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Penn Genomics Institute, NIH, National Human Genome Research Institute, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Beijing Genomics Institute, Roche, Ventana Medical Systems, OncoMethylome Sciences, Rubicon Genomics, University of North Carolina Hospitals

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Penn Genomics Institute Changes Name, Will Emphasize Interdisciplinary Genomics
 
The University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Genomics Institute is changing its name to the Penn Genome Frontiers Institute, the university said this week.
 
The school said the name change reflects a more “cutting edge” approach to research, as the institute will focus on genomics, computational biology, systems biology, and developing interdisciplinary technologies.
 
The PGFI will support integrated genome-scale team projects, will develop genomics education and training, and will help University of Pennsylvania scientists develop their technologies.
 

 
Consortium Launches '1,000 Genomes' Study
 
An international team of researchers, led by the US National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK, and the Shenzhen branch of the Beijing Genomics Institute in China will sequence at least 1,000 genomes using new DNA sequencing technologies, the consortium said this week.
 
The goal of the three-year “1,000 Genomes Project” is to produce a detailed catalog of common as well as less common genetic variants in the human genome that will help researchers pinpoint genetic causes of diseases and better understand human biology.
 
While existing databases list genetic variations found in at least 10 percent of the population, the new map will also include variants that are present in as few as 1 percent of humans across their entire genome, and 0.5 percent of people when only looking within genes.
 
The first 1,000 samples in the project will come from the International HapMap project as well as from the extended HapMap set. These anonymous samples – a total of 1,085 – were collected from several populations originating in Africa, Japan, China, Europe, India, and Mexico.
 
Unlike the HapMap project, this study will not only map SNPs but also produce a high-resolution map of structural variants, such as insertions, deletions, or rearrangements.
 
Findings from the project could also help researchers interpret the results of genome-wide association studies. In these studies, researchers often find genomic regions that correlate with disease, but they do not know the causal variant.
 
The project will kick off with three pilot studies that are expected to last for about a year, followed by a two-year production phase. The entire study is estimated to cost between $30 million and $50 million.
 
Five centers will generate the sequence data: the Sanger Institute, BGI Shenzhen, and the National Human Genome Research Institute’s three large-scale sequencing centers, namely the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Washington University School of Medicine’s Genome Sequencing Center, and Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center.
 

 
Roche Inks $3.4B Deal to Acquire Ventana
 
Nearly seven months after its initial $3 billion bid to acquire Ventana Medical Systems was rebuffed by that company’s board of directors, Roche this week announced that it has signed a definitive merger agreement with Ventana valued at roughly $3.4 billion.
 
Under terms of the agreement, Roche will acquire Ventana for $89.50 per share in cash, up from its previously rejected bid of $75 per share.
 
Roche’s offer at $89.50 will expire at 7:00 PM EST on Feb. 7, and Ventana’s board will recommend the firm’s shareholders tender their shares to Roche.
 
Roche had extended its offer at $75 per share several times over the past six months, but Ventana’s board repeatedly called the offer “grossly inadequate.” As of last week, less than 0.2 percent of Ventana’s approximately 35 million outstanding shares had been tendered pursuant to the $75 per share offer.
 
The Ventana acquisition will provide Roche with a tissue-based diagnostics platform, which it currently lacks and sees as an important piece of the oncology diagnostics market.
 
“Our combined company will be uniquely positioned to further expand Ventana's business globally and together develop more cost-efficient, differentiated and targeted medicines,” Franz Humer, chairman and CEO of Roche, said in a statement this week.
 
Christopher Gleeson, Ventana's president and CEO, will continue as CEO of Ventana's business following completion of the acquisition and also will become a member of the Roche Diagnostics Executive Committee. Ventana will remain based in Tucson, Ariz., and Roche expects its employees will become part of the combined company.
 

 
Rubicon to Develop Cancer Markers for OncoMethylome
 
OncoMethylome Sciences has tapped Rubicon Genomics to identify and analyze biomarkers that may lead to early cancer detection tests, Rubicon said this week.
 
Under the collaboration, Rubicon will use its MethylPlex platform, which identifies multi-gene patterns of abnormal DNA methylation that arise during tumor development, to develop markers that predict the presence of cancer. The agreement also gives OncoMethylome an option to license markers that result from the collaboration.
 
Rubicon said it has already licensed a set of biomarkers to OncoMethylome resulting from a similar, earlier agreement.
 
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.
 

 
UNC Hospitals Seeking DNA Samples for Research Registry

The University of North Carolina Hospitals announced last week that they are recruiting students to establish a DNA registry to help researchers study how gene variants affect disease risks.

 
The university is developing the Environmental Polymorphisms Registry for a study UNC is conducting in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The registry aims to collect 20,000 samples. UNC said that student participants will receive $20 for giving a sample.

 
More information is available, here.

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