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Short Reads: May 1, 2009


Jane Rogers, last seen at the Sanger Institute, will be the director of the brand new Genome Analysis Centre, set to open in Norwich, UK, this summer. The main source of funding is from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The research facility, which may create up to 750 jobs, will focus on the sequence and analysis of plants, animals, and microbes.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation gave $1 million in grants to 10 researchers, including $400,000 for biomarker studies and DNA mapping, gene expression, and microRNA studies. The Creativity Awards grant $100,000 for one year to researchers who have not previously received foundation funding.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded $106 million to three genome sequencing centers: $43 million apiece to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the J. Craig Venter Institute, and $20 million to the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The sequencing projects conducted at these centers will include microorganisms that are considered bioterror pathogens, clinical isolates, closely related strains, invertebrate disease carriers, and microorganisms that may be responsible for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Life Technologies is in the process of adding 50 new jobs to its facilities in Frederick, Md. The positions will be in R&D, manufacturing, custom services, IT, and distribution.

Qiang Zhang has been named director of the Hamner Center for Dose Response Modeling at the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences. He will lead the center's systems biology efforts to understand non-linear biological response networks and to develop computational methodologies for understanding cellular pathways and toxic response.

Codon Devices shut down operations. The synthetic biology company, co-founded by George Church, Jay Keasling, and Drew Endy, among others, had raised $11 million in private financing last year.

The Georgia Institute of Technology will partner with Saint Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta to study the genetics and cell biology involved in pancreatic cancer. The partnership involves studying tissue and serum samples with microarray technologies to find genetic and cellular differences between normal and tumor cells.

Biotage expects to cut around 65 jobs at its Charlottesville, Va., operations. The firm will retain around 10 employees, who will move to the new office in North Carolina.

William Petri at the University of Virginia will use a $6.8 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work on a collaboration with the foundation and with the National Institutes of Health to study genetic factors involved in malnutrition. Meanwhile, Washington University microbiologist Jeffrey Gordon will lead a project to investigate whether gut microbes contribute to severe malnutrition. That effort has received a three-year, $5.5 million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation.

Indiana University received $8 million from the National Science Foundation for a four-year, multi-center study of the genetics and genomics of what the school called "economically important and evolutionarily interesting plants." Collaborating researchers hail from the University of California, Davis; the University of Massachusetts, the University of Georgia; and California State Polytechnic University.

The American Association for Clinical Chemistry and ARUP Laboratories, a national reference lab owned by the University of Utah, announced the publication of new guidelines for researchers reporting on quantitative real-time PCR studies. The "Minimum Information for Publication of Quantitative Real-Time PCR Experiments," or MIQE, guidelines appear in the April Clinical Chemistry.

The US National Center for Research Resources gave $22.7 million to the University of Cincinnati to open a translational research center that will partner with regional hospitals and launch studies using technologies such as proteomics, gene transfer, bioinformatics, and imaging.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation awarded C$26 million to a number of institutions and centers to support several research projects, including biomedical studies using proteomics, genetics, molecular biology, and biomedical imaging. Funding went to McGill University, the University of British Columbia, Queens University, and the University of Montreal, among many others.

Computational biologist Philip Bourne was chosen as the winner of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award in the Life Sciences. The University of California, San Diego, scientist was nominated for his work with the Protein Data Bank and as founding editor-in-chief of PLoS Computational Biology, among other contributions.

Complete Genomics cut costs, including staff salaries, as the economic climate has delayed the close of its series D funding round. At press time, the company had not had any layoffs and expected to stick to its sequencing service launch date of June.

Jack Lord is the new president and CEO of Navigenics, replacing Mari Baker. Lord was chief innovation officer at Humana and also held positions at the American Hospital Association and Sun Health, among others.

Peter Rogan, who is developing new ways to identify and assess disease-causing genetic variants that can be turned into diagnostics, is the new Canada Research Chair in Genome Bioinformatics at the University of Western Ontario.

Sequencing service provider SeqWright is set to make an undisclosed equity investment in LaserGen, a Houston-based developer of chemistries for next-generation sequencing applications founded by Baylor's Michael Metzker. LaserGen plans to bring its reversible terminator chemistry to market as early as next year.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute will award up to $85 million in funding for a program to challenge research universities to develop creative new ways to teach science to undergraduate students. HHMI has invited nearly 200 US universities to apply for individual grants of up to $2.2 million.

Genetic Alliance named Lisa Wise to the position of chief operating officer and James O'Leary to be chief innovation officer.

The Scan

Study Examines Insights Gained by Adjunct Trio RNA Sequencing in Complex Pediatric Disease Cases

Researchers in AJHG explore the diagnostic utility of adding parent-child RNA-seq to genome sequencing in dozens of families with complex, undiagnosed genetic disease.

Clinical Genomic Lab Survey Looks at Workforce Needs

Investigators use a survey approach in Genetics in Medicine Open to assess technologist applications, retention, and workforce gaps at molecular genetics and clinical cytogenetics labs in the US.

Study Considers Gene Regulatory Features Available by Sequence-Based Modeling

Investigators in Genome Biology set sequence-based models against observational and perturbation assay data, finding distal enhancer models lag behind promoter predictions.

Genetic Testing Approach Explores Origins of Blastocyst Aneuploidy

Investigators in AJHG distinguish between aneuploidy events related to meiotic missegregation in haploid cells and those involving post-zygotic mitotic errors and mosaicism.