Rewriting Life

Biotech Briefs

MILESTONE

An international consortium has sequenced the 480-million-plus DNA letters of the Populus genome – making it the first tree genome to be completely sequenced. Consortium researchers, from organizations including the U.S. Department of Energy, Genome Canada, and the Umeå Plant Science Centre in Sweden, have found more than 40,000 genes in a preliminary analysis
of the sequence.

FOLLOW-UP

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Iceland’s deCode Genetics has won a five-year, $23.9 million contract from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; under it, deCode will scan the genomes of Icelandic volunteers to find genes involved in susceptibility to tuberculosis, influenza, and other infections and associated with adverse reactions to the smallpox vaccine. DeCode has already used its population-based approach to find genes involved in heart disease and other ailments (see “Translating Iceland’s Genes into Medicine,” TR September 2004).

FINANCING

Biodefense startup PharmaAthene of Annapolis, MD, has raised $50 million in a new round of financing. The company plans to use the money in part to develop an anthrax-toxin-blocking drug discovered by Harvard Medical School researchers.

PATENT

Menlo Park, CA’s Geron has won what could be a key piece of stem-cell intellectual property: a patent on a technique that allows human embryonic stem cells to be cultured in the lab without the additional cells that are normally used to help them grow. Eliminating the extra cells, the company argues, will make it easier to scale up commercial stem cell production and will reduce the chances of contamination with infectious agents.

IPO

IntraLase of Irvine, CA, raised $86 million in its initial public offering this October. The company, now listed on the Nasdaq National Market, makes laser-based devices for the popular vision correction surgery Lasik.

METRIC

In 2014, the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry will employ more than half a million people and generate more than $120 billion in goods and services, according to forecasts from the nonprofit Milken Institute.

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