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Nobel Prize, Nastech Pharmaceutical, Open Biosystems, Southwest Research Institute, Sigma-Aldrich, CombiMatrix, Invitrogen

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Researchers Say Nobel Prize for RNAi Ignores Role of Plant Work
 
A group of European researchers last week published a letter in Nature arguing that the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Craig Mello and Andrew Fire (see RNAi News, 10/5/2006) ignores the important groundwork conducted by plant researchers.
 
The researchers, from the Flanders Interuniversity for Biotechnology and the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge, wrote that while “there is often controversy around the awarding of the Nobel prize … we feel that a grave error has been made in overlooking key researchers, all of whom work on plants.”
 
According to the researchers, “most of the six points cited in support of the prize were not first shown by Andrew Fire or Craig Mello … but were already known from plant research. For example, the sequence specificity, RNA degradation, and post-transcriptional nature of gene silencing had all been shown in studies on plants and plant viruses.
 
“In addition, the observation that silencing is non-cell-autonomous was first done in plants,” the researchers wrote. “Moreover, the models involving double-stranded RNA and amplification mechanisms had been proposed by plant researchers before the publications of RNAi mechanisms in animal systems.”
 
Given that the Nobel Prize can be shared by three people, the researchers argue in their letter that “a plant scientist should have been included. One who springs to mind as a pioneer in the field is David Baulcombe. His work was key to understanding the mechanism of RNAi and paved the way for Fire and Mello's findings.”
 

 
Nastech Posts Lower Q3 Losses on Higher Revenues
 
Nastech Pharmaceutical this week posted a slightly lower third-quarter loss amid a sharp increase in revenues.
 
The company’s net loss for the quarter fell to $7.8 million, or $0.36 per share, from $8.8 million, or $0.46 per share, in the third quarter of 2005.
 
Third-quarter revenues jumped to $5.5 million from $1.2 million in the same period a year ago, more than offsetting a $2.4-million rise in research and development expenses to $10.5 million. Selling, general, and administrative costs in the quarter climbed to $3.4 million from $2.3 million.
As of Sept. 30, Nastech had cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments totaling $59.9 million.
 

 
Open Biosystems to Test miRNA-Adapted shRNAs Against NCI Cancer Targets
 
Open Biosystems said this week that it has been selected by the National Cancer Institute to verify the efficacy of the company’s lentiviral microRNA-adapted shRNA technology in 135 specific cancer genes.
 
According to Open Biosystems, the work will provide researchers with a validated set of cancer gene-targeting reagents and data that can be used to study the specific genes involved in the development of cancer.
 
Open Biosystems said that it expects the reagents to be available for sale to all researchers in the first quarter of next year.
 

 
SwRI to Manufacture siRNA Microbicides Under NIH Grant
 
The Southwest Research Institute said last week that it has been awarded a four-year contract worth $700,000 under a National Institutes of Health grant to formulate siRNA microbicides against HIV, herpes simplex virus, and human papilloma virus.
 
The grant project is composed of four parts: "Novel siRNA Microbicides to Prevent HIV-1 Infection," "Novel Microbicides to Prevent and Treat HSV," "siRNA Structural Optimization," and "Novel siRNA Microbicides to Prevent and Treat HPV Infection."
 
Investigators listed on the grant include Bharat Ramratnam of Brown Medical School; Betsy Herold of Mount Sinai Medical Center; Paul Lambert of the University of Wisconsin; Kenneth Alexander of the University of Chicago; Jason Machan of Brown Medical School; and Joe McDonough, manager of the synthesis and drug delivery section in the SwRI chemistry and chemical engineering division.
 

 
Sigma-Aldrich Sees 7-Percent Q3 Revenue Growth as Profits Rise 7 Percent
 
Sigma-Aldrich last week said that third-quarter revenue increased 7 percent as R&D spending grew and profit inched up 7 percent.
 
Total receipts for the three months ended Sept. 30 increased to $441.4 million from $412 million year over year.
 
“Benefits from the ongoing, global roll-out of new customer-centric programs were partially offset by lower than expected improvements in underlying market conditions, particularly in Japan, and by slower than anticipated acceptance of several of our new and innovative Research Biotech products,” CEO Jai Nagarkatti said in a statement.
 
R&D spending rose slightly to $13.2 million.
 
Net income for the period increased to $68.4 million from $63.9 million last year.
 
Sigma said it had around $137 million in cash and equivalents.
 
Sigma said it expects full-year revenue from sales to increase 7 percent year over year, which will include a benefit from the acquisition in February of the JRH cell culture business. It expects organic sales growth to be around 6 percent.
 

 
CombiMatrix Says Q3 Revenue Inches Up 2 Percent as Net Loss Widens 11 Percent
 
CombiMatrix last week said that its third-quarter revenue increased 2 percent as net loss widened 11 percent.
 
Total receipts for the three months ended Sept. 30 rose to $1.8 million from $1.5 million during the same period last year. Most of the revenue growth was from sales of the company’s array equipment and services, which more than doubled to $1.1 million. Government contracts contributed $725,000.
 
The firm’s R&D spending increased 87 percent to $2.8 million.
 
CombiMatrix’s net loss increased 11 percent to $4.3 million from $3.9 million year over year. The company blamed the increase on non-cash stock compensation and depreciation charges, and changes in financial reporting of employee stock options.
 
CombiMatrix had around $8.3 million in cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments as of Sept. 30.
 

 
Invitrogen’s Q3 Organic Revenues Up 3 Percent as Profit Turns to Loss
 
Invitrogen last week said its third-quarter revenues increased 7 percent while last year’s profit turned to a loss.
 
Total receipts for the three months ended Sept. 30 increased to $311 million from $290 million year over year. Revenue grew 3 percent organically.
 
The company’s Biodiscovery segment grew 2 percent while the Cell Culture Systems segment grew 4 percent.

The company spent $26.8 million on research and development, nearly the same amount as the previous year’s third quarter.

Invitrogen this period posted a net loss of $130 million compared to a profit of $24 million in the same quarter last year.

The company said the net loss was caused by a non-cash charge of $150 million “associated with a goodwill impairment” in its Cell Culture Systems division.

To address recent losses, Invitrogen reiterated it plans to refocus the business on its “go-to market strategy” in regional markets, complete acquisition integrations, and reduce its cost structure.

 
"After three consecutive years of double-digit revenue and earnings growth, we had expectations to achieve similar results this year. That has clearly not happened,” Invitrogen CEO Greg Lucier said in a statement.
 
“As a result, we are executing plans to refocus the business on those areas where either science or our leading brand can provide meaningful differentiation,” he said. “These actions include focusing on improving our go-to-market strategy in regional markets to ensure our sales growth matches the leading reputation we hold for being the quality and technology leader in scientific tools, completing the acquisition integrations, and responsibly reducing our cost structure.”
 
Lucier said these plans “will set the company up for a solid year of execution in 2007.”
 
Invitrogen closed the quarter with around $512 million in cash and investments.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people 65 and older or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.