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Human Genome Sciences, Cambridge-MIT Institute, Nuvelo, Oklahoma State University, DNAPrint Genomics, Orchid Biosciences


Will Human Genome Sciences Job Cuts Affects PGx Jobs, Too?

A “majority” of the 200 employees Human Genome Sciences intends to lay off may be genomics and proteomics scientists involved in early-stage pharmacogenomics, according to a company spokesman.

However, he stressed that the firm, which last week announced the impending departure of founder and CEO Bill Haseltine, is still deciding where the staff cuts will come from.

HGS last week said it plans to cut around 200 jobs, or 20 percent of the company’s total workforce, as it looks for ways to save money. The company said these cuts will come from early-stage research labs and from general and administrative staff.

As a result, HGS will also focus more intently on certain promising components of its drug pipeline while putting others on the back burner. The firm also said it plans to consolidate some of its facilities.

“We’ve let our [employees] know what the plan is ... and we’ve been having internal meetings, and we’re going to continue to have meetings with our internal management group to make decisions on this,” Jerry Parrott, an HGS spokesman, said last week.

However, he said a “majority” of the job cuts may be made in “early-stage research,” which comprises proteomics and genomics scientists. Parrott made his remarks following a reporter’s question asking whether “early-stage R&D” is composed of gene sequencing, proteomics, SNP-genotyping, and gene expression.

“When you say ‘early research,’ clearly you’re looking at those kinds of things,” he said. “But we’ve not made decisions with more specificity than I stated.” He added that ‘early-stage’ research includes other, non-genomic disciplines.

CMI Establishes Initiative to Advance Next-Generation Drug Discovery

The Cambridge-MIT Institute intends to launch a new initiative to bring researchers from different disciplines together to help accelerate advances in drug discovery, the groups said last week.

The systems-biology-based initiative calls for CMI to fund the Next-Generation Drug Discovery Community, which will unite Cambridge University and MIT researchers from fields such as computer science and physics with partners from the information technology and biopharmaceutical industries.

According to CMI, the alliance will work for new ways to overcome bottlenecks in the drug-discovery and -development process. One goal of the effort is to develop techniques to measure gene- and protein-level properties of cells and tissues simultaneously. The initiative will also try to develop bioinformatics platforms to try to glean the meaning of these data.

The community’s first projects will involve studying adult blood stem cells as experimental systems for testing the efficacy and toxicity of drugs, and establishing new computational methods to identify drug targets, said CMI.

Nuvelo Moves Incorporation To Delaware from Nevada

Nuvelo on March 25 has shifted the state of its incorporation to Delaware from Nevada.

The company decided to re-incorporate in Delaware because of the state’s “comprehensive, modern, corporate laws that are periodically updated and revised to meet changing business needs,” according to president and CEO Ted Love.

Nuvelo resulted from the acquisition of Variagenics by Hyseq in 2002.

Oklahoma State Researchers to Use CombiMatrix Bird Flu Arrays

Researchers at Oklahoma State University will use microarrays from Acacia Research’s CombiMatrix unit to study influenza A viruses, Acacia said last week.

Scientists led by Ulrich Melcher and Alexander Lai plan to use CombiMatrix’s Bird Flu custom array to type various strains of the human and avian flu viruses.

Earlier this month, Acacia said researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital were using CombiMatrix arrays to study the avian flu virus [see 3/25/04 SNPtech Pharmacogenomics Reporter].

DNAPrint Genomics Pens PGx Deal with Moffitt Cancer Center

DNAPrint Genomics will help the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute develop new tests to help physicians determine chemotherapeutic drug response, the company said this week.

A primary area of focus for the effort will be colorectal cancer, though other cancers will explored. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center is located at the University of South Florida.

Orchid Biosciences to Implement One-for-five Reverse Stock Split

Orchid BioSciences is to implement a one-for-five reverse stock split on March 30, the company said last week.

Each five shares of Orchid’s common stock will be converted into one share, resulting in approximately 22.1 million shares of common stock. Orchid’s board of directors recently authorized the reverse split, which was approved by stockholders last month.

Human Genome Sciences Licenses PGX DX Oncology Tests to Dakocytomation

Human Genome Sciences said this week it has licensed to DakoCytomation of Glostrup, Denmark worldwide rights to develop and commercialize pharmacogenomic diagnostic tests in oncology based on the TRAIL Receptor-1 and TRAIL Receptor-2 proteins.

The companies have already developed tests based on these proteins, and presented results of studies using these immunohistochemical diagnostic tests this week at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando. The researchers reported that the new assays distinguish between expression of TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2, and could be used for studies on therapeutic response to TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2 agonistic antibodies.

Under the agreement, DakoCytomation will be HGS’ exclusive partner for any licensed IHC diagnostic product that based on the TRAIL-R1 or TRAIL-R2 proteins, and requires prior approval from HGS to sell or provide these products to any third parties, until commercial or regulatory approval milestones are achieved.

HGS identified the TRAIL (tumor necrosis factor related apoptosis-inducing ligand) Receptor-1 and TRAIL Receptor-2 proteins, which are found on the surface of some solid tumor and hematopoietic cancer cells. The company is developing as cancer therapeutics agonistic human monoclonal antibodies that specifically bind to these proteins.

The tests that DakoCytomation is developing with HGS “will play an important role in clinical trials in exploring the correlation between TRAIL Receptor-1 and TRAIL Receptor-2 expression and clinical response to treatment of various cancers with TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2 agonistic human monoclonal antibodies,” David Stump, executive vice President, drug development for HGS, said in a statement.

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