Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

US Justice Department Backs Out of Patent Suit Targeting ABI s Sequencers

NEW YORK, April 18 - The US Justice Department has dropped its 3-year patent-rights investigation of Applera and the gene sequencers developed by its Applied Biosystems unit.

 

The decision marks a significant turning point in a sealed civil lawsuit filed two years ago by MJ Research, which challenges ABI's rights to its gene-sequencing technology.

 

According to the suit, which is ongoing, ABI's patent should be declared invalid because researchers at Caltech, where the technology was first developed, used government funds to create the machines. The suit also alleges that the patent should have given credit to Henry Huang, who worked on the technology as a post-doc in Leroy Hood's lab at Caltech.

 

The Justice Department had been investigating these charges and had the option of taking over the litigation on behalf of the plaintiffs. Last month it quietly declined but retains the right to intercede in the future.

 

Caltech and ABI both claim the Justice Department decision indicates the suit is groundless, but government officials did not say their move reflects the merits of the case, according to USA Today, which first reported the US government's decision today.

 

A successful challenge to the ABI patent would have profound consequences for both the genome-sequencer industry and genomic scientists. If courts determine that Caltech researchers did in fact use federal funds to develop the sequencer, the government would be entitled to a deep discount on ABI machines, which now retail for about $330,000.

 

According to the USA Today article, is also possible, although unlikely, that the patent could be invalidated entirely, and the technology returned to the public domain.

The Scan

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.

Study Explores Animated Digital Message Approach to Communicate Genetic Test Results to Family Members

In the Journal of Genetic Counseling, the approach showed promise in participants presented with a hypothetical scenario related to a familial hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome diagnosis.

Computational Tool Predicts Mammalian Messenger RNA Degradation Rates

A tool called Saluki, trained with mouse and human messenger RNA data, appears to improve mRNA half-life predictions by taking RNA and genetic features into account, a Genome Biology paper reports.

UK Pilot Study Suggests Digital Pathway May Expand BRCA Testing in Breast Cancer

A randomized pilot study in the Journal of Medical Genetics points to similar outcomes for breast cancer patients receiving germline BRCA testing through fully digital or partially digital testing pathways.