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The 20th Anniversary of PCR, Patent Litigation, Tim Clark and the Semantic Web, Bio-Rad's PCR Promise


In May 2005, Genome Technology celebrated the 20th anniversary of PCR, with an eye on the future of the "gold standard" of DNA amplification. At the time, industry watchers were waiting for Roche's core PCR patents to expire and predicted that enzyme prices would drop — allowing more suppliers to enter the field and the technology to grow even faster. At the same time, researchers were beginning to explore RT-PCR for handling RNA-based samples and Andy Felton, a product manager at Applied Biosystems, predicted that using PCR for microRNA would be the next big wave. Today, PCR technology is still ubiquitous, and it remains the gold standard for the amplification of DNA.

In the same issue, GT wrote about a US court ruling that ordered MJ Research to pay Applied Biosystems and Roche Molecular Systems $15.6 million in damages for infringing on several PCR-related patents; a year earlier, a jury had awarded the companies another $19.8 million. Bio-Rad, which acquired MJ Research in August of 2004, said it had every intention of one day selling PCR instrumentation. The company made good on its word and today sells an array of qPCR detection systems, thermal cyclers, and reagents.

Last year, GT brought you the latest advances in semantic Web technology, which promises to be the future of data integration. Tim Clark, director of informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital's Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, told GT that the "semantic Web gives improvements on aspects of interoperability that are very useful in many situations." But the idea came with its own set of challenges, not the least of which was re-imagining the way data is tagged and dispersed on the Web. However, the semantic Web community got a little shot in the arm when Google announced in March 2009 that its search engine was being equipped with some semantic capability. Though there are still strides to be made, several semantic Web projects and tools are being built and used, such as NextBio's database that consolidates high-throughput life sciences experimental data.

Tim Clark is still enthusiastic and optimistic about the future. "Semantic Web technology has enormous promise," he says. "We are beginning to see a critical mass of bioinformaticians that are finding applications for the technology and working collectively to integrate information."

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