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Biotech wants tax break

By | December 10, 2008

Biotech industry executives are beseeching Congress today (10 Dec) for a temporary change in the tax code that would give some struggling biotech companies a cash boost. The plan would funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to some biotechs in exchange for tax credits that the companies would not take if they make money next year and beyond. Nearly a third of publically traded American biotech companies have a six month's or less supply of operating cash, The New York Times linkurl:reported.;h

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One bug's coat of many colors

By | December 10, 2008

Parasites can confuse their hosts' immune system by switching the proteins they display on their surface. But how? The intestinal parasite Giardi lamblia harnesses RNA interference to target which surface proteins to shut down, a study published tomorrow in Nature reports. "I actually think it's a superb paper," linkurl:Therdore Nash,;http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/labs/aboutlabs/lpd/gastrointestinalParasitesSection/ chief of gastrointestinal parasitology at the National Institute of Allergy and Inf

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Merck bets on generic biologics

By | December 9, 2008

Merck is planning to sell generic copies of blockbuster biotech drugs, the drug maker announced today (Dec. 9) at the annual business briefing at its New Jersey headquarters. Through the newly announced Merck BioVentures division, the company is setting its sights on biotech copycats, which still require their own clinical trials and cost millions to develop. As a result, these drugs are generally priced only marginally lower than branded versions and can still be a lucrative venture. The noti

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Nature to retract plant study

By | December 9, 2008

A highly cited __Nature__ paper that identified a long-sought receptor critical for mediating plant response to stress is being retracted after researchers were unable to reproduce the results. Corresponding author on the paper, linkurl:Robert Hill;http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~rhill/ from the University of Manitoba, first discovered a problem with the results over the summer when one of his students failed to reproduce the findings. "The binding assay procedures, at least in our hands, did no

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New directions for drug discovery?

By | December 9, 2008

The dearth of new drugs coming to market is forcing some drug companies -- and their investors -- to rethink R&D. For instance, at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR), the focus has shifted from trying to develop the next blockbuster to reexamining well understood disease pathways to identify drug targets. In a presentation to investors last month, Mark Fishman, president of NIBR, reported that the company has boosted its portfolio of new molecular entities by 40%, and its r

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New NIEHS leader looks ahead

By | December 9, 2008

Researchers at NIH's long-beleaguered National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are hopeful that the institute's new head, toxicologist linkurl:Linda Birnbaum;http://www.f1000biology.com/about/biography/3056654395292771, will be able to right the ship after the rocky tenure of ex-NIEHS director David Schwartz. linkurl:Chris Portier,;http://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/od/orar/index.cfm associate director of NIEHS, said that there are key differences between Schwartz and Birnbaum. "

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Malaria vax passes hurdle

By | December 8, 2008

A malaria vaccine for infants and children -- the group most vulnerable to the disease -- may be heading to phase III trials, according to authors of two studies published online today (Dec. 8) in the New England Journal of Medicine. "The research results show we are one important step closer to malaria joining diseases like small pox or polio that have been either controlled or eliminated by vaccine," said Christian Loucq, director of linkurl:PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative;http://path.org/ du

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Neuroscience's famed patient dies

By | December 8, 2008

Henry Molaison (HM), a patient with amnesia who helped scientists to unlock the secrets to how the brain processes learning and memory, died last week at the age of 82. HM participated in thousands of memory studies over the past 50 years, after a surgery to cure his debilitating epilepsy in the early 1950s altered his ability to form new memories. "[HM] was an extremely cooperative and gentle human being," linkurl:Brenda Milner,;http://www.mcgill.ca/about/history/pioneers/milner/ a neuropsyc

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The 3 cent microfluidics chip

By | December 8, 2008

Chemists have created a device -- using little more than paper and sticky tape -- that can precisely separate liquids for further medical or environmental analysis. The scientists write in a __Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences__ linkurl:paper;http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0810903105 published today that they made their small, lightweight microfluidics chips for about $0.03 a piece. Similar "lab-on-a-chip" devices made of glass and polymers can cost hundreds of dollars

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Bailout for British biotech?

By | December 5, 2008

Twenty-two leaders from the British biotech sector pleaded for a government bailout yesterday (Dec. 4) to save the industry's "survival and future viability" in the face of the global financial crisis. The dossier sent to the UK government called for two funds, each worth over £500 ($730) million. One would help smaller companies consolidate, with grants between £10 ($14.6) to £40 ($58) million; the other would give biotechs up to £100 ($146) million to fund acquisitions an

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