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DOUBLETWIST DONE UP AND DIED?

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DoubleTwist finally closed its doors on Friday, several unnamed sources told BioInform. Calls to the company, where a receptionist transferred all inquiries to the voicemail of an executive administrative assistant, went unreturned, and several of the company''''s board members also failed to return calls to BioInform. But former DoubleTwist employees said that on Thursday the company told the remaining staff that their last day would be Friday, March 8.

In late January this year, DoubleTwist replaced its CEO John Couch with Rob Williamson, who until then had been president and COO. Rumors swirled throughout the industry that the company had retained an investment bank to find a buyer for the company. But Williamson at the time told BioInform in an e-mail that he was "on track to achieve cash positive operations this year." Williamson added that the scale-down was "a result of achieving marked improvements in operations…We felt that the structure of the management team should reflect this as well and that we only needed one senior executive, as opposed to both a CEO and president."

Though Williamson declined to comment on the company''''s cash position, spokeswoman Nicole Litchfield said that additional funds had been secured from current investors.

DoubleTwist''''s last press release, published January 22, stated that the company had signed on three new customers to its GenomeZone online services —Athersys, DeveloGen, and Elan — and that ExonHit had licensed the Prophecy database and tools suite, Prophecy ToolKit, and Genomatix Promoter Resource database. In addition, DoubleTwist said Chiron had renewed its subscription to the Prophecy suite and licensed the Prophecy ToolKit. At BioInform press time the status of those deals and others was unclear as DoubleTwist customers also did not return calls for comment.

University of Idaho Wins $10.2M Grant for Evolutionary Bioinformatics

 

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Idaho $10.2 million - the largest single research grant in the university''''s history - to apply bioinformatics to the study of evolution of drug resistance in microbes.

As part of the proposal, IU will establish a new Center for Research on Processes in Evolution, to be directed by Larry Forney, head of the biological sciences department. Remaining staff members will be drawn from the university’s mathematics, computer science, and zoology departments.

The UI researchers working on the project have created an informal interdisciplinary group called IBEST (the Initiative for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies).

 

Poll Finds Community Split on Proprietary Data Analysis Tools

 

The Science Advisory Board, an online panel of more than 7,300 life scientists, recently polled its members on whether publicly funded institutions should license bioinformatics tools from commercial vendors in order to analyze public genomic data.

Almost 1,100 scientists responded to the poll, with 38 percent voicing approval of the use of proprietary tools and 41 percent indicating disapproval. The remainder of the respondents (21 percent) were undecided.

In its summary of the poll results, the Science Advisory Board noted that researchers with access to the more sophisticated commercial bioinformatics tools currently “have a distinct advantage” over their peers opting for public tools, but “the public sector is working towards improving its data analysis tools” and “there are likely a significant number of researchers rooting for the development of comparable or even superior government-funded offerings.”

 

Sun Taps U of Calgary as Center of Excellence

 

Sun Microsystems has named the University of Calgary as its latest computational biology “center of excellence.” The Center of Excellence in Visual Genomics at U of C will run four Sun Expert3D graphics accelerators on a Java 3D API-enabled Sun Fire 6800 server and will house an 8’ x 8’ CAVE walk-in virtual room from Fakespace Systems of Kitchener, Ont., Canada.

U of C researchers will use the environment to generate and display 3D models of genomes, organs, and cancer cells. Christoph Sensen, co-founder of the Canadian Bioinformatics Resource, will direct the project.

Sun’s in-kind donation to the project totaled more than $1 million, and included the 20-CPU Sun Fire 6800 server with 20 GB of main memory as well as five terabytes of StorEdge T3 RAID 5-disk arrays, a StorEdge l700 20-TB DLT tape library, and a 5-TB StorEdge L180 DLT tape library.

Federal and provincial governments donated an additional $4 million to the project, in which the U of C facility will collaborate with the University of Edmonton, the University of Lethbridge, the Canadian Bioinformatics Resource, and several biotech companies in Alberta.

 

Celera Sells AgGen Unit, Beefs up CDS Offerings

 

Celera Genomics of Rockville, Md., has sold its AgGen animal genomics and genotyping business to MetaMorphix of Savage, Md.

Under the terms of the agreement, the latest in Celera’s recent series of aggressive moves to focus its operations on its therapeutics business, the company acquired a minority stake in privately held MetaMorphix. In addition, MetaMorphix received a subscription to Celera’s Discovery System, and Celera is entitled to share future revenue from products MetaMorphix generates based on Celera’s livestock databases. Further financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, at the recent CHI Genome Tri-Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Celera unveiled several new CDS features. The product now contains the company’s updated mouse genome assembly, which includes raw sequence data from the public mouse genome’s C57 Black 6 strain and brings the total number of mouse strains in the database to four.

In addition, Celera said that its partnership with Invitrogen, first announced last month, would soon bear fruit in the form of an e-commerce addition to CDS. In “a few weeks,” according to Celera, subscribers will be able to order clones directly from Invitrogen through a link on CDS.

Celera entered a similar clone-ordering partnership with Woburn, Mass.-based AlphaGene in November 2001. While the AlphaGene deal was originally expected to lead to an online ordering feature in CDS by the first quarter of 2002, the project has been delayed due to Celera’s recent restructuring, according to AlphaGene CSO Peter Schad.

The AlphaGene deal “is still on,” said Schad. “We’re ready. In fact, we’re ahead of schedule.”

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