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SARS, Pfizer, Definiens, Bioinformatics Organization, DeVry University


SARS Sequence Published; P2P Docking Project Underway

Last week, following a “fast track” publication schedule, Science released two online papers on the genomic sequences of two isolates of the coronavirus associated with SARS at sars/index.shtml#genome. The papers offer the first analysis of the coronavirus, and show that it is not closely related to any of the previously characterized coronaviruses.

Meanwhile, the Rothberg Institute’s Drug Design and Optimization Lab (D2OL) has added a SARS target to its peer-to-peer computing project to identify small-molecule drugs to treat anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, and other diseases at

D2OL offers a free docking program that harnesses unused cycle time on participant’s PCs. The program matches hundreds of thousands of small molecules against the disease targets.

According to the D2OL project, the SARS target, dubbed “SARS Target 1,” is “believed to be critical in the life cycle of the coronavirus and drugs selected against it are expected to be virucidal.” A note on the D2OL website explains how the team selected the three-dimensional target: “Scientists working with D2OL have selected a coronavirus protein target that has high conservation between human and animal strains. Three-dimensional structure is actually more resistant to change than primary ‘sequence,’ and hence ‘SARS Target 1’ is expected to have the same functionality and active site across all strains, and potentially allow for selection of compounds with broad activity against all coronovirus strains.”

The project is testing compounds that are readily available, and credible hits will be tested in cell and animal models of the disease.


Pfizer Lays off 2,000 in R&D

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Pfizer is cutting back its research and development activity following its $57 billion acquisition of Pharmacia earlier this month.

According to the report, Pfizer plans to close three of 25 major R&D centers around the world and lay off 2,000 employees. The company said it would concentrate its “early research” activities at four sites in the US; Sandwich, England; and Nagoya, Japan.

Two Pharmacia R&D labs in Skokie, Ill., and South San Francisco, Calif., are slated for closure, as well as a Pfizer facility in Fresnes, France.

The Journal reported that additional jobs would be lost at a Pharmacia research facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Pfizer’s Groton, Conn., site.


Definiens Launches Partner Program

Biomedical text-mining software provider Definiens said last week that it has signed on nine partners for its newly launched Partner Program, an international co-marketing effort.

Definiens said it is offering three participation levels in the initiative: Authorized Distribution Partner, Service Partner, and Solution Partner. New distribution partners include AGB in Ireland and the UK, Greenmate in Korea, Immagini in Italy, ScienceMed in Singapore, ScienceServe in Central Europe, Textronica in Russia, and Tri-I in Taiwan.

Service partners include two German proteomics companies: TopLab and WITA Proteomics.


Bioinformatics.Org Incorporates

The Bioinformatics Organization, an advocacy group for open source bioinformatics software, has officially incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a non-profit organization.

Officers include J.W. Bizzaro of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell (president and chairman), Gary Van Domselaar of Genome Canada (vice president), and Mark Luo of (treasurer).

The organization was founded in 1998 to host open source bioinformatics projects. There are currently more than 6,000 members and 100 hosted projects registered at the group’s website,


DeVry to Offer Biomedical Informatics Degree Program

DeVry University said last week that it will begin offering new degree programs in biomedical informatics, biomedical engineering technology, and health information technology.

DeVry received approval from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to offer two bachelor’s degree programs, one in biomedical informatics and one in biomedical engineering technology, as well as an associate degree program in health information technology. The biomedical informatics degree program will be the first to be offered, beginning in July 2003 at DeVry University’s Denver-area campus.

DeVry said it plans to expand these programs to other campuses pending state approvals.

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