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In Brief This Week: Qiagen; GATC Biotech, Pacific Biosciences; Vermillion; Eurofins MWG Operon, Geospiza; IDBS; Numerate; Good Start Genetics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Qiagen today broke ground on a 117,000-square-foot, $52 million expansion of its operations in Maryland. The firm is consolidating many of its Maryland manufacturing operations and offices and intends to add more than 90 jobs there within the next five years. The German firm had opened its US headquarters in Germantown, Md., in 2002, and significantly expanded its footprint in the state through its acquisitions over the past few years of Gaithersburg-based Digene and Frederick-based SABiosciences.

GATC Biotech will be the first European service provider to offer sequencing on Pacific Biosciences' RS platform. The German firm has agreed to purchase the single-molecule, real-time sequencer and expects to have it installed in early 2011.

Vermillion said this week that its OVA1 test now has the CE Mark required for marketing the test in the European Union. The OVA1 is a multiplex, proteomic biomarker test used to help physicians assess, prior to surgery, the likelihood that a woman's ovarian mass is malignant. The test was cleared for marketing in the US a year ago.

Eurofins MWG Operon has expanded its use of Geospiza's GeneSifter Lab Edition LIMS platform to manage all of its DNA sequencing services operations in the US, Germany, India, and Japan.

IDBS has formed a new healthcare unit focused on advanced translational medicine and biomarker research informatics with the goal of expanding its presence in the personalized medicine field.

Numerate recently received a grant from the US Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency to adapt its small-molecule drug design platform to the rapid design and optimization of drugs against biowarfare agents. The San Bruno, Calif.-based firm said that the contract could bring in $6.75 million to the firm. It will apply its platform, which uses biological assay data to develop predictive models of activity, to first focusing on drugs for the Ebola virus and other anti-bacterial drug leads with broad-spectrum activity.

Good Start Genetics this week became the first company to pay back its Accelerator loan to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The molecular diagnostics firm recently raised $18 million in a Series A round of financing. It followed that fundraising by paying back the $500,000 loan, plus interest, it received in May 2009.

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.