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In Brief This Week: Life Technologies; Febit; Caris Diagnostics; Thermo Fisher Scientific; Empire Genomics; Beckman Research Institute

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Life Technologies said this week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has approved use of the Applied Biosystems MiniFiler PCR Amplification Kit in the National DNA Index System (NDIS). The MiniFiler is designed to obtain results from compromised and degraded samples, and has been used in cold cases, missing person cases, exonerations, and historical and archeological cases, the company said. The approval from the NDIS board means that the test will be more widely used in forensic labs, the company said. The NDIS database is used to compare genetic profile information related to crimes in the US, and it currently contains more than 7 million profiles and has produced more than 98,000 matches in 97,000 investigations.

Life Technologies also said this week that its MicroSeq Listeria monocytogenes Detection Kit has been validated by the AOAC Research Institute. Listeria monocytogenes can contaminate a range of foods, including meats, dairy products, and vegetables, and it can cause serious illness, particularly in newborns, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. The test was validated for use with nine different food sample types, for both high and low throughput testing workflows.

The Molecular Genetics Core Facility at Children’s Hospital Boston will use Febit’s HybSelect technology for targeted enrichment of genes of interest for resequencing, and it will receive Febit’s Geniom RT Analyzer in February.
Instead of sequencing the complete genomes of a few patients, the company said, the HybSelect enables researchers to analyze specific genes of interest from large patient cohorts for the same price and data management effort. That enables them to use a larger patient pool and to develop statistically relevant data for clinical studies.

Caris Diagnostics is changing the name of its parent company to Caris Life Sciences, but the diagnostics division will still operate as Caris Diagnostics. The Irving, Texas-based company said that the new name reflects its multi-faceted identity and range of projects. The company said it has five key areas of interest in personalized medicine: anatomic pathology; molecular profiling; proprietary blood-base diagnostics; pharmaceutical services; and research and development.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has agreed to buy Ahura Scientific, a field-deployed analytical instruments maker, for $145 million in cash plus potential target-based earn-out payments. Ahura Scientific’s technologies specialize in identifying chemicals for safety, security, and pharmaceutical applications. It is based in Wilmington, Mass. and has around 120 employees.

“The acquisition of Ahura Scientific further enhances our position in handheld analyzers and strengthens our Thermo Scientific brand by expanding the breadth of our portfolio with complementary technologies,” Thermo Fisher Scientific President and CEO Marc Casper said in a statement. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2010.

Empire Genomics plans to move to a new and larger facility in Buffalo. After spending several years at the University of Buffalo’s Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, the company now is moving into a 6,500-square-foot space in facilities that formerly were occupied by the life sciences firm PersonaDX.

City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute (BRI) has received a $2.5 million endowment form Morgan and Helen Chu, which will be used to establish an endowed chair. Current BRI Director Richard Jove will be the first to take the position, to be known as the Morgan and Helen Chu Director’s Chair.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.