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Snippets: Mar 4, 2009

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DNAPrint Genomics Goes Bust

Genetic testing company DNAPrint Genomics has shut down its operations, according to a notice on its website.

The Sarasota, Fla.-based firm shut down operations sometime during the past month. Its most recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission was on Feb. 9, in which it announced that its President and CEO Richard Gabriel had resigned from the firm as well as its subsidiaries Ellipsis Biotherapeutics and Trace Genetics.

The cash-strapped firm, which had been trading on the Pink Sheets, had inked a deal a year ago to be acquired by Nanobac Pharmaceuticals. However, the deal fell apart after Nanobac was unable to raise additional funds before a deadline on March 31, 2008.


LabCorp Collaborates with Duke in Operating Biorepository

LabCorp said this week that it has struck a collaborative agreement with Duke University covering operations at its Biorepository in Kannapolis, NC.

The collaboration will focus on the operations of the facility and management of the samples deposited by Duke University, and by LabCorp's clients and its collaborators.

The company said that when the Biorepository opens later this year it will hold up to 10 million samples and will offer a high-security storage environment and on-site nucleic acid and sample preparation capabilities. The facility will be closely linked to Duke University, the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building at the North Carolina Research Campus, and LabCorp's network of routine and esoteric laboratories for discovery and commercial testing.

"The combined capabilities of our organizations through the Biorepository will further our leadership in personalized medicine and will lead to new discoveries and new diagnostic tests that will benefit patient care," LabCorp CEO David King said in a statement.


Lab21 Acquires MDx Firm

Lab21, a Cambridge, UK-based clinical lab and companion diagnostics developer, has purchased a majority share of molecular diagnostics firm Biotec Laboratories.

The Ipswich, UK-based diagnostics firm has focused on infectious diseases since its creation in 1993. It also has been distributing some of Lab21's diagnostics products through its global network of distributors in 80 countries.

The acquisition includes Biotec Laboratories SA, the South African subsidiary of the firm. The subsidiary has developed a phage amplification technology that it is using in the development of rapid tests for active and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

"We look forward to working with the R&D team of Biotec and exploring how its phage amplification technology can be used for the detection of other mycobacterium-borne diseases, beyond TB," Lab21 Chief Scientific Development Officer Berwyn Clarke said in a statement. "The combination of our technical and clinical skills and sector experience creates a very strong R&D group that can fuel significant new product development in both immunodiagnostics and molecular diagnostics over the coming years."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Biotec Laboratories will operate as a subsidiary of Lab21.


Autism Speaks Gives $5M for Two Multi-site Genetic Studies

Two autism studies focused on genetics and the environment and on neuro-imaging will receive $5 million under a grant from Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy and research organization.

The funding will go to "expand and link" two multi-site programs that will study over 2,000 infant siblings of children with autism who are at a high genetic risk for developing the disorder. Many of these children will be followed from conception through early childhood.

This funding will enable the two programs to expand data collection for important parts of their research, including genetic, neurobiological, diagnostic, and environmental information on the families.

One project is the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI), which will aim to study biomarkers and autism environmental risk factors during certain developmental windows.

The EARLI project is lead by Drexel University and involves researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, and the University of California Davis. This project will enroll and follow up to 1,200 mothers of children with autism at the start of a new pregnancy and document the development of their newborn siblings through age three.

The other project, the Infant Brain Imaging Study, will be led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will attempt to identify brain differences in children who develop ASD by monitoring and analyzing the brain development of 544 infant siblings of children with autism.

"Both of these studies will also significantly add to our knowledge about the causes of autism by looking at the interaction between genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures," Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson said in a statement. "It is our hope that this collaborative effort will facilitate early screening and hopefully lead to effective prevention and treatment strategies."

The funding will support the projects for five years.


NIDDK Funding Long-term Type 1 Diabetes Screening Study

The Medical College of Georgia said that it has been awarded a $10 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to continue a long-term study of newborns in Georgia and Florida aimed at determining how genetics and the environment can cause Type 1 diabetes.

The five-year grant will be used to enroll an additional 200 newborns in Georgia and Florida for an ongoing program called The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young, or TEDDY, which has already enrolled 700 newborns.

The TEDDY program is an international research effort that includes research sites in Georgia, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Washington, Finland, Sweden, and Germany that will eventually screen around 360,000 newborns and enroll around 7,800.
The program screens newborns for two high-risk genes for type 1 diabetes, and those who are enrolled are followed for 15 years. Investigators will gather information about the children from various sources, including blood samples, fingernail clippings, stool samples, and others in an effort to "piece together the genetic and environmental causes of type 1."

The program began in 2004. Since then, MCG researchers and principal investigators Jin-Xiong She and Cong-Yi Wang have discovered one of the genes used to help screen for risk of the disease.

She believes there are at least 20 genes that could be used to screen for type 1 diabetes, and such a test using these genes would be around 50 percent accurate at identifying children who will develop the disease.


NINDS to Fund Stroke Genetics Studies

The National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke plans to spend $3.6 million over four years to support a study consortium that aims to identify genes or genomic regions that affect either susceptibility to or the outcome of ischemic stroke.

The research may include studies of genetic association with specific sub-phenotypic manifestations of ischemic stroke, such as the age of onset, ethnic or population subtype, pathogenic manifestations, variation of severity, brain location, complications, functional recovery, or susceptibility to environmental risk factors.

Other goals of the program are that the SNP genotyping and phenotyping data the project generates end up in a public resource via the Database of Genotype and Phenotype, and that it consists of a collaborative consortium that will work with NINDS.

The funding will support one consortium consisting of multiple Genetic Research Centers and one Data Coordinating Center that are aimed at continuing NINDS's studies of the genetics of ischemic stroke.

Unless the National Institutes of Health grants a special exception, genotyping for the program will be performed at the Center for Inherited Disease Research's genotyping facilities, and the cost of the genotyping will be covered by CIDR.

More information about the NINDS Ischemic Stroke Genetics Consortium grant may be found on NIH's website.

The Scan

And For Adolescents

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

Also of Concern to WHO

The Wall Street Journal reports that the World Health Organization has classified the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.617 as a "variant of concern."

Test for Them All

The New York Times reports on the development of combined tests for SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses like influenza.

PNAS Papers on Oral Microbiome Evolution, Snake Toxins, Transcription Factor Binding

In PNAS this week: evolution of oral microbiomes among hominids, comparative genomic analysis of snake toxins, and more.