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Bayer and Paradigm; Insightful and Affymetrix; Orchid; Whitehead, Mayo and Tm Biosciences; Asterand; Proteome Sciences

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Bayer, Paradigm Pen Fungicide Deal

Bayer CropScience will test an undisclosed number of chemical compounds validated in Paradigm Genetics’ fungicide screening program, the companies said last week. The testing will take place at Bayer’s research headquarters in Monheim, Germany. Financial terms were not disclosed, though the worldwide fungicide market is estimated to be $6 billion.

If the screening tests are successful, Bayer may ink an exclusive licensing agreement with Paradigm to develop the lead chemicals into commercial fungicides. This would enable Paradigm to receive research payments, exclusivity payments, milestone payments, and/or royalties for the lead compounds.

In-house, Paradigm has analyzed more than 250 targets and validated more than 50. In fact, the company earlier this year won a pair of US patents that it believes may lead to the development of less toxic fungicides. Keith Davis, vice president of the company’s Agricultural Research unit, said that in recent months, there has been greater interest in licensing these data. The Bayer deal, therefore, “represents an important first step in commercializing discoveries resulting from our fungicide program,” he said in a statement.

Paradigm’s first patent covers a fungicide target found in the fungal lysine biosynthetic pathway, as well as methods enabling the discovery of chemicals that inhibit enzymatic steps within the lysine pathway. The second covers the company’s Transposon-Arrayed Gene Knock-Out technology, which covers methods for rapid and systematic mutation of pathogenic fungi. Paradigm said this may enable researchers to identify antifungal and fungicide targets, as well as certain biosynthetic and degradation pathways.


Insightful Incorporates Affymetrix’ API Components Into Own Software

Insightful Corporation will incorporate Affymetrix’s Application Program Interfaces into its S+ArrayAnalyzer software, which enables researchers to analyze microarray data, the companies said last week.

The S+ArrayAnalyzer platform allows users to access and prepare data, perform differential expression testing and false discovery rate control, and gives them the ability to analyze gene lists and annotation metadata. Affy’s APIs will make the software “fully compatible” with all Affymetrix microarray systems, including output from the new GeneChip operating software and the entire installed base of Affymetrix instruments and scanners, the companies said.


Orchid Wins Two FBI Contracts For Its SNP-Based Forensics

Orchid BioSciences’ Cellmark unit won two contracts from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to develop aspects of its SNP technology for forensic DNA testing applications, the firm said this week.

The goal of the two contracts is to develop new forensic tools that can use degraded DNA samples to help investigators identify individuals. Cellmark’s Dallas facility will carry out the projects, which are expected to be completed in about a year.

The first contract will develop a panel of SNP markers to identify male DNA by measuring polymorphisms on the Y chromosome. The second will nearly double the number of SNPs Orchid currently uses. This effort will build on the assay Orchid previously developed to help identify World Trade Center victims.


Whitehead Starts Testing New Turbo-Charged DNA Sequencer

The Whitehead Institute has begun testing a new DNA sequencer that will be able to sequence the human genome in one year, the group said last week.

The BioMems 768 Sequencer, developed with a $7 million grant awarded in 1999 by the National Human Genome Research Institute, will be commercialized by Network Biosystems, of Woburn, Mass., and will be manufactured by Shimadzu Biotech.

Whitehead scientists said the machine can process up to 7 million bases a day, and will eventually need only 1 percent of a typical DNA sample to perform the actual sequencing. The machine tests 384 lanes of DNA at a time.

It takes 45 minutes to sequence one lane, according to Whitehead.


Mayo Foundation to Purchase Tm Biosciences’ Genetic Tests

The Mayo Foundation will buy Tm Bioscience’s line of genetic tests under a five-year “master purchase” agreement, the company said last week.

Terms of the agreement call for Mayo to buy Tm’s Tag-It Mutation Detection Kit for the cystic fibrosis gene CFTR, and to be able to buy additional tests from Tm as they are commercialized.

Mayo’s Medical Laboratories and Molecular Genetics Laboratory will use the test, the company said. It follows a September agreement in which the Mayo Foundation purchased the Tag-It P450-2D6 test from Tm.


Tissue Startup Asterand Closes Series C Round of VC Financing

Human tissue research bank Asterand has closed a Series C round of venture capital financing with two Michigan-based venture capital funds.

The company did not disclose the amount collected. New investors Apjohn Ventures of Kalamazoo, Arboretum Partners, of Ann Arbor, and Chrysalis Ventures of Louisville, Ky., joined existing investors Oxford Bioscience Partners of Boston and Fort Washington Capital Partners of Cincinnati.

Asterand will use the cash to further “develop [its] network of collaborating hospitals and to increase the research services we are able to offer the world’s leading drug discovery companies,” CEO Randal Charltonn said in a statement.

Asterand, founded in 2000, operates human tissue banks for genomic and proteomic research and collects material from a worldwide network of donor sites. Its data covers more than 150 diseases, including several cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and bipolar disease.


Proteome Sciences Inks CJD Deal With Medical Research Council

British proteomics company Proteome Sciences will work with the British Medical Research Council to identify differential protein expression in patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the company said this week.

Using samples from age- and sex-matched patients with the diseases, Proteome Sciences will conduct protein-separation, -identification, and -characterization studies to find biomarkers for new diagnostics, prognostics, and therapeutics.

Specific terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

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