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Changing Tune, Dx Providers Offer Prenatal CGH Tests

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CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics and Signature Genomic Laboratories both recently added prenatal testing to their comparative genomic hybridization-based diagnostic menus, changing an earlier stance against using CGH to test the unborn for congenital defects.

The choice of the two CGH innovators follows by more than a year Baylor College of Medicine’s decision to use CGH technology for these indications. It also essentially ends a once-hot debate on the ethics of using CGH in the prenatal setting, and opens the door to newcomers like Empire Genomics to begin offering their own prenatal testing services.

CMDX says that its laboratories in Irvine, Calif., will perform the prenatal services on the second version of its Constitutional Genetic Array Test, the CA850, which can identify more than 50 common genetic disorders in one test.

CMDX’s decision to offer CGH-based prenatal tests represents a sea change for CEO Mansoor Mohammed. Less than a year ago he argued that CGH was too immature to provide the kind of information that might result in an abortion.

But more recently, Mohammed said that his previous reservations were “never an absolute negation of the utility of the array CGH technology,” and that they were influenced by what he perceived to be a “rush by some segments of the clinical genetics community to use a new technology without fully understanding and appreciating its possible ramifications.”

In February, Signature Genomic Laboratories, a Spokane, Wash.-based company that offers CGH-based diagnostic services for genetic abnormalities, added prenatal to its menu. Its decision also reversed earlier reservations by cofounder and CEO Lisa Shaffer that CGH was too new a technology to be used in the prenatal setting.

Signature’s new PrenatalChip uses bacterial artificial chromosomes and includes 1,083 clones representing 367 distinct regions of the genome.
— Justin Petrone

Short Reads

The US Patent and Trademark Office recently granted a request by a San Francisco law firm to re-examine two Oxford Genome Technology patents, US Patent No. 5,700,637, “Apparatus and method for analyzing polynucleotide sequences and method of generating arrays” and US Patent No. 6,054,270, “Analyzing polynucleotide sequences.”

The Neuroscience Microarray Consortium, an NIH-led group of research facilities, has installed Illumina and Affymetrix array tools to support collaborative neuroscience whole-genome association studies.
 
Agencourt Bioscience said that Affymetrix validated its PCR target-preparation system for use with its new Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 5.0, which is currently being used to study autism, bipolar disease, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

AutoGenomics raised $12 million in a series C round of private-equity financing. The company plans to use the money to expand applications, manufacturing, sales, and marketing for its microarray system.

Expression Analysis will offer gene expression-profiling services using NuGen’s WT-Ovation system with formalin fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues.

NanoString Technologies and Applied Precision plan to co-develop a high-speed fluorescent imager for NanoString’s gene expression system.

Patents

US Patent No. 7,202,358. Methods for producing ligand arrays. Inventor: John Hargreaves. Assignee: Agilent Technologies. Issued: April 10, 2007.

The patent describes methods for producing ligand arrays, such as peptide and nucleic acid arrays. One method claims a substrate that has a surface displaying acetate functional groups that produce surface bound hydroxyl functional groups upon hydrolysis. In another claimed method, a substrate having a surface displaying alkenyl functional groups is provided, where the alkenyl functional groups are then converted to carboxylic functional groups.

US Patent No. 7,202,026. Identification of a large number of biological microorganisms groups at different levels by their detection on a same array. Inventors: Jose Remacle, Sandrine Hamels, Nathalie Zammatteo, Laurence Lockman, Sophie Dufour, Isabelle Alexandre, and Francoise De Longueville. Assignee: Eppendorf Array Technologies. Issued: April 10, 2007.

The patent describes an identification and quantification method of a large number of biological organisms groups at different levels — family, genus, species — by a detection of their nucleotide sequence.

Data Point

$836,089

Microcosm, a privately-held technology company that sells tools for the analytical fluorescence field, was awarded an $836,089 NIH grant to work on an enhanced cancer microarray project.

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