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InforMax, DNA Patenting, Wash U, NIGMS and NSF

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In its 10-Q quarterly earnings report filed with the SEC on August 14, InforMax warned that it has been notified by Nasdaq that it is not in compliance with the $1.00 minimum bid listing requirement for continued listing on the Nasdaq National Market.

As a result, InforMax has until October 29, 2002, to demonstrate a closing bid price of at least $1.00 per share or more for a minimum of ten consecutive trading days. If the company fails to do so, it risks delisting.

InforMax has been trading under $1.00 since June 24. As of August 29, it was trading at $0.63.

The company notes in its 10-Q filing that it is “considering several options” to regain compliance with the Nasdaq listing requirements, “as well as an application for a voluntary transfer of trading of our common stock to Nasdaq’s SmallCap Market,” which would require trading of its stock to be conducted in the over-the-counter market in the so-called “pink sheets” or on the electronic bulletin board of the National Association of Securities Dealers.

The company also said that following its restructuring earlier in the year, which reduced its headcount by 60 employees, and “significant turnover” in senior management personnel, “certain portions of our office space are under-utilized and we are seeking to sublease some of this office space to offset a portion of our fixed costs associated with such leases.”

 

Report Questions DNA Patenting in the Bioinformatics Age

A recent report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, The Ethics of Patenting DNA, recommends a number of significant changes to the way international patents are granted involving DNA sequences identified using computational approaches.

The report, prepared by an international group of experts, proposes an ethical framework for gene patenting with recommendations aimed at policy-makers, courts, patent lawyers, and patent offices. “We are concerned that, for patents involving DNA, the patent system is in danger of not achieving its main goal — to stimulate innovation for the public good,” said Sandy Thomas, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

The patent system in the US, Europe, and Japan considers DNA sequences as eligible for patenting, once isolated from their natural environment, as long as they can be proven novel, inventive, and useful. However, when applied to DNA sequences, the report argues that these three tests are increasingly problematic, largely due to the ease by which new genes may be identified through database searches or other computational techniques.

“As computational techniques replace cloning as the main route to identifying genes, the issue for the eligibility for patenting of DNA sequences needs to be reopened,” stated the authors in the report. “The fact that DNA sequences obtained by cloning have in the past been regarded as eligible for patenting does not imply that they should continue to be eligible for patenting when they can be identified from databases constructed by others.”

The full report is available for download at: http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org.

 

Wash U Mulls Pharmacogenomics Database Project

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported that the impending departure of Washington University’s Robert Waterston has raised questions about the future role of the university’s formidable Genome Sequencing Center.

According to the Post-Dispatch, university officials are contemplating a new focus on pharmacogenomics, with the goal of building databases that link human genomic data with diseases in order to build predictive model to indicate the likelihood of disease occurrence for individuals.

Michael Douglas, the university’s associate vice chancellor for technology management, said the project, which will eventually create databases to be used by HMOs, is “in the talking stage,” but may require “some kind of consortium” to make it fly.

Waterston will begin his new post as chair of the University of Washington School of Medicine’s department of genome sciences in January.

 

NIGMS and NSF Support Joint Work in Math and Biology

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Science Foundation recently announced that they would jointly award 20 grants totaling more than $24 million in mathematical biology over the next five years.

Recipients include Ye Ding of the New York State Department of Health for the development of statistical tools for RNA folding prediction, Richard Durrett of Cornell University for probability and statistics problems concerning DNA sequence and genome evolution, Ker-Chau Li of the University of California, Los Angeles, for exploring gene expression data, and Tamar Schlick of New York University for a pilot study in the analysis, design, and prediction of RNA structures.

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