Thursday, June 03, 2010

10 top bio stories since BIO2010

As a way to look back on the BIO International Convention held in Chicago the first week of May, I asked the editors of the BIO SmartBrief to share with me their top 10 most-clicked stories from the past 30 days. Here’s a look at what biotech readers were most interested in reading:

1) Pathway Genomics picks Walgreens stores to sell genetic tests

Pathway Genomics is expected to announce today its plan to commercialize its saliva collection kits, genetic tests that are meant to help predict a person's risk for certain diseases, at 7,500 stores of Walgreens. "It's more consumer awareness than we could get from advertising online," said Jim Woodman, Pathway's vice president for corporate strategy. Some leaders in genetics say there is not enough information on genes' links to diseases to make the tests significant to consumers.

2) N.C. biotech, device startups compete for as much as $1B in tax credits

Early-stage biotech and medical-device firms in North Carolina are looking to participate in a $1 billion program that will provide tax credits and grants as part of the health reform law. Sam Taylor, president of the North Carolina Biosciences Organization, said the program will allow participating startups to get a 50% reimbursement for money they put into research and development.

3) Piglets are born with pluripotent stem cells in scientific breakthrough

Scientists bioengineered piglets to carry pluripotent stem cells by injecting the cells into a pig embryo. The cells were harvested from an embryolike cell, which was produced by infusing six genes into another pig's bone marrow cell. The researchers are optimistic that the effort will aid studies on human illnesses as well as in bioengineering livestock to benefit tissue transplants and food consumption.

4) Intercell will purchase Cytos' technology for $20.1 million

Intercell agreed to pay $20.1 million to acquire Cytos' technology platform designed to prevent and treat infectious diseases. The deal is expected to help Intercell develop therapies for hospital-acquired infections and other conditions.

5) GSK suspends trial of drug formulated from red wine substance

GlaxoSmithKline stopped a clinical trial of SRT501, a compound derived from the red wine substance resveratrol, in multiple myeloma patients after some of them developed cast nephropathy. GSK, which is developing the drug with Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, said its decision comes "out of an abundance of caution" as it reviews clinical data further.

6) Major drugmakers pitch deals to smaller companies at BIO convention

Some of the biggest-name drugmakers took advantage of the BIO convention to ask smaller companies to consider a partnership or buyout. Genentech is looking for deals that would boost its nascent neuroscience and immunology units, and Bayer said it is pursuing "products that can be real breakthroughs" in fields such as cancer, neurology and ophthalmology.

7) GSK will be back in the acquisition game, CEO says

GlaxoSmithKline, which has abandoned five potential deals since October, is working on two small acquisitions, CEO Andrew Witty said. "We've done very few deals between October last year and the last couple of weeks because we saw a number of companies, but we couldn't get to a price that made sense for our shareholders," Witty said.

8) Genzyme unveils strategy for sustainable growth

CEO Henri Termeer said Genzyme is evaluating strategic options for its businesses in genetic testing, diagnostics and drug intermediates, saying the units do not fit in with the biotech firm's plan for sustainable growth. Genzyme also plans to buy back $2 billion in shares.

9) BIO conference focuses on effects of recession on biotech firms

The biotech industry saw a 25% decline in publicly traded firms as a result of the banking crisis in the U.S., according to data from the BIO conference in Chicago. BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood said the lack of access to capital also resulted in the bankruptcy of 50 biotech companies. But some companies achieved success despite the recession, such as Dendreon with the approval of its prostate cancer vaccine Provenge.

10) Compound from broccoli zeroes in on breast cancer stem cells

U.S. scientists found that broccoli contains a compound, called sulforaphane, that attacks breast cancer stem cells. Experiments on mice with breast cancer showed that the compound was effective in reducing the population of stem cells without causing significant harm to normal cells.

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