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Affymetrix, USB, NIH, US Department of Energy’s JGI, Washington University, University of Leeds, Japan’s National Institute for Basic Biology, University of Freiburg, Bowling Green State University, Michigan State University, UCLA, University of Nebraska,

Affymetrix to Acquire Reagent Provider USB; Includes Sequencing Kits
Affymetrix will acquire reagent provider USB of Cleveland for approximately $75 million in cash, the company said this week.
Affy expects the deal, which is subject to customary conditions and regulatory approval, to close in the first quarter of 2008.
USB supplies molecular biology enzymes and kits, biochemical reagents, and products used in membrane protein research. In the 1980s, the company collaborated with scientists at Harvard University to commercialize the Sequenase DNA polymerase and some of the first DNA sequencing kits. According to USB, this technology “pioneered development of thermostable enzymes and automation for high-throughput sequencing.”
The acquisition “opens the door to new and emerging market opportunities for tomorrow," said Mike Lachman, CEO and president of USB, in a company statement.
USB was founded in the 1970s as United States Biochemical and was purchased Amersham Life Science in 1993, which merged with Pharmacia Biotech in 1997. The current USB was founded in 1998 after members of the senior management team acquired the three original product lines back from Amersham Pharmacia Biotech.

NIH Seeks New Technologies, Computational Tools for Human Microbiome Project
The National Institutes of Health last week issued several new funding opportunities aimed at developing technologies for the Human Microbiome Project.
The RFAs follow NIH’s announcement earlier this month that it plans to award up to $28 million over four years to demonstration projects under the initiative.
One grant will fund the creation of a Data Analysis and Coordination Center for the Human Microbiome Project, a portal that will provide access to the data and tools created by the project. Total funding for the center award is more than $2 million for each of five years. More information can be found here.
Another set of grants will provide a total of around $1.5 million to support the development of computational tools that can be used to analyze and interpret data generated in the HMP. NIH has issued two separate RFAs for this initiative under its R01 and R21 award mechanisms. The institutes expect to award between one and four R01 grants of up to three years and between two and four R21 grants for up to two years. More information is available here and here.
Another pair of grants, also provided through the R01 and R21 award programs, is seeking new technologies for obtaining samples for sequencing, “by culturing or otherwise isolating for analysis currently uncultivatable organisms from the human microbiota.” NIH plans to award a total of $2 million for these awards. It will award between two and four R01 grants for up to three years and between two and six R21 grants for up to two years. Information can be found here and here.
Applications for all HMP grants are due Feb. 15, 2008.

Moss Genome Offers Insight Into Plants' Terrestrial Beginnings; Could Aid Biofuel Research
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s JGI, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Leeds, Japan’s National Institute for Basic Biology, the University of Freiburg in Germany, and others have sequenced the genome of the moss Physcomitrella patens, making it the first nonvascular land plant to be sequenced. The study was published online in Science last week.
The genome could help tell the tale of how some plants moved from aquatic environs to land, and also could help facilitate basic research of biofuels, according to the analysis.
Physcomitrella, which has about 50 percent more genes than humans — around 36,000 — and around 500 million nucleotides, is the first bryophyte to be sequenced, according to the researchers. The researchers assembled the genome into a 480 Mbp scaffold, covering around 98 percent of the genome.
Physcomitrella is to flowering plants what the fruit fly is to humans; that is, in the same way that the fly and mouse have informed animal biology, the genome of this moss will advance our exploration of plant genes and their functions and utility,” JGI Director Eddy Rubin said in a statement. “Traits such as those that allow plants to survive and thrive on dry land will be useful in the selection and optimization of crops that may be domesticated for biomass-to-biofuels strategies.”

Undergrads Will Help JGI Annotate Microbial Genomes
Undergraduate biology students from 12 institutions will help the US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute annotate microbial genomes, Bowling Green State University, one of the participating institutions, said last week.
Bowling Green of Ohio, together with Michigan State University, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the University of South Florida, Hiram College, and others, will work with JGI under a new Microbial Genome Annotation research program.
The first genome to be analyzed is a microbe found in Indonesian volcanic hot springs. Starting in January, students will use the Collaborative Genomics Annotation Tool, a bioinformatic platform developed at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, to annotate the genome. Later on, each school will choose another microbe for analysis and study.

The Scan

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.

Coronary Artery Disease Risk Loci, Candidate Genes Identified in GWAS Meta-Analysis

A GWAS in Nature Genetics of nearly 1.4 million coronary artery disease cases and controls focused in on more than 200 candidate causal genes, including the cell motility-related myosin gene MYO9B.

Multiple Sclerosis Contributors Found in Proteome-Wide Association Study

With a combination of genome-wide association and brain proteome data, researchers in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology tracked down dozens of potential multiple sclerosis risk proteins.

Quality Improvement Study Compares Molecular Tumor Boards, Central Consensus Recommendations

With 50 simulated cancer cases, researchers in JAMA Network Open compared molecular tumor board recommendations with central consensus plans at a dozen centers in Japan.