Weekly News Roundup 2/4/05

Fri, 02/04/2005 - 9:42am

GlaxoSmithKline Uses HIV Resistance Testing

As part of a three-year, $7.5 million service agreement, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will use ViroLogic’s, South San Francisco, Calif., HIV resistance testing technology to support its drug discovery and development programs. GSK plans to use ViroLogic's assays across its virology portfolio, including its entry inhibitor program, where ViroLogic's PhenoSense HIV co-receptor tropism assay will be used to identify patients for clinical trials and to monitor response to drug treatment during the trials. According to the ViroLogic, biopharmaceutical companies are using HIV resistance testing technology in drug development to meet recommendations of the FDA Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee. The tropism assay can help both pharmaceutical companies and the FDA to effectively monitor clinical studies of entry inhibitors, they say, by offering visibility into the effectiveness of this new class of drugs.

Arrays Detect Alternative Splicing in Drug Targets

ExonHit Therapeutics, Paris, will offer a new service that uses microarrays developed with Agilent Technologies, Palo Alto, Calif., to detect alternative splicing in potential drug targets. The SpliceArray Service combines ExonHit's proprietary splice-variant content, patented probe design, and customized analysis with the Agilent microarrays. The microarrays monitor the expression of alternatively spliced exons for disease-associated isoforms at a resolution, they say, previously unattainable by microarrays. ExonHit also offers research services using G-Protein Coupled Receptor and Ion Channel microarrays. Microarrays of other "druggable" gene families are expected to be available in the coming months.

NIH Workers Criticize New Ethics Rules

The new restrictions on outside income for National Institutes of Health employees, which were announced by Elias Zerhouni, MD, NIH director, received harsh criticism from staff members, according to a report by the Washington Post. The restrictions on stock ownership and other forms of outside income went into effect this week for all agency employees. According to the Post’s report, many argued the new rules are unjustifiably extreme, particularly the rule requiring all 18,000 employees, as well as spouses and dependents, to divest themselves of stock holdings in drug, biotech, and other medically oriented companies that exceed $15,000. Others wanted to know why other government bodies, such as the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, or the Defense Department, were not being held to the same standards. Another attendee noted that NIH employees are subject to periodic outside evaluations and reviews by nongovernmental scientists who are not subject to the same ethics restrictions.

First Actively-Shielded 900 MHz NMR Magnet Installed

The University of Illinois at Chicago successfully installed the first actively shielded 900 MHz NMR magnet. The new instrument, from Bruker BioSpin, Billerica, Mass., is currently being used in the University's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, for research on high molecular weight proteins. Bruker’s 900 US2 combines the company’s proprietary UltraShield and UltraStabilized technologies, which, they say, delivers the highest field strength actively-shielded NMR magnet available today. "The 900 MHz magnet is essential for the high resolution we need, and it ensures optimal performance of our TROSY (Transverse Relaxation Optimized Spectroscopy) experiments," stated Peter Gettins, PhD, professor, University of Illinois at Chicago. The shielding technology greatly reduces the magnet’s footprint in the NMR facility, making room for additional instruments, he says. Bruker offers US2 magnet models at two field strengths—800 and 900 MHz.

Large Scale Analysis of Bacterial Protein Complexes

A team of scientists successfully tagged a total of 847 proteins, including 198 of the most highly conserved, soluble non-ribosomal proteins essential for life in at least one bacterial species. The interaction network containing conserved and essential protein complexes in Escherichia coli was uncovered and validated by sequential rounds of tagging and purification. The protein network includes many new interactions in pathways attacked by current antibiotics. The project, with the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children, was led by Affinium Pharmaceuticals, Toronto, Ontario, a structure-guided drug discovery and development company focused on anti-infective medicines. Eighty-five percent of the validated interactions are significant, novel interactions, and many other informative complexes were detected. The data, they say, will be used to facilitate the design of antibiotics for the treatment of serious infectious diseases.

NIH Chemical Genomics Center Picks Liquid-Handling Workstations

The National Institutes of Health's Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) will be using several low-volume liquid-handling workstations from Aurora Discovery, San Diego. The workstations will be used in the development of chemical probe research at NCGC, which is being established as part of the Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network initiative of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. "Low volume, liquid-management fidelity is essential to our efforts to produce innovative chemical tools and libraries for use in biological research. Workstations play a key role in meeting that need," says Christopher Austin, MD, NCGC director. The Flying Reagent Dispenser is an automated, low-volume bulk dispenser. The Picoliter Rapid Transfer Robot is a non-contact alternative for low-volume aspirate and dispense operations starting at 1nL in high-density microplates. The PicoRAPTR workstation enables construction of dose-response curves for concentration profiling applications in secondary screening.

By Elizabeth Tolchin


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