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In Brief This Week: 23andMe; BGI-Hong Kong; Wafergen; Ignyta

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – 23andMe this week launched its African Ancestry Project that the company said it hopes will allow African-Americans to trace their ancestral heritage. 23andMe is looking for individuals with four grandparents from certain sub-Saharan African nations in order "to help others gain better insight into both their ancestry and health," it said. The company will offer for a limited time free kits to people with four grandparents from Angola; Benin; Cameroon; Côte d'Ivoire; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; and Sierra Leone. Those nations, 23andMe said, were major waypoints in the slave trade and "have special significance for African-Americans wanting to gain more insight into their ancestry." It added that it will soon offer an update to its Ancestry Composition feature to provide more information for those with African ancestry.

BGI-Hong Kong said that its 3730 production center has begun operations, allowing BGI to shorten the turnaround time and improve the processing of DNA samples shipped by oversea contributors and customers. The first DNA samples were sequenced last week. BGI-Hong Kong provides high-throughput sequencing and genetic data processing, and has a proteomics research center and a clinical service center. The 3730 center provides Sanger sequencing services, and enables services such as gene synthesis, and Illumina's BeadArray and Sequenom's MassArray genotyping.

Wafergen Biosystems, its Malaysian subsidiary, and the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation have agreed to liquidate the subsidiary. Certain promissory notes issued in August by Wafergen in favor of the subsidiary — also called Wafergen Biosystems — in consideration of the subsidiary's cancellation of Wafergen's obligations under a term loan owing to the subsidiary, will be divided in increments of $100,000 each. Wafergen will receive 14 and Malaysian Technology Development will receive the remaining 52, it said in a document filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ignyta has completed a reverse merger with Infinity Oil & Gas to become a publicly traded firm. The combined company will focus exclusively on Ignyta's business. Today, Ignyta began trading on the OTCBB under ticker symbol "IGASD." Around Dec. 2, it will be quoted under the ticker symbol "RXDX."

In the spring, Ignyta bought biotech firm Actagene, a deal that Ignyta said transformed it from being strictly a molecular diagnostics business to an integrated Rx/Dx company focused on drug and biomarker discovery and development for cancer and immunology.

In Brief This Week is a Friday column containing news items that our readers may have missed during the week.