Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gov. Kaine against use of taxpayer money to fund stem cell research

From the DC Examiner:

Virginia legislators have long opposed embryonic stem cell research. Some have even tried to ban state-funded universities from using private money to fund the research, but Gov. Tim Kaine said he opposes restrictions on private efforts.

Virginia legislators have long opposed embryonic stem cell research. Some have even tried to ban state-funded universities from using private money to fund the research, but Gov. Tim Kaine said he opposes restrictions on private efforts.

Melissa Frederick and Joseph Rogalsky, The Examiner
Mar 28, 2007 3:00 AM (20 days ago)
Current rank: Not ranked
WASHINGTON - While Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said he supports the $500,000 allocation in the budget bill lawmakers approved last month to fund adult stem cell research in Virginia, he does not want to see taxpayer money used for embryonic stem cell research.

“I don’t think we should be publicly funding it in Virginia,” Kaine, who is Catholic, said Tuesday during his monthly appearance on WTOP radio. “You will not see me proposing that. I think there are huge advances that can be made in adult stem cell research. I think that’s the way to go.”

Virginia legislators have long opposed embryonic stem cell research. Some have even tried to ban state-funded universities from using private money to fund embryonic research, but Kaine said he opposes restrictions on private efforts.

The news that Virginia will not receive funding for the research did not come as a surprise to its technology community, according to Virginia Biotechnology Association Executive Director Mark Herzog.

“Really, it has no impact because we haven’t previously had state funding, so it’s not as if it’s going to create a loss of jobs,” Herzog said.

His group instead has focused its efforts over the past few years on advocating for research money in general for the state, Herzog said.

Neighboring Maryland allotted $15 million in funding for stem cell research, including embryonic, last year. The state has received 81 applications from research institutions and companies for the funding, which has not yet been distributed, according to Technology Council

of Maryland CEO Julie Coons.

The Technology Council has requested $25 million this year from the state for stem cell research, and is optimistic it will receive close to that when the state budget is approved next week, Coons said.

The funding will help drive economic activity and jobs in the years to come, though it will take time before research can be translated into commercial products, Coons said.



Monday, April 16, 2007

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

It is hard to comprehend the scope of this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families who have lost their loved ones.

Biotech Sees Record Growth

Biotech sees red-hot growth in U.S. and Europe

Ernst & Young crunched the numbers on the U.S. biotech industry for 2006 and found that the industry produced a record $23 billion in drug development alliances involving U.S. developers while merger and acquisition activity hit its second-highest level in biotech history. Analysts for E&Y were quick to point to the swelling valuations in drug discovery as a key reason for the burgeoning growth, while noting that the global biotech industry boosted the total amount of capital raised by 42 percent, to $27.9 billion. Venture capital hit a record $5.4 billion. Double-digit revenue growth was achieved by publicly traded biotech companies in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

"The industry in the U.S. has never been stronger and we're seeing its success story spreading to other parts of the world, particularly Europe," said Glen Giovannetti, Ernst & Young's Global Biotechnology Leader. "Time will determine whether these trends will be sustained, but there's reason for optimism. Innovation is being rewarded with record revenues and unprecedented premiums in M&A transactions."

Friday, April 13, 2007

MedImmune is for Sale

This is from the Associated press:


MedImmune considering sale, stock up


CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Drug company MedImmune Inc. said Thursday it is willing to consider takeover offers, reversing its stand against a sale because of interest from big pharmaceutical companies and investor unhappiness with the company's performance.

MedImmune said its board of directors authorized company management to gauge interest from potential bidders. It also hired Goldman Sachs & Co. and the law firm Dewey Ballantine to help with a possible sale.

MedImmune shares jumped more than 13 percent in late afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The company, based in Gaithersburg, has a market capitalization of nearly $9 billion and posted $1.28 billion in revenue last year, mostly from its childhood respiratory drug Synagis. MedImmune also makes the inhaled influenza vaccine FluMist. A company spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.

But the company's recent performance has rankled some major shareholders, who said MedImmune should consider selling itself because its failure to meet some major milestones has hurt investors.

The shareholders' concerns centered on a disappointing launch of FluMist, once thought to be a blockbuster drug that fizzled when it was released four years ago because of problems with storage, price and limitations on who could use it. MedImmune also revealed in February a delayed filing for federal approval of a new version of Synagis, helping to push its stock down sharply.

In the past, MedImmune has deflected proposals that it should sell, saying it would continue with its business plan rather than find a buyer. It reaffirmed that position in February when investor Matrix Asset Advisors urged it to explore a sale. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who often pushes for major changes at companies he invests in, also said in February that he held 2.8 million MedImmune shares, slightly more than 1 percent of the company's stock.

David Katz, president of Matrix, which owns 1.79 million shares of MedImmune, said he was pleased MedImmune has finally agreed to consider a sale and estimated the company could be sold for between $45 to $50 per share.

Icahn's involvement likely helped convince MedImmune's board to weigh a sale, Katz said.

"Even if he wasn't terribly active behind the scenes, just the specter of him getting active probably was a good motivator," Katz said.

MedImmune said earlier this week that it expects earnings to nearly triple when it reports second quarter results in May. The company also recently released results of a study showing that a new formulation of FluMist may be more effective than the traditional shot in children, which will likely boost its chances of approval by federal regulators this year.

MedImmune said it will not provide any information on a possible sale until it has a deal or decides to go ahead as a stand-alone business. The company said in a statement that "there can be no assurance that an acquisition" will occur.

Shares of MedImmune traded up $5.13 to $42.97 in afternoon trading Thursday, well above the stock's 52-week high of $38.34.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Virginia's DNA Databank Records 4,000th Hit

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch...

Hits keep coming for DNA databank
From Staff Reports
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Virginia's forensic DNA databank, the oldest state databank in the country, has recorded its 4,000th so-called hit.

A hit occurs when DNA found at a crime scene matches the profile of one of 277,000 offenders in the databank, or when DNA found at one crime scene matches DNA found at another.

According to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's office, the 4,000th hit matched an offender's DNA profile in Virginia's databank with a rape that occurred in California in 2002.

Virginia passed the country's first databank law in 1989. At first, all convicted sex offenders had to provide a DNA sample. In 1990, the law was changed to include all felons, and in 2003, individuals arrested in violent felonies were included.

It took the state 8 years to reach 1,000 hits; just 18 months longer to reach 2,000; and 2½ more years to double.

The number of convictions resulting from the hits is not known. But about 10 percent of the investigations assisted or solved by hits were homicides; 17 percent, sex crimes; and 10 percent, other violent crimes. About 55 percent involved property crimes.

Virginia's databank also has helped law enforcement in 31 states identify possible perpetrators in almost 400 criminal cases.

Peter Marone, director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, said the number of people DNA testing has cleared of crimes - or prevented from being charged in the first place - is not known but would also likely number in the thousands.

"Roughly . . . 25 percent of the time when we have a named suspect, we eliminate them," Marone said.