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Short Reads: Feb 24, 2009


Intelligent Bio-Systems Raises Undisclosed Amount of Private Cash

Intelligent Bio-Systems has closed a round of financing led by Norwich Ventures of Waltham, Mass. The firm is not disclosing the amount of the funding at this time.

IBS, which is also based in Waltham, is the exclusive licensee of certain DNA sequencing patents held by Columbia University. The underlying technology, which uses a four-color reversible terminator sequencing-by-synthesis chemistry, was developed in the lab of Jingyue Ju, a co-founder of IBS, at Columbia (see In Sequence 10/23/2007)

In 2006, the company received a $425,000 grant under the National Human Genome Research Institute's Advanced Sequencing Technology program.

In December, IBS CEO Steven Gordon told In Sequence that IBS plans to start testing a commercial prototype "at one or two large laboratories" in the first quarter of 2009. He said that the current prototype produces sequence data "at similar read lengths and quality levels as some of the other commercial systems" (see In Sequence 12/23/2008)

Gordon said in a statement last week that the funding would support further development of the firm's prototype sequencer and enable it to deliver working instruments to early-access collaborators during the coming year. "Our customers are extremely excited about our new technology as it is affordable for smaller labs and will be the fastest and most cost-effective method for sequencing DNA on the market," he said.

NHGRI to Hold Advanced Sequencing Tech Meeting Next Month

The National Human Genome Research Institute is holding a meeting on advanced sequencing technology development in La Jolla, Calif., next month.

The open meeting, to be held March 31 to April 1, will serve "as an open forum on key challenges on ultra-low-cost DNA sequencing technology," according to the institute. It follows on the heels of the non-public annual meeting of grantees under NHGRI's Advanced Sequencing Technology program.

"This year, we invite other members of the research community to join with the grantees for a day of presentations and discussions on the critical scientific and engineering challenges that stand in the way of technology to enable full human genome sequencing for $1,000," according to NHGRI.

The meeting intends to bring together grantees "with other scientists and engineers who may be studying similar challenges, or who are not currently doing so, but may have insights that may help to achieve the goal of sequencing human genomes for about $1,000."

Interested parties can register for the meeting here.

Floragenex, NCGR Team on Crop Marker Collaboration

Floragenex said last week that it is collaborating with the non-profit National Center for Genome Resources to provide services for customers with a specific focus on discovering new markers in crops.

The collaboration will partner Floragenex's genomic discovery and application tools with NCGR's Illumina sequencing and bioinformatics capabilities.

"The costs and capabilities of DNA sequencing are now reaching the threshold where a new segment of agricultural companies and academic researchers are looking to apply the tools of genomics to their breeding and research activities," Floragenex CEO Nathan Lillegard said in a statement. "Working with NCGR gives Floragenex a collaborative technology partner that brings world class capabilities to the challenges of genetic discovery for our customers."

Floragenex is based in Eugene, Ore., and is a spinout of the University of Oregon.

India to Start Genomics Lab in New Bio-IT Park

The Indian central government, state of Karnataka, and industry partners will fund a new genomics sequencing and analysis facility as part of a Bio-IT Centre in a Karnataka biotechnology park, the state's chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, said last week.

The Bio-IT Centre will be developed along with partners, including the Centre for Human Genetics, the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Studies and Research, and the biotech company Strand Life Sciences.

"A major chunk of financial support for the Bio-IT Centre will come from the central government, while the state government will initially contribute Rs 50 million ($1 million) in fiscal 2009-10," Yeddyurappa said at an inauguration event for the park, which is located near Bangalore.

The minister also said that that Karnataka "will soon announce a revised biotech policy to give thrust to the R&D activities in the emerging sector."

California Clears Decode Genetics' Clinical Lab

The State of California has cleared Decode Genetics to market its genotyping tests to the state's physicians and residents by giving the company a clinical laboratory license, Decode said last week.

The state had forbidden Decode and a number of other firms from offering genetic tests directly to consumers last summer. At the time, California officials said that these companies were not in compliance with state law governing lab compliance and certification and that there were concerns about physician oversight of the services.

Decode CEO Kari Stefansson said in a statement last week that the company is unique in that it discovers genetic risk factors for common diseases and brings to market reference lab tests and DTC scans. "Our competitors outsource the science, the DNA-analysis, or both," he said. "But for us this is the real foundation of personalized medicine."

DNAStar Taps Infogen for European Sales

DNAStar has signed up Infogen to distribute its gene expression software in several European nations, the company said last week.

Under the agreement, Infogen has gained the rights to sell the ArrayStar software, which is used to visualize and analyze gene expression data, in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

The ArrayStar line was launched in 2007, and it has been expanded to handle applications from data generated by next-generation sequencing platforms, DNAStar said.

"We have seen continuing demand for ArrayStar and felt that our best way to capture this business was by adding to our distribution organization," Bob Steinhauser, DNAStar's director of marketing, said in a statement.

Steinhauser said Infogen possesses the "technical expertise required to properly sell and support" the ArrayStar software. He added that the company, which has bases in the UK and in Italy, has important knowledge of local markets.

The Scan

Genes Linked to White-Tailed Jackrabbits' Winter Coat Color Change

Climate change, the researchers noted in Science, may lead to camouflage mismatch and increase predation of white-tailed jackrabbits.

Adenine Base Editor Targets SCID Mutation in New Study

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, report in Cell that adenine base editing was able to produce functional T lymphocytes in a model of severe combined immune deficiency.

Researchers Find Gene Affecting Alkaline Sensitivity in Plants

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have found a locus affecting alkaline-salinity sensitivity, which could aid in efforts to improve crop productivity, as they report in Science.

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.