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Quest Dx, US Genomics, Applera, ABI, Oligo Factor, Idaho Tech, Whatman

Quest Dx to Use US Genomics' Tech for Prenatal Fragile X Syndrome Screening
US Genomics and Quest Diagnostics have signed a worldwide licensing agreement that gives Quest rights to develop a screening method for fragile X syndrome, Quest said last week.
Under the terms of the agreement, Quest said it will use US Genomics' genetic testing applications to develop an automated test that will enable "widespread population-based carrier testing" that will resolve inadequacies of current screening methods. Quest said that current DNA screening tests for FXS are "highly accurate," but too complex for screening large populations.
US Genomics' John Canepa said this technology will potentially enable screening of "all 4.2 million pregnancies in the United States each year."
Fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation, is caused by a genetic mutation on the X chromosome. In men, FXS can lead to severe mental retardation, speech disorders, ADHD, some features of autism, and physical features such as a large head, long face, and protruding ears.
Women are less affected by FXS, Quest said, and present with milder retardation, less behavioral and cognitive impairment, and are less likely to develop the physical characteristics as expressed in males.
In the US, about 37,200 men are affected with FXS, and about 62,500 women carry the FXS mutation, Quest said.

Applera Declares Dividend for ABI Stock
Applied Biosystems parent company Applera last week declared a regular quarterly dividend of 4.25 cents per share on Applera/ABI common stock.
The dividend is payable on April 2 to stockholders of record as of the close of business on March 1.

Oligo Factor Opens Production Facility in Mass.
Oligonucleotide synthesis startup Oligo Factor has opened a production facility in Holliston, Mass., the privately funded company said earlier this month.
The company was founded in 2006 and specializes in "medium-scale" synthesis of DNA and RNA — on the order of tens of milligrams to multiple grams of oligos.
According to the company, the benefits of oligo synthesis on this scale are “predictably high quality, excellent yields, and low cost of manufacturing.”
Company co-founder Tim McGrath said in a statement that the company fills a niche between the “high-volume, micro-scale oligo synthesis companies” and the “the pharmaceutical-grade oligo synthesis houses.”

Idaho Tech Licenses PCR Patent From Utah Research Foundation
Idaho Technology last week said it had licensed PCR-amplification technology from the Utah Research Foundation.
Idaho Tech said it has retained exclusive rights to the university’s US Patent No. 7,160,998, entitled "Monitoring Amplification with FRET Probes,” which covers real-time PCR amplification kits using two DNA probes labeled with fluorescent molecules.
When these probes are hybridized to specific regions of DNA, they create a fluorescent resonance energy transfer, or FRET, according to Idaho Tech.
Idaho Tech said it will use the technology in freeze-dried reagents that detect pathogens on its Ruggedized Advanced Pathogen Identification Device and Roche’s LightCycler instrument.
Financial terms of the license were not released.
Earlier this month, Idaho Tech licensed PCR patents from Roche that it plans to use in its in vitro diagnostic products.
Soon after that, the company pocketed $3.5 million from Cepheid as part of a settlement and a cross-licensing agreement that resolved a 2005 suit alleging that Cepheid infringed three PCR-related patents.

Whatman's Biometra to Resume Selling Thermocyclers; Firm Fires CEO
Whatman last week said it had settled a lawsuit involving its Biometra subsidiary that will enable it to resume selling thermocyclers.
The company also said it is firing CEO Bill Emhiser immediately for “disappointing trading” last year. He will be replaced by former Innovata CEO Kieran Murphy.
The settlement has taken Whatman’s Biometra business out of liquidation, where it had been since 2003 as a result of the lawsuit. The firm will now be “treated as a continuing operation,” Whatman said in a statement.
Göttingen, Germany-based Biometra said it has signed license agreements for its thermocyclers with Beckman Coulter, Applied Biosystems, and Roche, and that Whatman’s board will renew its efforts to “review longer term strategic options for Biometra.”
Whatman expects 2006 revenue to be around £114 million ($147.5 million), which would be a 5-percent increase over 2005, the company said. However, it had been expecting revenue to grow between 6 and 7 percent for the year.
Biometra is expected to generate £6.6 million in revenue and £1.2 million in profits in 2006.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.