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NCI, FDA, NCI, CMS, Sigma-Aldrich, Agilent, Correlagen, Protedyne, Chicago Trust, Genospectra, Qiagen, BD


NCI Earmarks $35.5M Over Five Years for Proteomics Projects

The National Cancer Institute last week said it plans to commit about $35.5 million over the next five years to fund projects designed to accelerate the implementation of proteomic analysis technology in monitoring cancer-relevant proteins and peptides in clinical samples.

In its request for applications, the NCI said it is soliciting research applications from investigators "interested in participation in a collaborative network of up to five clinical proteomic technology assessment for cancer teams," which will work to improve "proteomic analysis platforms to reliably identify, quantify, and compare proteins and peptides in complex biological mixtures typical of clinical specimens, including generally obtainable body fluids."

"This initiative is focused on technology improvement and will not support research on fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms of cancer or on biomarker discovery and validation," the NCI said. "Collectively, the CPTAC teams will function as an interactive network that will be responsible for refining, comparing, and optimizing existing proteomics methods and applications.

"Improvements are sought in areas such as: sample collection and fractionation, and detection, identification, and quantification of proteins or peptides of interest," the NCI said.

R&D Alliance Between FDA, NCI, and CMS to Focus on Cancer Biomarkers, PGx; Industry Could Play Role

The US Food and Drug Administration, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have created a new Oncology Biomarker Qualification Initiative with an aim of using biomarkers, including genomic and proteomic markers, to help develop drugs and diagnostics, the agencies announced this week.

Specific areas of scientific activities include the application of platform technologies for assessing genomic and proteomic alterations, multiplexed molecular assays, and advanced imaging modalities.

As part of the alliance, NCI "seeks to develop technologies to improve the detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer;" FDA "is interested in exploring biomarker technologies as assessment tools for use in FDA guidance to facilitate cancer drug development;" and CMS "is interested in the development of evidence to inform reimbursement decisions making about existing or new treatment regimens."

"The goal of OBQI is to validate particular biomarkers so that they can be used to evaluate new, promising technologies in a manner that will shorten clinical trials, reduce the time and resources spent during the drug development process, improve the linkage between drug approval and drug coverage, and increase the safety and appropriateness of drug choices for cancer patients," the partners said in a statement.

The first OBQI project will study FDG-PET imaging as a predictor of tumor response in patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Under the agreement, the three agencies will collaborate to "develop strategic plans, set priorities and leverage resources, including the private sector, toward the goal of improving the clinical utility of biomarker technology," according to a memo released by NCI.

OBQI will continue to develop public resources, including databases and lab specimens, and seek input from private sector partners through direct research or funding, the NCI said.

Details about the length and funding of the initiative were not immediately available.

Sigma-Aldrich Q4 Revenues Jump 16.7 Percent Atop Increased R&D Spending, Profit

Sigma-Aldrich this week reported a 16.7-percent increase in revenues and a 4.8-percent rise in net income for the fourth quarter.

Sales for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2005, rose to $410.5 million from $351.9 million in the year-ago period. The company's scientific research and biotechnology business units increased by 2.7 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively, year over year.

R&D expenses for the fourth quarter grew 10 percent to $12.2 million from $11.1 million in Q4 2004, Sigma-Aldrich said.

Sigma-Aldrich's net income for the fourth quarter grew to $57.3 million from $54.7 million in Q4 2004.

As of Dec. 31, Sigma-Aldrich had approximately $98.6 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Agilent Posts 10-Percent Rise in Q1 Revenues as Bio-Analytical Segment Grows 6 Percent

Agilent Technologies this week reported a 10-percent rise in first-quarter revenues as orders in its Bio-Analytical Measurement segment rose 6 percent.

The company's total revenues in the quarter ended Jan. 31, 2005, increased to $1.34 billion from $1.21 billion in the year-ago period. Revenues from the Bio-Analytical Measurement segment climbed 5 percent to $373 million from $354 million, while orders rose to $378 million in the quarter from $356 million a year earlier.

Agilent's research and development spending in the first quarter rose to $189 million from $175 million in the year-ago quarter.

The company's first-quarter adjusted net income jumped to $154 million, or $.32 per share, from $71 million, or $.15 per share, the year before. These numbrs excluded charges related to the planned spin off of Agilent's Semiconductor Test Solutions unit and the reduction in infrastructure costs, as well as related non-cash stock compensation expenses.

As of Jan. 31, Agilent had cash and cash equivalents totaling $2.7 billion.

Correlagen Installs Protedyne's BioCube System

Correlagen Diagnostics has installed Protedyne's BioCube System LX 2000 in its Cambridge, Mass., laboratory to automate the Genes That Matter gene testing service, Protedyne said this week.

The company did not provide financial details of the deal.

Chicago Trust Awards $25M-$50M for Systems Bio,
Proteomics Research at Chicago Biomedical Consortium

The Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust has awarded $5 million to the Chicago Biomedical Consortium and plans to continue annual donations in that amount for at least five years, said the consortium last week.

The grant is designed to "support and stimulate innovative multi-institutional collaborations in research and education," said the consortium, which focuses on systems biology and proteomics.

The funds will be used to recruit faculty members in the areas of proteomics and bioinformatics as well as to provide grants, develop infrastructure and educational programs, and foster relationships with Chicago industry.

Under the agreement, the program will be reviewed in its fourth year and possibly renewed for an additional five years.

The CBC was established in 2002 by scientists at Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. As ProteoMonitor reported last January, the consortium received $2 million from the SearleTrusts to acquire a Fourier transform mass spectrometer.

Sigma-Aldrich Buys Stake in Genospectra as Firms Plan to Co-Develop Cell-Based Assay Tools

Sigma-Aldrich has acquired a minority equity stake in Genospectra and has obtained access to various Genospectra technologies as part of a broad R&D alliance, the companies said this week.

As part of the deal, the companies said they plan to develop new technology and products in the area of cell-based assays. In particular, the companies aim to develop live-cell biosensor assay reagents that can provide real-time data on the location and activity of proteins in living cells.

Other terms of the alliance call for Sigma to gain access to Genospectra's QuantiGene gene expression-profiling assay and its nano-particle system for delivery of siRNA and other biomolecules to cells, called its inducible siRNA technologies.

Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Qiagen Reports 9-Percent Increase in Q4 Sales; Consumables Segment Jumps 11 Percent

Qiagen this week reported a 9-percent increase in sales and a 6-percent rise in net profit for the fourth quarter.

Revenues for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2005, increased to $104.3 million from $95.5 million in the year-ago period.

Qiagen's net income for the fourth quarter rose to $16.9 million from $15.8 million in Q4 2004.

The company's consumables business, which contributed about 88 percent to net sales, grew approximately 11 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the same period one year ago.

R&D expenses for the fourth quarter rose to $10.7 million from $9.5 million in Q4 2004, Qiagen said.

As of Dec. 31, Qiagen had approximately $191.7 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand.

BD Completes $230M GeneOhm Acquisition

Becton Dickinson this week said it has completed its acquisition of GeneOhm Sciences for $230 million.

The acquisition was finalized in accordance with terms originally disclosed in an announcement on Jan. 10.

BD said in a statement that the acquisition complements its microbiology play and "validates its commitment to expansion in molecular diagnostics."

Georgia Tech Creates Systems Bio Center; Jeffrey Skolnick Will Run It

The Georgia Institute of Technology has opened a new Center for the Study of Systems Biology, employing "one of the world's most powerful supercomputing clusters," Georgia Tech said last week.

The $8.5 million center is headed by Jeffrey Skolnick, who was named Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Computational Systems Biology in December.

The supercomputer is a 1,000-node cluster 1350 system built on IBM BladeCenter systems and powered by dual-core AMD opteron processors. It is capable of performing 8.5 trillion calculations per second and is the 41st most powerful supercomputer on the November Top500 list, said Georgia Tech.

The center is funded by grants from the State of Georgia, the Georgia Research Alliance, and the National Institutes of Health.


The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.