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Patents Amersham, ABI Settle -- Will Reagents Be Less Expensive?


Amersham and Applied Biosystems announced the court-mediated settlement of their patent suits. Part of the settlement is an agreement to cross-license all of the patents under scrutiny in the litigation, and a co-development arrangement for some new DNA analysis technologies. Word in the industry, though neither company would comment on it, is that Amersham emerged victorious in the settlement.

The suit, which revolved around patents for energy-transfer fluorescent labeling dye technology and DNA sequencing instrumentation, began in November of 1997, filed by Amersham in a California district court.

ABI president Michael Hunka- piller said in a statement that the settlement would “provide us with access to a broader range of sequencing technology.” ABI would not comment afterward on what that range may include.

Elaine Mardis, assistant director of Washington University’s Genome Sequencing Center, hopes the settlement will mean being able to use Amersham reagents on the center’s 110 ABI 3700 sequencers. “The only thing that I suppose we’ve really not been able to do is use the Amersham chemistry with relative ease on the ABI instrument, if that’s what Mike has in mind,” she says. Reagent costs — the single highest expense in the sequencing process — are tough to compare because Amersham’s kits are less expensive but ABI’s have a better diluting factor, but Mardis says she’s “under the impression that Amersham is cheaper.”

Some users have blamed the escalating costs of ABI reagent kits on the lawsuit. Agencourt vice president and co-chief scientist Kevin McKernan says, “I bet the costs of the reagents probably reflected a little bit of the legal fees, but I don’t think our costs will be going down.”

— Meredith Salisbury


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