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Transgenomic, Key Genomics, CombiMatrix, National Union Fire Insurance Company, American International Group, Biocare, Invitrogen, New Zealand Research Science and Technology Ministry, New Zealand Genomics Limited, Bulgarian State Agency for Information T

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Transgenomic, Key Genomics Teaming on Ovarian Cancer Treatment Test
 
Transgenomic said this week that it will work with Key Genomics to develop a molecular test to help physicians find out which ovarian cancer patients will respond to a certain drug treatment.
 
The test will couple Key Genomics’ coexpression extrapolation, or COXEN, predictive algorithm with Transgenomic’s DNA mutation detection analysis technology to predict epithelial carcinoma of the ovary.
 
Transgenomic said that its mutation and analysis technologies will “complement and enhance” the COXEN algorithm, which uses genomic and pharmacological response data from cancer lines to generate molecular response signatures to specific anti-cancer agents. The companies aim for the test to provide optimal therapy recommendations, based on the specific characteristics of a patient’s tumor.
 
Because ovarian cancers are often diagnosed only after the tumor has spread beyond the ovary, getting “the best therapeutics option as quickly as possible is a key factor in survival,” Transgenomic CEO Craig Tuttle said in a statement. Using the COXEN-derived test that distinguishes which patients will benefit from a certain therapy, Tuttle said, “we believe physicians will be able to quickly direct ovarian cancer patients towards appropriate lines of therapy.”
 

 
CombiMatrix Shares Fall as It Seeks to Assure Investors on Court Award
 
Shares of CombiMatrix fell more than 12 percent on Tuesday, as President and CEO Amit Kumar sought for the second day in a row to assuage potential investor concerns that a $35.7 million court award will be delivered from a subsidiary of beleaguered insurer American International Group.
 
In May, the US District Court for the Central District of California entered a final judgment in favor of CombiMatrix for $35.7 million, to be paid by the National Union Fire Insurance Company, a subsidiary of AIG. The court had sided with CombiMatrix in its suit against National Union, which claimed that the insurance firm had refused to defend and indemnify CombiMatrix under its director and officer’s insurance policy.
 
While the insurance firm is appealing the decision, the district court ordered it to increase its bond to cover damages from $36 million to $39.2 million. According to CombiMatrix, the insurance firm has until Sept. 30 to increase the bond, which it said would provide additional coverage for accrued interest and other costs.
 
As the firms await a final decision from the appellate court, National Union Fire Insurance’s parent firm, AIG took an $85 billion loan from the Federal Reserve to avert the largest bankruptcy filing in history and minimize disruptions to the global financial markets. CombiMatrix’s Kumar stressed in two separate statements on Monday and Tuesday that the court-awarded damages are secured by the bond, and AIG’s financial woes will not affect the award.
 
The bond is “severed from the assets and liabilities of National Union and AIG,” Kumar said Tuesday. “No matter what happens to those companies financially, these funds are safe and payable to us upon success in the appeal process.”
 
On the day of the announcement, CombiMatrix’s shares fell to $11.30, an all-time low. As Pharmacogenomics Reporter went to press Wednesday afternoon, the company’s shares were trading at $12.00.
 

 
Biocare to Distribute Invitrogen's HER2 Test Kit
 
Biocare Medical will distribute Invitrogen’s new SPOT-Light HER2 CISH Kit in the US under an exclusive agreement announced this week.
 
The test, which received US Food and Drug Administration clearance in early July, can be used to assess whether breast cancer patients should be treated with Genentech’s Herceptin (trastuzumab). It marked the first premarket approval Invitrogen has received from FDA for a diagnostic product.
 
Biocare is a supplier of immunohistochemistry reagents, multiplex stains, and automated platforms for the anatomic pathology market. 
 
Laboratories purchasing Invitrogen’s HER2 test kit must complete Invitrogen’s HER2 CISH certification program, as required by the FDA clearance. The firm expects the primary users to be pathologists, oncologists, and histotechnologists who determine the best course of treatment for breast cancer patients.
 
“This product is the first FDA-approved product to provide the confidence and objectivity of in situ hybridization with the ease of immunohistochemistry, enabling a wider number of anatomic pathology laboratories to perform this critical test,” Biocare CEO Roy Yih said in a statement.
 

 
New Zealand Pledges $26M for Genomics Research Consortium
 
New Zealand will give the nation’s genomics research infrastructure a “shot in the arm” with funding of NZ$40 million (US$26.3 million) for a genomics consortium led by the University of Otago.
 
The nation’s Research Science and Technology Ministry has pledged the funding to the New Zealand Genomics Limited consortium, which includes the University of Otago, Massey University, the University of Auckland, and AgResearch. The venture is wholly owned by the University of Otago and will support all privately and publicly funded genomics research in the country.
 
RS&T Minister Pete Hodgson said that the funding, which will be spread out over nine years, will “provide a significant and much needed step-up in genomic research.”
 
The new funds will go to support new gene sequencing and bioinformatics tools, as well as recruiting new staff. The genomics programs will include research in medicine and health, agriculture, and environmental protection.
 

 
Bulgarian Center to Use IBM Supercomputer for Genomics and Drug Studies
 
Bulgaria has installed a new IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputer, which it plans to use for genomics, proteomics, and drug studies, as well as for other purposes such as financial modeling, at the Bulgarian State Agency for Information Technology in Sofia.
 
The Bulgarian National Centre for Human Genomics and Proteomics will use the Blue Gene/P to run algorithms to isolate key genes and drug targets in common diseases. Researchers plan to analyze the function of population-validated disease genes and the proteins they encode in studies of biological pathways of diseases.
 
Bulgaria also will use the computer to simulate drug development and to filter through sequencing data from the human genome.
 
"This agreement with IBM begins a new era of supercomputing in Bulgaria and creates huge potential to boost scientific research in the region as a whole," Plamen Vachkov, chairman of the Bulgarian State Agency for Information Technology and Communications, said in a statement.
 

 
MD Anderson Collaborates with Advalytix to Study Breast Cancer Cells
 
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will use multiplex gene expression technology from Olympus subsidiary Advalytix to develop molecular diagnostic technologies for personalizing cancer treatment and detection, the company said last week.
 
Under a collaborative study, the partners will use Advalytix’s AmpliGrid molecular analysis platform to characterize circulating tumor cells in breast cancer patients.
 
The center will use the platform to help “genetically fingerprint subpopulations of tumor cells with a convenient workflow,” MD Anderson associate professor James Reuben said in a statement.
 
The study will involve using the AmpliGrid platform along with multiplex primer design, and an integrated workflow to analyze the expression of multiple target genes.
 
The work will involve measuring heterogeneity by comparing individual tumor cells. Establishing clinical relevance for that heterogeneity requires that the collaborators study a large number of clinical specimens, which the company said the AmpliGrid supports because it integrates the steps each specimen requires, including cell sorting, sample preparation, and PCR.
 
Further terms of the alliance were not disclosed.
 

 
ValiRx Develops Prototype Non-Invasive Test for Cancer
 
ValiRx announced this week that its Belgium-based diagnostics division ValiBio is advancing the development of a prototype Nucleosomics cancer detection test.
 
“If successful, the [blood sample-based] test could pave the way for non-invasive tests for early cancers based on detecting ‘epigenetic’ histone modifications in blood samples that correlate with a specific cancer,” the company said.
 
The first prototype of the cancer detection test has shown to provide a quantitative measure of epigenetic histone modifications in blood sample ELISAs. According to the company, further prototype tests for other histone modifications are now planned over the next three months.  
 
“Research currently suggests the de-regulation of normal epigenetic control mechanisms is implicated in the development and progression of certain cancers,” the company said in a statement.
 
ValiBio plans to collaborate with hospitals in Germany and Belgium to validate the predictive accuracy of its tests. “If the correlations are positive, the company will proceed to a wider patient sample study over several months,” ValiBio said. The first test can be launched within the next 15 months, according to the company.
 
ValiBio estimates the market for in vitro cancer diagnostics to be at $5 billion, growing at 11 percent per year.  

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