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CytRx, UMMS, Lentigen, NCI, UC Berkeley, Applera, Bio-Rad


CytRx Expands Alliance With UMMS for Diabetes Drug Discovery

CytRx this week said it has expanded its agreement with the University of Massachusetts Medical School covering several newly discovered novel drug targets that have "demonstrated the ability to regulate insulin activity in fat cells."

Decreased insulin activity is known to contribute to type 2 diabetes, and one of CytRx's drug programs deals with this disease.

UMMS has to date screened more than 700 "possible" drug targets in fat cells for regulation of insulin action and fatty acid metabolism. Through this process, the school has "discovered many promising targets that have never before been identified as having involvement with type 2 diabetes," Michael Czech, professor and chair of molecular medicine at UMMS, said in the statement.

These targets were identified using RNAi screening technology through CytRx's existing collaborative program with UMMS, the company said. CytRx now plans to develop small-molecule drugs based on these newly licensed targets.

Two of these targets regulate a "well-known" fat-burning metabolic pathway that "has been the focus of significant interest to several large pharmaceutical companies," Steven Kriegsman, president and CEO of CytRx, said in a statement. "Our strategy is to secure a significant pharmaceutical or biotechnology partnership to assist with resources as we develop drugs that alter the activity of these novel targets."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Lentigen Wins $100K Award from Maryland Business Agency

Lentigen has received $100,000 from Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development Challenge Investment Program, the company said this week.

Lentigen said the cash will help it continue to develop and commercialize its "key" lentiviral technology.

NCI RFA Offers $3M for Developing Molecular Technologies

The National Cancer Institute this week allocated nearly $3 million for research on developing cancer-relevant molecular technologies, according to a request for applications published on the National Institutes of Health web site.

NCI said it expects to award between 10 and 15 new and/or competing continuation grants for periods up to two or three years, depending on the award mechanism.

The institute will consider proposals that involve methods and tools to enable research, including instrumentation, techniques, and devices. Molecular technologies are distinct from resources such as databases, individual reagents, therapeutic agents, and tissue repositories, which are not included under this initiative.

The receipt dates for intents are Jan. 23 and April 26. The applications must be received by Feb. 22 and May 26.

UC Berkeley Researchers Identity Seconod RNAi Pathway in T. thermophilia

Two researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have identified a second RNAi pathway in Tetrahymena thermophilia, thus introducing a "heretofore unprecedented layer of complexity to small RNA biology in unicellular organisms," they said in a statement this week.

In their article, which appears in this week's issue of Genes & Development, Kathleen Collins and a graduate researcher in her lab describe a "distinct" class of 23-24-nt small RNAs that accumulate ubiquitously throughout the Tetrahymena life cycle.

This class of sRNAs has "unique features" compared with the previously identified class of 27-30-nt RNAs in the organism, the researchers said in their statement, suggesting that "they participate in a second, distinct RNAi pathway.

Suzanne Lee, first author on the study, explains that "further study of this new class of small RNAs will allow us to elucidate the diversity of sRNA functions in Tetrahymena and discover mechanisms for biogenesis and regulation with potential implications for sRNAs in other systems."

Applera, Bio-Rad to Discuss Settling PCR Infringement Suit …

Applera and Bio-Rad Laboratories have entered settlement discussions regarding their ongoing PCR patent infringement lawsuit, the companies said this week.

"The goal of these discussions is a resolution of all outstanding disputes in the US between the two companies," Applera and Bio-Rad said in a statement.

Applera and Roche Molecular Systems originally filed suit against MJ Research in the US District Court for the District of Connecticut in June 1998. A jury decided in favor of Applera and Roche in 2004, and Bio-Rad acquired MJ in August of that year.

In September, Applera announced that the court had issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Bio-Rad from manufacturing, selling, or servicing infringing thermal cycler products in the US — despite Bio-Rad's claim that the companies had settled the suit on Aug. 29.

Last month, the court denied a motion from MJ to "enforce" the settlement agreement, and Bio-Rad said that it planned to appeal the court's decision.

Applera and Bio-Rad said today that "various post-trial motions remain pending in the case," and that "no further details of the discussions have yet been made public."

… As Applera Sets to Pay Undisclosed Sum to Genetic Technologies to Settle IP-Infringement Suit

Applera this week has agreed to pay Genetic Technologies an undisclosed amount to settle their ongoing patent-infringement suit surrounding the firm's junk DNA gene-testing technologies, according to Genetic Technologies.

While details of the 18-hour mediation session that resulted in the settlement remain confidential, the companies executed several binding agreements, including a final settlement agreement, a license agreement, and a supply agreement, according to an announcement made to Gene Technologies' shareholders today. All claims and counterclaims will be dismissed, the firm said.

The technologies on which the case was built represents the only US patent on the use of non-coding DNA markers for gene testing.

Genetic Technologies originally sued Applera and two other US companies in March 2003 for not purchasing licenses and paying royalties. The other companies settled separately in November 2004. Applera agreed to pursue further negotiations on Oct. 13, and both sides agreed to a settlement on Dec. 9.

The Scan

Expanded Genetic Testing Uncovers Hereditary Cancer Risk in Significant Subset of Cancer Patients

In Genome Medicine, researchers found pathogenic or likely pathogenic hereditary cancer risk variants in close to 17 percent of the 17,523 patients profiled with expanded germline genetic testing.

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy Embryos Appear Largely Normal in Single-Cell 'Omics Analyses

Embryos produced with spindle transfer-based mitochondrial replacement had delayed demethylation, but typical aneuploidy and transcriptome features in a PLOS Biology study.

Cancer Patients Report Quality of Life Benefits for Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

Immune checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy was linked in JAMA Network Open to enhanced quality of life compared to other treatment types in cancer patients.

Researchers Compare WGS, Exome Sequencing-Based Mendelian Disease Diagnosis

Investigators find a diagnostic edge for whole-genome sequencing, while highlighting the cost advantages and improving diagnostic rate of exome sequencing in EJHG.