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Snippets: Dec 10, 2008

National Jewish Health Partners with LabCorp on Molecular Dx
Denver research hospital National Jewish Health will collaborate with Laboratory Corporation of America to develop and commercialize molecular diagnostic tests for respiratory, immune, and related diseases, the hospital said this week.
The hospital and LabCorp have “established a framework for discovery, development, and commercialization of diagnostic tests,” National Jewish Health said.
Gary Smith, director of National Jewish Health’s Advanced Diagnostics Laboratory, said in a statement that the collaboration “will allow us to provide specialized companion diagnostic tools to a much broader audience."
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

DxS Doubles R&D Staff
British molecular diagnostics firm DxS this week said that it has doubled its research and development staff from four to eight during the final quarter of this year.
The Manchester-based firm said that it also plans to recruit five more product development scientists within the next month. It said that the increase in staff was due to a “marked rise in demand” for its cancer diagnostic kits.
DxS recently launched a PI3K Mutation Test Kit based on its real-time PCR technology, called Scorpions, and its ARMS SNP detection technology. It sells other kits for detection of cancer-related mutations under the TheraScreen brand name.

UK Hospitals to Perform Validation Studies on Pathwork Tumor Test
Pathwork Diagnostics this week said that Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London will be the first UK hospitals to conduct validation studies on the firm’s Tissue of Origin test.
The test uses a microarray to measure the RNA expression pattern of a tumor and compare it to a panel of 15 known tumor types, representing 60 morphologies overall, to help the determine the tumor’s origin. It is based on Pathwork’s PathChip gene-expression array, which runs on Affymetrix’s GCS3000Dx diagnostic platform.
This past summer, the US Food and Drug Administration cleared the test for marketing in the US. It was the second in vitro diagnostic multivariate index assay, or IVDMIA, device to be cleared by the FDA, following Agendia’s MammaPrint test, which the agency approved in February 2007.
"In this study, pathologists and oncologists at Guy's and St Thomas' will not only be able to validate the test for use in their institution, but more importantly, soon be able to use information generated to help them determine the most effective, cancer-specific treatment regimen for hard-to-diagnose cases," said Pathwork President and CEO Deborah Neff in a statement.
Further terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Myriad Plans to Fund Pharma Spinoff with $150M-$200M
Myriad Genetics officials said last week that they would likely use between $150 million and $200 million of the firm’s cash on hand to fund its pharma business, which it intends to spin off next year.
Speaking at the Piper Jaffray Health Care Conference in New York, company officials said that would provide sufficient cash to support the pharma business for around four years. As of the end of the firm’s first quarter on Sept. 30, Myriad had $442.6 million in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable investment securities. This number is expected to grow to around $500 million as of the end of this month, the executives said at the meeting.
Myriad had announced in October that it would spin off its drug development businesses from its molecular diagnostics business, creating two separate publicly traded firms. The firm reiterated last week that it expects Myriad Genetics’ stock to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MGX, while Myriad Pharmaceuticals will be listed on the NASDAQ Global Market under the company's current ticker symbol, MYGN.
Despite the difficult economic climate, Myriad intends to follow through on the split next year. Gregory Critchfield, president of Myriad Genetic Laboratories, noted at the conference that widespread insurance coverage for the firm’s products means that its revenues have been somewhat protected from the current economic downturn.
He also said that its ongoing direct-to-consumer campaigns in the Northeast and in Texas and Florida have been paying off. According to Critchfield, following Myriad’s DTC campaign in the Northeast, Ob/Gyn orders from that region increased roughly 79 percent.
— Ed Winnick, managing editor, GenomeWeb Daily News

Rosetta Genomics Reports First Revenues in Q3
Rosetta Genomics last week reported quarterly revenues for the first time driven by receipts from Parkway Clinical Laboratories, which Rosetta acquired for $2.9 million this past summer.
The Rehovot, Israel-based developer of microRNA-based tests and therapeutics reported revenues of $705,000 for the three-month period ended Sept. 30. All of the revenues came from Parkway, which Rosetta purchased to help expedite development and validation of its first microRNA-based diagnostic tests.
Rosetta is gearing up to launch its first microRNA-based tests for cancer. It is developing tests for differentiating squamous versus non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, for differentiating between mesothelioma and adenocarcinoma, and for cancer of unknown primary.
The firm’s net loss for the quarter was $3 million, compared to a net loss of $2.2 million for the third quarter of 2007.
Rosetta’s R&D costs increased 43 percent to $2 million from $1.4 million year over year. Its marketing, business development, general, and administrative spending rose 25 percent to $1.5 million from $1.2 million.
Rosetta finished the quarter with around $10 million in cash and cash equivalents.
Following the end of the third quarter, Rosetta announced that it had secured $1.5 million in funding from undisclosed private investors to fund a new microRNA-based plant biotechnology project.

It also said that as part of a settlement with the Attorney General of the State of New York and the North American Securities Administrators Association Task Force, investment banking firm Credit Suisse agreed to repurchase $7.4 million worth of auction rate securities held by Rosetta. The firm previously took a $7.4 million impairment charge related to the securities, which experienced multiple failed auctions due to a lack of liquidity in the markets for ARS.

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The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.