The planned merger between pharmaceutical giants SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome took another step forward last week, after SmithKline agreed to sell the rights to three of its drugs. The US federal trade commission had expressed concerns that unless the products were dropped, the merged groups would dominate the market in certain types of medicine. The move makes it more likely that the merger will go ahead on 25 September.
Meanwhile, the Wellcome Trust and several drug companies have been discussing the creation of an international consortium to tackle structural genomics - predicting the 3D structure of proteins and other complex biological molecules. Now that the first draft of the human genome is complete, the consortium's goal would be to develop a high-throughput approach to determine the structure of thousands of human proteins, reports last week's Nature. The resulting knowledge could be used to design new, targeted medicines for a wide range of illnesses. The cost of belonging to the consortium is likely to be around $1.5 million per year.
Finally, shares in laboratory equipment manufacturers Whatman rose by 24 per cent last week, after the firm announced it had developed a new way of storing DNA samples on dry filter paper. 'Whatman will probably become the industry standard for handling, storing and preserving DNA samples' said analyst Erling Refsum.