Biologist Craig Venter has enlisted a high-profile ally in his quest to build microbes that are specially tailored to solve environmental problems. Ari Patrinos, who has directed biological and environmental research at the US Department of Energy since 1995, was last month appointed president of Synthetic Genomics, a company that Venter founded last year to create such organisms. “I've known Craig for many years and we have always worked very well together,” says Patrinos, adding that Venter approached him about the job — based in Rockville, Maryland — several months ago. “I'm going to be 59 this year,” says Patrinos. “I felt I wanted to do one other, different thing.”
A US physicians' group has called for special government incentives to push companies into developing antibiotics for drug-resistant hospital nasties such as Staphylococcus aureus, better known as staph. In an article in the March issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, the Infectious Diseases Society of America argues that few antibiotics are being developed because they are used for only a short time and do not fetch the prices that give manufacturers a decent return. The society calls for tax breaks and other incentives to get things going.
A UK biotechnology firm whose drug candidates are based on Chinese plants has launched itself successfully on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM). Oxford-based Phynova raised about £4 million (US$7 million) in its share offering on 27 February: two days later its shares were selling for £1.20 — 50% above the offer price. Phynova has six drug candidates under development, including potential therapies for hepatitis C and cancer.