Bio Saga Headlines

Bio Saga

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NIH Grants $45M for Genome Science Centers

The National Institutes of Health has pledged $45 million in grants to establish two new genomics centers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), as well as to continue funding existing centers at Johns Hopkins University and at the University of Southern California.

The two new Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science at UNC and MCW will pursue genomics studies of mental health and gene regulation, respectively.

Under the new grants, MCW will receive around $8 million over three years and UNC will reap around $8.6 million over five years from the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Johns Hopkins' genomics center will receive around $16.8 million over five years to continue epigenetics of disease studies and USC will use around $12 million over the same period to conduct computational and informatics-based research of genetic variation and disease.

"Our aim is to foster the formation of innovative research teams that will develop genomic tools and technologies that help to advance human health," NHGRI's Acting Director, Alan Guttmacher said in a statement. "Each of these centers is in a position to tackle some of the most challenging questions facing biology today."

The grant to UNC will support the Center for Integrated Systems Genetics (CISGen), where scientists will seek to identify genetic and environmental factors that underlie and contribute to psychiatric disorders.

CISGen will use mouse models and computational biology to study genetic and environmental factors of such disorders, and it will develop new mouse strains specifically to study relevant behavioral traits. These models will serve as a resource of genomic studies screening for genetic variants that are linked to human psychiatric disorders.

"We can use the mouse to narrow the search space from billions of possibilities to only hundreds or even dozens," CISGen co-director and UNC Assistant Professor Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena said in a statement. "It's like the PowerBall when you know four or five of the six numbers for sure."

"We chose the hardest problems out there, the ones that have been most resistant to scientific inquiry in humans," explained Patrick Sullivan, CISGen's other co-director and a distinguished professor at the UNC School of Medicine. "We chose to study mouse versions of psychiatric traits potentially relevant to autism, depression and anxiety, and antipsychotic drug side effects and response to treatment."

In Wisconsin, the new center is a collaboration between the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Marquette University.

The team at MCW will focus on developing tools for analyzing the proteins that bind to particular DNA regions in an effort to understand the relationship between changes in protein-DNA interactions.

"What is needed, and what we will develop in this center, is technology that is able to identify all of the proteins that are interacting with the genome, even if we do not know in advance what their function may be," said the center's co-Director, Michael Oliver, a professor at MCW's Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center and the Human and Molecular Genetics Center.

Other NIH-funded Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science include centers at the California Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, Stanford University, Arizona State University, Yale University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Achilles' heel of a sizable share of melanomas" - Mutations That May Improve Skin Cancer Treatmen

Mutations in the protein tyrosine kinase gene ERBB4 contribute to — and may provide hints about treating — a subset of melanoma, according to a paper by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University that appeared in the advanced, online edition of Nature Genetics this week.

The team sequenced protein tyrosine kinase or PTK genes in 29 individuals with melanoma. Their search uncovered dozens of somatic mutations affecting the kinase domain of 19 different PTK genes. When they looked at the same 19 genes in another 79 melanoma patients, the researchers found that almost a fifth of those tested harbored mutations in ERBB4.

And, they reported, knocking down the mutated form of ERBB4 or using a drug that targeted the gene slowed the growth of melanoma cell lines, suggesting it might be useful to evaluate ERBB4 status in melanoma patients.

Researchers at the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center sequenced all 86 PTK family genes in tumor samples from 29 individuals with melanoma, picking out somatic mutations by comparing the tumor with matched normal tissue.

Overall, the team detected 30 somatic mutations affecting 19 different PTK genes. When the team sequenced the coding regions of these 19 genes in another 79 melanoma patients, they found 99 non-synonymous mutations.

In particular, 19 percent of the individuals had mutations affecting ERBB4 (also known as HER4), while ten percent carried PTK2B or FLT3 mutations.

Of these, the ERBB4 appeared to be the most severely mutated. As such, the team decided to investigate whether mutations in that gene influenced melanoma growth and/or treatment response, focusing on seven different missense mutations in ERBB4.

The researchers found that the growth of melanoma cell lines containing ERBB4 mutations was curbed when they knocked down the mutated form of the gene using small interfering RNA.

The team was also able to slow the growth of the melanoma cell lines by treating them with the ERBB4-inhibiting drug lapatinib, sold as Tykerb by GlaxoSmithKline.

"We have found what appears to be an Achilles' heel of a sizable share of melanomas," senior author Yardena Samuels, a researcher with the National Human Genome Research Institute's Cancer Genetics Branch, said in a statement.

The team plans to do a clinical trial looking at whether lapatinib is effective for treating melanoma in patients who carry ERBB4 mutations. Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute and a researcher with the NIH's clinical center will reportedly head the trial.

"We envision a day when each cancer patient will have therapies tailored to the specific genetic profile of his or her tumor," NHGRI Director Eric Green, said in a statement. "Ultimately, this should lead to more effective and less toxic approaches to cancer care." Green was not directly involved in the current study, but heads the NIH sequencing center that generated the sequence data.

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Life Science and Informatics

What is this?
is this a new industry?
or a old wine in a new bottle?

Well Life Sciences and Informatics can be anything form computational biology, all omes and omics, core bioinformatics to curation and literature mining, database creation, in the area of biology, chemistry , bio-chem space.

There are number of companies in India and bangalore is the forefront as a major bio-cluster with 20 to 30 companies in this sphere.

now how good are these companies doing?
how good are they in terms of the international markets and how profitable is their business?
what do they do?
their clients?

These are some interesting things that could be discussed in this blog page...

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