NEW YORK, March 21 - Hybrigenics of Paris has received US patent protection for a key part of its protein interaction technology, a development that may force competitors using similar techniques to pay license fees or change their technology, the company said Wednesday.
Donny Strosberg, Hybrigenics' CEO, said "one or two" companies are currently employing Hybrigenic's Protein Interaction Mapping (PIM) technology, which it uses to map out protein interactions for major diseases, but declined to name the specific companies.
"Now we have recognition that our technology is the only one that's patentable, and to those who are using our technology: 'cease and desist,' as they say," said Strosberg.
Hybrigenics licenses the PIM technology from the Institut Pasteur, also in Paris. The Institut was awarded the patent February 13, and currently licenses the technology exclusively to Hybrigenics.
The US patent, entitled "Fast and exhaustive method for selecting a prey polypeptide interacting with a bait polypeptide of interest: application to the construction of maps of interactor polypeptides," covers a technique for high-throughput screening of a yeast two-hybrid system to identify protein-protein interactions in any yeast cell-type.
The method is part of PIM's fluorescent tagging technology, which employs fragments of cDNA, that encode "prey proteins," and throws carefully selected fluorescently tagged "bait" proteins at these encoded, yet unknown prey proteins. It then discovers which prey proteins stick to the bait.
By tracing the prey protein back to its sequence, the company can characterize its domain. Using this information and bioinformatics algorithms, the company is able to identify the domains of thousands of proteins and map out large webs of protein-protein interactions.
Hybrigenics has applied but not yet received a patent in the European Union for the technology. However, Strosberg said the US patent will apply to transfers of data over the Internet, and that in any case, most of the company's business is in the US.
Strosberg added that the patent may increase the value of his company in the eyes of investors, because the protein-mapping technology can no longer be seen as generic.
Hybrigenics has studied protein interactions in a number of pathogenic organims, such as Helicobacter pylori , as well as in yeast, drosophila, and human cells. In January, scientists at Hybrigenics published a paper in Nature describing protein interactions in Helicobacter pylori using its PIM technology.
In February, the company signed its first marketing deal for the technology, a three-year collaboration with Servier, a privately-owned French pharmaceutical company, in which Hybrigenics will map protein interactions associated with cancer.
Strosberg has said the company is currently looking for opportunities to expand its business into the US, through acquisition of a US company or the opening of a US facility.