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Invitrogen, ABI, Prolexys, Biosystem International, Assay Designs, Abnova, Genstruct, Biomarker Consortium, NIH

Invitrogen, ABI Change Name of Merged Firm
Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems said this week that the new firm resulting from their merger will be called Life Technologies instead of Applied Biosystems as had been announced earlier.
“As we moved through the integration process and gained greater clarity around the vision for our joint company, the new management team felt that the Life Technologies name best symbolizes the promise of what we can accomplish together,” Greg Lucier, CEO of Invitrogen and who will assume the same role with Life Technologies, said in a statement.
Instruments and systems solutions will continue being sold under the ABI name, while the combined company’s reagents will be sold under the Invitrogen name. The new company’s stock will be traded on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol “LIFE.”
The $6.7 billion merger recently received shareholder approval and is awaiting approval from European regulators.

Prolexys Raises $20M to Develop Cancer Drug
Prolexys Pharmaceuticals announced this week it has received $20 million in a Preferred Series A1 round, which it will use to advance the clinical development of a molecule that has shown anti-tumor activity.
The funding round was led by Friedli Corporate Finance, whose Chairman and CEO, Peter Friedl, is on Prolexys’ board.
Prolexys is currently conducting a Phase 1 study on PRLX 93936, a small molecule that has shown “potent and selective” anti-tumor activity in disease models representative of colon, lung, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer, several sarcoma subtypes, and multiple myeloma. The study is assessing the safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of PRLX 93936. The money will be used to further fund the study. It also will be used to develop back-up molecules to PRLX 93936, said Sudhir Sahasrabudhe, scientific founder and CSO of Prolexys, in a statement.
Based in Salt Lake City, Prolexys develops small-molecule drugs using its proprietary proteomics technology platform. The company had previously raised $85 million. The funds announced this week represent the first round since it moved to drug development from proteomics technology development, however.

Biosystems Receives $4.5M for Cancer Dx Development
Biosystems International said last week it has received an infusion of €3.5 million ($4.5 million) in venture capital from pharmaceutical firm SGAM AI and private investors.
The funds will be used for the research and development of lung, colon, and breast cancer diagnostics to be marketed in 2010. The transaction gives SGAM AI first-refusal rights for the distribution of BI’s diagnostics.
Benchmarks that preceded the funding had “demonstrated the company’s potential as a market leader in the field of monoclonal antibody-based cancer diagnostics,” said Laszlo Takacs, CSO of BI, which discovers and develops biomarkers and antibodies.
The company is currently focused on developing diagnostics for cancer and metabolic diseases, and antibody arrays for plasma proteome profiling.

Assay Designs Distributes Abnova Antibodies in US and Canada
Assay Designs will distribute about 3,200 monoclonal antibodies developed and characterized by Abnova under an agreement announced this week.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The agreement covers the US and Canada and expands Assay Designs’ portfolio to more than 5,300 reagents.
“Abnova’s capacity to develop and produce antibodies is very complementary to our current antibody and immunoassay business, and affords our customer base easy access to their most highly characterized monoclonals for applications such as ELISA, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence, as well as Western blotting,” said Dan Calvo, CEO of Assay Designs.
Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Assay Designs develops and manufactures immunoassay kits, luminescent reagents, antibodies, proteins and extracts. Abnova, based in Taiwan, specializes in automated, high-throughput protein expression and antibody production.

Genstruct Joins Biomarker Consortium
Genstruct this week said it has become a member of the Biomarker Consortium.
The consortium was founded by the National Institutes of Health, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America to identify and qualify biomarkers “to support basic and translational research, guide clinical practice, and ultimately support the development of safe and effective medicines and treatments,” the company said in a statement.
Other members of the consortium include drug manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Digilab Biovision.
Genstruct’s Causal Network Modeling platform allows scientists “to break down cognitive barriers that impede critical path research. Genstruct’s computable models of biology lead directly to the discovery of compound mechanisms of action and biomarkers of safety and efficacy,” the company said. 

New NIH Policy to Support New Investigators
The National Institutes of Health has revised its policies to ensure that new investigators and early-stage investigators are supported at the same success rates as established investigators submitting new applications.
In a notice released last week, NIH clarified its policy for researchers it considers to be New Investigators, who have not yet received an R01 research grant, and Early Stage Investigators, which NIH defines as New Investigators who are also within 10 years of completing a terminal research degree or medical residency.
One way NIH hopes to improve the record of these investigators in winning first-time grants will be to encourage them to apply for traditional R01 funding opportunities. NIH said in the notice that it has seen an increase in the use of Small Grants (R03), and NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants (R21), which has resulted in a smaller percentage of ESIs applying for and obtaining R01 funding.
Because R03 and R21 grants are limited in scope and in period of support, NIH added, “they may not be the most effective way to launch an independent research career." Thus, NIH said it will particularly encourage early stage investigators to apply for R01 funding opportunities.
By encouraging these investigators to apply for these grants, NIH hopes to “accelerate the transition to an independent scientific career with substantive NIH career support.” 
These applicants will be identified so that their career stages may be considered, and NIH expects that these ESIs will make up a majority of the new investigators. In order for NIH to reach its goal to fund these early-career researchers, it expects to “continue to rely on a pool of high quality R01 applications from New Investigators,” but that will require tweaking its policy.
NIH said that there is concern that new investigators “do not fare as well in peer review as those from established investigators,” and that they receive fewer awards than experienced investigators when they are compared against applications from more experienced scientists. To hurdle this issue, NIH plans to cluster applications from early investigators together so that they may be reviewed together and improve their success rate.

These applicants may perform better because their applications “will be more effectively evaluated when judged against other applications from individuals at the same career stage.”

The Scan

Study Links Genetic Risk for ADHD With Alzheimer's Disease

A higher polygenic risk score for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is also linked to cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease, a new study in Molecular Psychiatry finds.

Study Offers Insights Into Role of Structural Variants in Cancer

A new study in Nature using cell lines shows that structural variants can enable oncogene activation.

Computer Model Uses Genetics, Health Data to Predict Mental Disorders

A new model in JAMA Psychiatry finds combining genetic and health record data can predict a mental disorder diagnosis before one is made clinically.

Study Tracks Off-Target Gene Edits Linked to Epigenetic Features

Using machine learning, researchers characterize in BMC Genomics the potential off-target effects of 19 computed or experimentally determined epigenetic features during CRISPR-Cas9 editing.