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News Scan: Feb 6, 2009

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MDS Forms Committee to Review 'Alternatives'

MDS this week said that it has formed a committee of independent directors to support the firm's ongoing process of "reviewing alternatives to improve shareholder value."

The committee includes William Anderson, Robert Luba, James MacDonald, and Gregory Spivy, all of whom are independent of management of the company. In addition to the new committee, investment banks Goldman Sachs and RBC Capital Markets are assisting MDS as financial advisors.

The firm said that there is no assurance that the review will result in any specific strategic or financial transaction and no timetable has been set for its completion.

Last summer, MDS undertook a restructuring effort that included laying off 210 employees, aimed at improving profitability in its MDS Pharma Services and MDS Analytical Technologies business units.

In December, MDS reported that its fourth-quarter revenues had declined 4 percent to $322 million. MDS Analytical Technologies, which houses the firm's mass spectrometry and Molecular Devices businesses, had a drop in revenue to $99 million from $108 million. The firm said that the division continues to be impacted by soft demand for high-end instruments.


Boehringer Ingelheim, Cenix in RNAi Research Deal

Cenix BioScience will support Boehringer Ingelheim with RNAi-focused contract research services for its therapeutic drug programs under a new agreement, Cenix said this week.

Cenix will apply its knowledge combining high-throughput applications of RNAi-based gene silencing with phenotypic analysis in what will be a genome-scale screen using cultured human cells. Cenix will use microscopy-based assays it developed to complement proprietary assays developed by Boehringer Ingelheim to generate information about the cellular functions and loss-of-function phenotypes of analyzed genes.

Financial terms of the agreement were not released.


Life Technologies Files IP Suit against Molecular Devices

Life Technologies has filed a patent infringement suit against MDS and its Molecular Devices business related to dyes used in research assay kits.

In the suit, which was filed last week in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Life Technologies alleges that MDS Analytical Technologies, which houses the Molecular Devices business, is infringing its patent by selling assay kits that include fluorine-substituted fluorescent dye. Life Technologies specifically named a variety of FLIPR Calcium Assay Kits as infringing products in the suit.

The patent at the center of the suit is US No. 6,162,931, and is entitled, "Fluorinated xanthene derivatives." The patent was issued in December 2000 to Molecular Probes, which was subsequently acquired by Invitrogen — now known as Life Technologies following its merger last year with Applied Biosystems.

Life Technologies claims that MDS and Molecular Devices have willfully infringed the patent and therefore it is entitled to triple damages. Among other requests, it also asked the court to order the defendants to deliver to them all products located within the US that allegedly infringe the patent for destruction at the plaintiff's option.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.