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Blueprint Initiative, BD Diagnostics, BioVision, NIH, NCI, Ciphergen, Milliporem, Wiley-VCH, GeneBio, Shimadzu, University of Tokyo, PerkinElmer, Beckman Coulter, Luminex, Invitrogen, Dynal, NYU

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Blueprint Lays Off Half its Staff in Face of
Funding Gap, But Says BIND Will Stay Online

The Blueprint Initiative, a non-profit research program housed at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Toronto's Mt. Sinai Hospital, was forced to lay off 33 people, or around half its staff, this week as it faces a gap in its funding.

The project, which was awarded Can$29 million ($23.1 million) in 2003 to continue development of the BIND (Biomolecular Interaction Network Database) resource, has been unable to secure additional funds once its primary grant from Genome Canada expires on June 30, Christopher Hogue, principal investigator for Blueprint, told ProteoMonitor.

"The grant is non-renewable, and we have not been able to find continued support from either the Canadian federal or provincial government to continue the project," Hogue said.

He said that the initiative has applied for a follow-on grant with Genome Canada, but the agency hasn't finished its review process yet, "and it also looks like they wouldn't have any funds available for that round until January. So there well and truly is a gap."

Marcel Chartrand, vice president of communications for Genome Canada, said that the funding agency has just completed due diligence on its third funding round since it was launched in 2001. The Canadian Government has allocated Can$165 million for Genome Canada in its 2005 budget.

"In relative terms, it's not very much money," Chartrand said. "The demand is so large and the size of the projects — BIND and others — are multi-million dollars. We won't be able to fund more than 25 projects at the very most over that period of time."

Hogue said that Blueprint will spend the next two months "winding down" the project in Toronto and moving its curation capabilities to Blueprint Asia, the initiative's Singapore facility, which it opened last summer.

"We're continuing to look for a solution for the funding here in Ontario, but it hasn't come in time to lay off roughly half of our staff," Hogue said.

Hogue said that the initiative has just entered discussions with several provincial funding agencies, "so we're hopeful."

In the meantime, he said, "BIND will continue to operate, Mt. Sinai Hospital will continue to run the servers, and curation will prevail in Singapore."

Hogue said that he has spoken to Blueprint's supporters in Singapore — which include Singapore's economic development board, the Genomics Institute of Singapore, and the National University of Singapore — about the possibility of expanding Blueprint's operations there.

In addition, Blueprint is keeping its options open. "We're happy to talk with another jurisdiction that would consider funding [the project]," he said.

Hogue said that Blueprint's development work on Science's Signal Transduction Knowledge Environment Connections Maps database, which is funded separately by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will not be affected by the funding crisis.


BD Diagnostics Acquires IP from
Protein-Separation Firm FFE Weber

BD Diagnostics, a segment of Becton Dickinson, has acquired the technology and other assets of FFE Weber, a German company that specializes in the separation and fractionation of complex proteins.

Located near the Max-Planck Institute in Munich, FFE Weber manufactures and sells the Free Flow Electrophoresis protein-separation system. The technology enables a pre-analytical protein separation step "that, when used in combination with high performance liquid chromatography, 2D-gel and mass spectrometry-based protein analytical procedures, allows deeper interrogation into the plasma proteome than is possible with current methodologies," BD said in a statement.

The acquisition "represents an important step in BD's strategy to invest in emerging technologies which position the company in areas that hold promise for new diagnostic methods, such as the evolution of protein biomarker research into the clinical diagnostic lab of the future," Edward Ludwig, BD chairman, President and CEO, said in the statement.

Gerhard Weber, who founded FFE Weber and has functioned as owner and lead inventor for "many years," will "work closely" with BD after the sale.

The financial terms were not disclosed, though BD said they "are not material" to the company.


BioVision Sells ImVision Spin-Off to Swiss Investment Shop

Germany-based peptide-identification company BioVision has sold its ImVision spin-off to Swiss life-science investment company Nextech, the company said this week.

ImVision develops immunotherapeutics based on its Modular-Antigen-Transport technology to treat allergic diseases, infectious diseases, and "possibly" cancer. The technology was developed by BioVision and the Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research.

As a biological research organization, BioVision offers "mainly" services for peptide biomarker discovery "but pursues also selected in-house research projects," BioVision Chief Business Officer Rainer Voegeli said in a statement. "It is the policy of BioVision to partner or to sell projects which have reached development status. ImVision is the first, others will follow."

Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed.


NIH Announces Biomarker Validation Funding Opportunity

The National Institutes of Health issued last week an initiative designed to validate candidate biomarkers for various human diseases for which the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases expects to fund up to 10 new grants per year.

According to the announcement, the effort is looking for biomarkers for well-defined "diseases of liver, kidney, urological tract, digestive and hematologic systems, and endocrine and metabolic disorders, diabetes and its complications, and obesity, for which there are no or very few biomarkers, or for which standard biomarkers are currently prohibitively invasive or expensive.

Especially of interest would be studies designed to test the validity of candidate biomarkers or new technologies to monitor candidate biomarkers in patient tissue samples or small groups of well-characterized patients."

Both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are eligible for funding under the program announcement, the NIH said. The initiative includes, but is not limited to, studies in well-characterized patients or in biological samples from well-characterized patients that show that a biomarker or a set of biomarkers is unique for a disease of interest.

The studies are also limited to humans to determine whether a biomarker correlates well with pathogenesis, disease processes, progression or regression of disease, response to therapy, or accepted clinical endpoints. Furthermore, studies will aim to design or improve the biomarker assay system and to make it, among other things, repeatable, quantitative, and translatable to many laboratories, or to fall within costs that are appropriate for clinical use.

The program is set to run until September 2008. Additional details can be found here. Awards will use the NIH Research Project Grant (R01) and Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) award mechanisms, the NIH added.


NCI to Evaluate Ciphergen's Protein Microarray in Ovarian Cancer Studies

The US National Cancer Institute will evaluate Cipergen's ProteinChip platform as part of an effort to identify technology capable of detecting protein patterns that can classify cancer states, Ciphergen said last week.

The NCI Clinical Proteomics Reference Laboratory will examine the company's ProteinChip Series 4000 platform, as well as associated arrays and bioinformatics suites, to study biomarker patterns indicative of ovarian cancer, the company said.

The company did not disclose any financial details associated with the agreement.


Millipore Inks Deal to Include
Fluorescence Membranes In QDC Kits

Millipore said this week that it has signed an agreement under which its Immobilon-FL fluorescence membranes will be included in QDC's Western blotting kits.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.


Wiley-VCH to Distribute GeneBio's
Proteomics Training Portal Outside Japan

Wiley-VCH will distribute GeneBio's web-based proteomics training portal, e-Proxemis.

Under terms of the agreement, Wiley-VCH will be the exclusive sales agent to market and distribute the e-Proxemis outside of Japan.

E-Proxemis is adapted for the web from Proxemis, GeneBio's classroom tutorial designed to be used as the basis for a weeklong class on proteomics.


Shimadzu, University of Tokyo to Jointly
Identify Disease Genes and Biomarkers

Shimadzu and the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Tokyo plan to jointly conduct genomic and proteomic analyses with the goal of identifying new disease-related genes and biomarkers.

Further information was not immediately provided.


PerkinElmer Life and Analytical
Sciences Revenue Up 6 Percent in Q1

PerkinElmer last week reported a 6-percent rise in first-quarter 2005 revenue from its Life and Analytical Sciences unit, and revenue growth for the quarter of 6 percent for the company overall.

PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences revenues for the first three months of 2005 increased to $264.8 million from $249.2 million year over year. The company attributed the growth to "strong growth in genetic screening, medical imaging, environmental and service."

The unit's other businesses include "biopharma" and "biotech imaging."

The company's overall revenues for the quarter were $416.3 million, up $23.6 million from first-quarter 2004 revenues of $392.6 million.

Net income in the first quarter rose from $13.2 million, or $.15 per share, in 2004 to $19.8 million, or $.10 per share, in 2005.

R&D spending in the period grew to $23.6 million from $20.2 million in the similar quarter of 2004.

As of April 3, the company reported cash and cash equivalents of $184.2 million, with total current assets of $743.2 million.


Beckman's Q1 Revenues Up 7 Percent, Profit Jumps 16 Percent

Beckman Coulter this week reported a 7-percent increase in first-quarter revenues and a 16-percent jump in net earnings.

Revenues for the quarter ended March 31 increased to $576.1 million from $536.8 million during the same period last year. Both the company's Clinical Diagnostics and Biomedical Research divisions contributed about equally to this increase.

Research and development costs remained flat at $48 million.

Beckman's net income for the quarter increased to $41.4 million, or $.62 per share, from $35.6 million, or $.54 per share, during the same period last year.

As of March 31, Beckman Coulter had $105.2 million in cash and cash equivalents.


Revenues Flat, Net Losses Balloon at Luminex in Q1

Flat revenues and a surge in net loss greeted Luminex investors at the end of the first quarter of 2005, according to documents filed last week with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Austin, Tex.-based company reported revenues of $9.3 million for the period ended March 31, 2005, a rise of $25,000 over first-quarter 2004 revenues.

Net loss for the recent period grew 48 percent to $298,000 from $143,000 year over year. Per-share net loss for the first quarter of 2005 was $.01, and $.00 for the first quarter of 2004.

The company invested an additional $59,000 in research and development, reporting expenses in that category of $1 million in the current quarter of 2005, compared to $958,000 in the similar quarter of 2004.

Cash and cash equivalents on hand at the end of the recent quarter amounted to $14.3 million.


Invitrogen's Q1 Revenues Up 10 Percent,
Earnings Quadruple Thanks to Dynal Purchase

Invitrogen last week reported a 10-percent increase in revenues and quadrupled earnings for the first quarter of 2005.

Revenues for the quarter totaled $277.1 million, up from $251.3 million during the year-ago period. Both Invitrogen's BioDiscovery and BioProduction segments contributed to this increase.

Research and development expenses increased to $21.2 million from $15.7 million during the first quarter of 2004.

The company's net income increased to $47.1 million, or $.82 per share, from $10.5 million, or $.19 per share, during last year's first quarter. Included in this quarter's income is a gain of $21 million related to the hedging activity associated with Invitrogen's acquisition of Dynal.

As of March 31, Invitrogen had $1 billion in cash and investments.


NYU Opens New Labs For Its Comparative
Functional Genomics Center

New laboratories for genomic research were officially opened this week at New York University. The laboratories are part of the university's Center for Comparative Functional Genomics.

The new laboratories, located on the seventh floor of NYU's Brown Building, contain state-of-the-art imaging devices which will be used for analyzing genomes and dissecting signaling pathways.

NYU's Center for Comparative Functional Genomics was founded in 2000. It is a collaboration between the university's biology, math, medicine, anthropology, and chemistry departments.

The Scan

Gone, But Now Reconstructed SARS-CoV-2 Genomes

In a preprint, a researcher describes his recovery of viral sequences that had been removed from a common database.

Rare Heart Inflammation Warning

The Food and Drug Administration is adding a warning about links between a rare inflammatory heart condition and two SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, Reuters reports.

Sandwich Sampling

The New York Times sent tuna sandwiches for PCR analysis.

Nature Papers Describe Gut Viruses, New Format for Storing Quantitative Genomic Data, More

In Nature this week: catalog of DNA viruses of the human gut microbiome, new dense depth data dump format to store quantitative genomic data, and more.