi, program director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told CBA News sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News.
The full text of the bill and its amendments has not yet been posted to the Congressional Record, but Koizumi and other sources following the status of the bill confirmed that the full domestic spending portion, including the $400 million for NIH, had passed without change. 
The additional $400 million proposed in an amendment to the war bill by Senator Tom Harkin (D – Iowa), would augment a 2008 NIH budget that represents the fifth year of roughly stagnant funding for the agency.
While the bill has drawn criticism from some Republicans and from President George W. Bush because of the domestic spending and because of some of the details in a GI Bill extension, it passed this week 75 to 22. Two of the four senators who were absent or who did not vote on the bill today were presidential candidates Senators John McCain (R – Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D – Ill.).
While the House version of the bill did not include the extra spending for the NIH, Carrie Wolinetz of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology said it is likely that the House will use the Senate version of the bill.
Bush said at the end of April that he has been “very clear” with Congress that he would not accept a supplemental war funding bill if it tallies up at over $108 billion, which is $48 billion less than what the Senate passed today.
Matt Jones

Galapagos, University College London Ink Vascular Drug Discovery Deal
Galapagos announced this week that is has signed a drug discovery research agreement with University College London. Galapagos’ BioFocus DPI service division will perform medicinal chemistry services for a UCL research project.
Total contract value for Galapagos is expected to reach more than €1.8 million ($2.8 million) over the course of the two-year agreement.
UCL has an ongoing drug-discovery program for the treatment of vascular collapse during sepsis. BioFocus DPI will provide medicinal chemistry services to progress UCL’s lead series through to pre-clinical testing. In addition, UCL will also have the opportunity to utilize BioFocus DPI ADME/tox screening services, and will receive access to a selection of compounds in BioFocus DPI’s SoftFocus collection to facilitate the identification of new chemical starting points for this program.

The Scan

Self-Reported Hearing Loss in Older Adults Begins Very Early in Life, Study Says

A JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery study says polygenic risk scores associated with hearing loss in older adults is also associated with hearing decline in younger groups.

Genome-Wide Analysis Sheds Light on Genetics of ADHD

A genome-wide association study meta-analysis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder appearing in Nature Genetics links 76 genes to risk of having the disorder.

MicroRNA Cotargeting Linked to Lupus

A mouse-based study appearing in BMC Biology implicates two microRNAs with overlapping target sites in lupus.

Enzyme Involved in Lipid Metabolism Linked to Mutational Signatures

In Nature Genetics, a Wellcome Sanger Institute-led team found that APOBEC1 may contribute to the development of the SBS2 and SBS13 mutational signatures in the small intestine.