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Hybrigenics, Institute Curie, Whitehead, Iconix Pharmaceuticals, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Platform Computing

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Hybrigenics and Institute Curie Awarded €2.4 M for GenHomme Network

French proteomics company Hybrigenics and cancer research center Institut Curie received a grant of €2.4 million ($2.6 million) last week for joint work on France’s “GenHomme” technological innovation network, a five-year project initiated by the French government to coordinate genomics research between public laboratories, non-profit associations, and industry.

The network has a budget of approximately €150 million ($161 million), and is supported by France’s Ministry of National Education, Research and Technology and the Secretary of State for Industry.

Hybrigenics will receive €1.4 million ($1.5 million) over three years, which will go toward the use of its protein-protein interaction technology and bioinformatics tools. The Institut Curie will receive €1 million. Half of this will be used to finance nine postdoctoral grants for three years, and the other half will support the operating expenses of a joint laboratory it operates together with Hybrigenics in Paris.

Researchers at the Institut Curie will perform functional studies of biological pathways involved in cancer using Hybrigenics’ protein interaction maps for human cancer cells and Drosophila melanogaster cells. The researchers will also “apply new data-processing tools to process heterogeneous data” as part of the collaboration.

Whitehead Releases siRNA Software

The Biocomputing group at MIT’s Whitehead Institute has made available for public use a computational tool to locate siRNA (short interfering RNA) — segments of RNA around 21 nucleotides in length that can selectively silence genes.

“Scientists routinely came to Biocomputing asking how they could more efficiently predict siRNA targets,” said Fran Lewitter, who heads the Biocomputing group. Lewitter enlisted former Whitehead postdoc and siRNA researcher Tom Tuschl to derive a set of rules for determining candidate siRNAs based on qualities such as the size of the siRNA, its two-dimensional structure, and the components that start and stop the strands.

The Biocomputing group then wrote a series of computer programs that made these rules available to researchers through a simple web form. Users can enter the human or mouse genes that they are studying and specify certain criteria, and the program selects and displays potential siRNA sequences that can be used to generate a desired genetic effect.

The explosion of interest in siRNA from both academia and industry over the last year spurred Lewitter’s team to release the technology at http://jura.wi.mit.edu/bioc/siRNA/home.php.

The team is currently working on methods to improve the predictive accuracy of the software and provide a scoring system that will rank the efficacy of possible hits.

 

Iconix to Provide CDER with Chemogenomics Database

Iconix Pharmaceuticals said last week that it had entered an agreement with the US FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) to provide research access to its DrugMatrix database on the genomic effects of drugs, biochemicals, and toxicants.

According to the company, CDER will use the set of chemogenomic data and tools to help it determine the “optimal and minimal content and format of gene expression microarray data submissions linked electronically to standard toxicology and pharmacology study results.” CDER is currently preparing guidance for industry on this issue.

The FDA will also use DrugMatrix to evaluate the required skill sets, tools, and systems architecture required to support assessment of chemogenomics data in the drug review process, Iconix said.

The company is also providing training and support to CDER in quality control methods for gene expression microarray data generation, analysis of data across multiple gene microarray product platforms, and the derivation and validation of markers of toxicity and mechanism from integrated chemogenomic datasets.

 

Report Says Social Issues Are Largest Barrier to Grid Computing

A recent study conducted by distributed computing software firm Platform Computing found that organizational politics — not technology — throws up the largest hurdles to widespread commercial acceptance of grid computing.

The study, which surveyed 50 companies in the life sciences, manufacturing, financial services, and research industries, found that non-technical obstacles such as “server-hugging” — the reluctance to share computational resources with others — outweighed technology issues for 89 percent of the respondents when considering the adoption of grid or distributed computing technology.

Life science firms made up 33 percent of the total respondents.

According to the survey, the top non-technical obstacles include: perceived loss of control or access to resources (44 percent); perceived risks associated with enterprise-wide deployment (40 percent); and perceived loss or reduction of budget dollars (33 percent).

According to Platform, these results suggest “that there is a misalignment of corporate and IT objectives relating to strategic IT decisions. While CEOs measure success based on objectives like improving operational efficiency and launching new products to market faster, some individual departments are measuring success based on size of corporate IT resources and budget.”

Respondents were optimistic about overcoming these obstacles, however, “if the benefits of grid computing were reinforced throughout the organization, and if senior executives understood the strategic value of grid computing to the enterprise.”

“Defining ownership among groups internally, allaying security concerns and identifying the who and how of supporting an enterprise grid are significant obstacles to effective implementation,” said Don Zhao, senior enterprise information systems architect at Aventis, in a statement. “The concepts of collaborating and sharing computing resources in enterprises also require some behavioral changes.”

The complete report is available at www.platform.com/barriers.

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