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Snippets: Feb 25, 2009


Myriad Genetics to Split Stock Next Month

Myriad Genetics said this week that its board of directors has approved a two-for-one split of the firm's common stock, which will take effect next month.

The Salt Lake City-based molecular diagnostics firm said that the split would be effected in the form of a dividend, which is payable on March 25 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 9. Under the split, shareholders will receive one additional share for each share held.

As a result of the split, Myriad will have around 95 million shares outstanding.

In addition, the split will alter the number of shares distributed to current shareholders in Myriad Pharmaceuticals, the proposed spinoff of Myriad's drug development business, which is expected to take place in the second quarter. Myriad has initially intended to grant its shareholders a half share of Myriad Pharmaceuticals stock for each share of Myriad Genetics held. Now, the firm expects to issue one quarter of a share in the new entity.

Kinaxo Gets Grant, Will Collaborate in Cancer PGx Study

Kinaxo Biotechnologies this week said that it has received a grant from the Bavarian Research Foundation to expand applications of its quantitative phosphoproteomics platform to drug efficacy studies.

The amount of the grant was not disclosed. But as part of the award, Kinaxo will work with Priaxon, Genomatix Software, the Technical University Munich, and the University Hospital "Rechts der Isar" to perform a large-scale drug efficacy study. The goal of the collaboration is to identify tumor-relevant signal transduction pathways and develop new methods for individualized pancreatic cancer therapy.

Martinsreid, Germany-based Kinaxo said that quantification of phosphorylation patterns in relation to drug administration could deliver insights into a compounds cellular mode of action. It also could potentially "unveil the mechanisms of both cellular resistance and a drug's effect," the firm said.

EU to Fund 'Omics Studies for Screening AIDS Drug Candidates

The European Commission will spend €3 million ($3.8 million) to fund AIDS research studies that will use or develop genomics and proteomics technologies, among others, aimed at developing new HIV/AIDS treatments.

The project, which is funded under the Seventh Framework program, will support studies to develop assays and drug screening technologies, as well as research on early drug candidates with acceptable toxicity profiles.

Other research could include elucidation of 3D structures of validated targets and rational drug design guided by molecular modeling and docking of inhibitors, and validation and exploitation of the HIV-susceptible transgenic rat models to allow in vivo evaluation of novel drug candidates from the HIV-ACE program.

The project will start March 1 and run through February 2011.

California Clears Decode Genetics' Clinical Lab

The State of California has cleared Decode Genetics to market its genotyping tests to the state's physicians and residents by giving the company a clinical laboratory license, Decode said last week.

The state had forbidden Decode and a number of other firms from offering genetic tests directly to consumers last summer. At the time, California officials said that these companies were not in compliance with state law governing lab compliance and certification and that there were concerns about physician oversight of the services.

Decode CEO Kari Stefansson said in a statement today that the company is unique in that it discovers genetic risk factors for common diseases and brings to market reference lab tests and DTC scans. "Our competitors outsource the science, the DNA-analysis, or both," he said. "But for us this is the real foundation of personalized medicine."

OICR Official Calls for More Investment in Canadian Personalized Medicine

Canada needs to invest in genomics research and personalized medicine in order to profit from advances in this area, according to an early release commentary article appearing online today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

In the years since the first human genome was sequenced, researchers have learned more about the genetics of rare and common diseases, gained access to new technologies for assessing the genome, and found ways to apply genomic information to clinical investigations and drug development programs, Thomas Hudson, president and scientific director at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, wrote.

But, Hudson warned, Canadians will not realize the full potential of such work unless Canada invests in genomics research programs and develops appropriate personalized medicine guidance. And, he argued, if Canada's support of academic laboratories and biotechnology companies can't compete with other regions, the country will lose commercialization opportunities.

"There is a deep concern that too few discoveries will benefit Canadian patients, unless there are transformative changes in biomedical research and health care delivery that enable quick assessment of a rapidly growing number of new diagnostics and therapeutics, clear guidelines regarding usage in medical care, enabling policies, and appropriate levels of reimbursement," Hudson argued.

Hudson, who is a co-founder of the International Cancer Genome Consortium and the Public Population Project in Genomics, noted that there are numerous opportunities for investment — from genomic research to clinical trials to population research.

To address the myriad issues surrounding genomics research funding, education, translation, and personalized medicine policies, Hudson noted that Canada might consider establishing an organization similar to the Personalized Medicine Coalition in the US. But, he said, there is no time to waste.

"There clearly is a benefit to research in personalized medicine: prevention and screening strategies targeting high-risk individuals, avoidance of serious adverse outcomes, and better matching of therapies to disease and individual profiles," Hudson wrote. "If we are slow to act, there will be economic consequences because we will lose opportunities for the development and commercialization of new products and for the creation of new jobs in Canada."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.