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Rewriting Life

Biotech Briefs

REGULATIONS

Danvers, MA–based Abiomed has sought approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market its AbioCor artificial heart under a humanitarian-device exemption. Such an exemption would allow doctors to implant the heart, which has been tested on just 14 people so far, in not more that 4,000 patients suffering from end-stage heart failure.

MILESTONE

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The European Commission has given the green light for farmers throughout the European Union to buy and plant 17 varieties of genetically modified corn – the first time biotech crops have received such EU-wide authorization. All food made with the corn varieties, which St. Louis agricultural-products company Monsanto engineered to resist a pest called the corn borer, will be labeled as genetically modified.

IPO

Seattle’s Corus Pharma has filed preliminary papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. Backed in part by Cascade Investment, Bill Gates’s private fund, Corus is testing inhaled treatments for asthma and cystic fibrosis in humans.

ACQUISITION

Palo Alto, CA’s Agilent Technologies announced an agreement to acquire software firm Silicon Genetics of Redwood City, CA. The acquisition reflects an effort by Agilent – a leading maker of life-sciences and chemical-research equipment – to strengthen its position in bioinformatics.

ADVANCE

Researchers at King’s College London have created human embryonic stem cells that carry a mutation that causes cystic fibrosis. The cells could offer new opportunities for scientists to study the devastating genetic disorder and develop new treatments for it.

ETHICS

As genetics researchers continue to home in on genes that affect behavior and contribute to neurological conditions such as schizophrenia and autism, Stanford University is launching a center to study the ethical consequences of such research. One project planned for the new Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics: a Web-based ethics consultation service for geneticists.

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