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MWG Biotech, Microsoft, NIGMS, Isis Pharmaceuticals

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MWG Biotech Signs Distribution Partnership with VWR

MWG Biotech of Ebersberg, Germany, said that it has entered a sales distribution agreement with VWR International of West Chester, Pa.

VWR will become MWG Biotech’s distributor to the pharmaceutical market and will market and sell MWG Biotech’s line of sequencing and microarray products in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Financial details of the agreement were not provided.

VWR sells and distributes globally, a wide portfolio of scientific products.


Microsoft Co-Founder Commits $100M to New Institute, Gene Expression ‘Brain Atlas’

Investor, philanthropist, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has committed $100 million in seed money to launch the nonprofit Allen Institute for Brain Science — a Seattle-based neuroscience research organization whose first project will be creating a map of the mammalian brain at the cellular level.

The so-called Allen Brain Atlas will present gene expression data within the context of brain circuitry and cell location. The project is expected to take approximately five years, with the first release of data scheduled for the first quarter of 2004.

“Over the last decade I have become increasingly interested in the fields of genomics and neuroscience, and their important role in human development, behavior, and health,” Allen said in a statement.

The Atlas will be accessible in the public domain, Allen said. “[B]y collaborating with scientific experts around the world, we believe this is a historic opportunity to unite the genome and the brain — and use the data and technology to tackle the challenges of neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and psychiatric disease.”

The project will initially build a gene expression atlas of the brain of a mouse using publicly available mouse genome data, relying on comparative genomics to transfer findings about the mouse brain to human. Further information about the project is available here.


NIGMS Awards $31M to Harvard, MIT for Centers of Excellence

Research teams at Harvard and MIT have been awarded $31 million in grants from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to develop so-called Centers of Excellence in Complex Biomedical Systems Research, NIGMS said earlier this week.

In Aug. 20002 NIGMS established two Centers of Excellence in Complex Biomedical Systems at the University of Washington and Case Western Reserve University, but these grants are the largest awarded so far.

Under the program, Harvard’s Bauer Center for Genomics Research has been awarded a five-year $15 million grant, and MIT’s Computational and Systems Biology Initiative has been awarded $16 million over the next five years.

The grants to the Centers of Excellence in Complex Biomedical Systems Research, in general, are intended to facilitate research on complex patterns of biological interactions through analysis of the data on individual molecules generated through genomics and other molecular biology research over the decades, NIGMS said.

The Harvard center, which is being led by Andrew Murray, director of the Bauer Center, will focus on the theme of “modular biology,” or how different groups of genes and proteins work together in executing different biological functions.

The Harvard researchers will collaborate with colleagues at Stanford, University of Calgary, Caltech, and the Weizmann Institute of Science and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

MIT’s center, which is being led by Peter Sorger and Bruce Tidor, co-chairs of CSBi, along with and Brigitta Tadmor, CSBi executive director, will hone its studies on systems biology — and in particular biological circuits in human cells and tissues.


Isis Reports Positive Phase II Results for Second-Generation Antisense Drug

Isis Pharmaceuticals’ second-generation antisense drug, ISIS 104838, has reduced TNF-alpha mRNA levels in synovial tissue and stabilized levels of TNF-alpha in blood, according to interim results of a Phase 2a clinical trial in rheumatoid arthritis patients that were receiving 300 mg of the drug, the company said this week.

The company plans to present its final results at the American College of Rheumatology meeting Oct. 24-28.

The trial was designed to evaluate the drug’s ability to reach synovial tissue and reduce blood levels of TNF-alpha, as well as its levels in synovial tissue. It also looked at the pharmacological effect of this inhibition in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The abstract from these results is available at the ACR’s website www.rheumatology.org.