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UPenn Med School Wins $600,000 NIH Grant to Create Multidisciplinary Pharmacogenomics Center

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine this week said it has won a $595,000 grant from the US National Institutes of Health to create a new interdisciplinary center to study gene-drug interactions.

The Human Pharmacogenomic Epidemiology center, which will be overseen by Stephen Kimmel, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the medical school, aims at bringing together several genomic and biotechnology specialties to study gene-drug interactions, according to UPenn.

The center will bring together researchers in genetics, bioinformatics, pharmacology, epidemiology, biostatistics, and bioethics in an attempt to better understand the genetic underpinnings of drug response.

The funding behind the HPE center comes from the National Center for Research Resources, which is part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

According to Kimmel, the HPE center “hope[s] ... to include input from leaders in the field [of gene-drug interaction] throughout the country and the world. For example, we plan to have leaders in the field visit Penn and work with us on the development of the center.”

The center initially will focus on gene-drug interactions of cardiac and oncology compounds, according to Kimmel. “However, we hope to become more broad than this because our main goal is to advance the methods of the field and foster transdisciplinary development that overcomes barriers to progress in the field,” he wrote in an e-mail to GenomeWeb News this week.

He said the center currently employs around 30 investigators; there are no plans to hire additional staff.

“Hopefully, we will have made enough momentum to develop future, independent funding for research projects in the field [of studying gene-drug interactions],” Kimmel wrote in the e-mail. “Also, there is the possibility that NIH will offer future funding that we can apply for that will fund larger efforts.”


NIH Commits More than $14 Million to Broad Institute for National SNP-Genotyping Center

The National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health has awarded more than $14 million over five years to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University to develop a national center for high-throughput genotyping.

The institute, the first of its kind in the US, will serve as a resource for researchers to conduct large-scale studies of SNPs in humans and animals to advance disease gene identification, according to an official statement.

Stacey Gabriel will be the center’s principal investigator and director. Gabriel currently oversees the Broad Institute’s genetic analysis platform, and is scientific director of the Broad Institute’s portion of the International HapMap Project.

The Broad Institute will offer a variety of services for the selection, discovery, and analysis of SNPs, based on three technology platforms: Sequenom’s MassArray, Illumina’s BeadLab, and Affymetrix’ GeneChip, according to Gabriel.

A portion of the center’s annual budget will be used to partially support compelling genotyping research projects, to be selected by a steering committee, the Broad Institute said. The first genotyping studies at the new center will be performed in early 2005, and the center will be taking applications for subsidized research later this fall. Researchers interested in accessing the resource should contact the Broad Institute directly.


GSK to Evaluate Aclara eTag Assays For Cancer Drug Development

GlaxoSmithKline will evaluate Aclara’s eTag assays for their potential use in patient selection for certain GSK targeted cancer therapies, Aclara said this week.

Under the terms of the agreement, GSK will provide Aclara with drug-treated biological samples, and Aclara will test the samples with eTag assays, Aclara said. The companies will then correlate biomarkers with response to the drug.

GlaxoSmithKline will provide funding to Aclara for the study, Aclara said, although it did not disclose specific financial details of the agreement.


NHGRI Awards Perlegen $6 Million To Participate in HapMap Project

Perlegen Sciences has won a $6 million grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute to support the International HapMap Project, the company said this week.

Perlegen will use the funding to employ oligonucleotide arrays made by Affymetrix to genotype more than 2.3 million SNPs in 270 samples — or more than 600 million genotypes, or one cent per SNP — from four populations being studied by the HapMap Project.

Members of the HapMap Consortium are genotyping approximately 1 million SNPs in the 270 samples, or about 270 million genotypes.

In a statement, Perlegen said it will complete all of the genotyping “within one year or less.” The data will be made freely available to all researchers through dbSNP and the HapMap Data Coordination Center at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (http://www.hapmap.org).


Rubicon Licenses DNA-Amplification Technology to Sigma-Aldrich

Rubicon Genomics has granted Sigma-Aldrich an exclusive, worldwide license to GenomePlex, Rubicon’s whole-genome amplification technology, the companies said this week.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sigma-Aldrich will have exclusive worldwide rights to produce and sell GenomePlex kits to the research market. Rubicon, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., will retain all rights to the technology for its core market — molecular diagnostics — as well as for service, the companies said.

Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Rubicon said that GenomePlex amplifies total human DNA at the sub-nanogram level by using random, non-enzymatic fragmentation of genomic DNA followed by the addition of specific adaptor sequences to both ends, forming an in vitro molecular library that can be amplified with conventional techniques.


Mayo Clinic Wins $10.2M NIH Grant to Study Pharmacogenomics of Smallpox

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health has awarded the Mayo Clinic a $10.2 million federal contract to study genetic susceptibility to smallpox and genomic-based risks to the smallpox vaccine, the Mayo Clinic said this week.

The contract, which will pay out over five years, supports the establishment and operation of a Population Genetics Analysis Program at the Mayo Clinic. Greg Poland, head of Mayo’s Vaccine Research Group, will lead the research project, which will study immune-response SNPs that affect an individual’s susceptibility to infection, as well as their response to vaccination. The researchers will also study cellular and hormonal responses to vaccination.

The Mayo Genotyping Share Resource, led by co-investigator Julie Cunningham, will perform the genotyping work, while Mayo biostatisticians and members of the Mayo Advanced Genomics Technology Center will provide informatics support.


ParAllele to Genotype Heart Disease Patients for Novartis

ParAllele BioScience will genotype heart disease patients for Novartis Pharma, ParAllele said this week.

Under the agreement, ParAllele will discover new SNPs in candidate genes provided by Novartis, using its Mismatch Repair Detection technology. These SNPs will then be profiled across a large population of coronary artery disease patients and matched controls to identify disease markers.

ParAllele will have the rights for diagnostic applications, while Novartis, which will pay for the study, plans to use the markers in drug discovery.


ABI Stops Selling HTS’ SPR Array Platform

Applied Biosystems will no longer develop, service, or distribute HTS Biosystems’ surface plasmon resonance array platform, HTS said this week.

From now on, the platform, sold as the 8500 Affinity Chip Analyzer by ABI, will be marketed by HTS Biosystems as the Flexchip Kinetic Analysis System.

As a result of its ongoing business review, ABI decided to stop selling the instrument. “Although we have had a successful relationship with Applied Biosystems, we understand their future market emphasis, and agree that the Flexchip system’s success is best served through specific market focus by HTS,” said Gregory Freitag, HTS’ CEO, in a company statement.

The companies agreed to market the products in 2002.


Becton, Dickinson to Sell Clontech Unit; No Buyer Named

Becton, Dickinson plans to sell its Clontech business, the company said this week.

BD is taking this step because it wants to “focus its strategy on cell analysis, discovery labware, and its new platforms of imaging and in vitro drug metabolism/toxicity testing,” Edward Ludwig, chairman, president and CEO of BD said in a statement.

The planned sale “also allows us to direct our resources toward higher-growth opportunities in the pharmaceutical drug discovery arena,” Ludwig added.

It was not immediately clear when BD planned to sell the unit, or whether it had a buyer. BD said it expects to divest it during its fiscal second quarter, which ends March 31, 2005.

BD estimates that the Clontech unit will have generated approximately $60 million in revenues in fiscal 2004, which ends Sept. 30. BD also said the sale will cause it to record $125 million in pre-tax charges in its fiscal fourth quarter. Clontech’s fiscal 2005 financial results would have been comparable to fiscal 2004 results, BD said.

The company has hired Goldman Sachs to be its financial advisor for the divestiture.

BD will report its fiscal 2004 earnings on Nov. 4. Revenue for the three months ended June 30 were flat at $8 million year over year.

The planned sale comes two months after BD Biosciences, another Becton, Dickinson business division, bought Atto Bioscience in a cash transaction valued at approximately $25 million. Clontech is a unit within BD Biosciences.

Atto is a high-content cell analysis imaging tools developer with sales of $3 million in 2003. In July, Ludwig said BD is buying the firm with the goal of integrating Atto’s imaging platforms and BD’s flow cytometry tools, the company said.


MOgene Becomes Certified Agilent Microarray Service Provider

Agilent Technologies has certified MOgene to become a microarray service provider — the second company in North America to receive this kind of certification, the companies said this week.

The certification validates MOgene’s “ability to provide ... microarray processing and data analysis services” using Agilent microarrays, the companies said.

MOgene launched its microarray services business in March, and has offered research services using Agilent custom and catalog microarrays to researchers at universities, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and agrochemical companies.

Agilent certifies companies “once laboratory personnel complete a training program and the laboratory, as a whole, passes a rigorous set of assessments,” the companies said.

To qualify, a laboratory “must analyze Agilent 60-mer microarrays on the complete Agilent gene expression platform” — which comprises a microarray scanner, hybridization and labeling kits, extraction software, and one of the Rosetta data analysis systems.

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