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Affymetrix Opens its Patent Cupboard To Offer Bead Technology for Licensing

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Affymetrix on Monday launched a new product that is not a GeneChip. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based leader of the preprinted microarray industry instead is offering up some of its patents for licensing, or sale.

Offering “reasonable terms,” the company said in a statement that it would license or, in "selected areas," sell some of its most recently issued patents, as well as some early patents.

The company said it is beginning this licensing initiative by “offering a wide range of claims directed specifically to beads.”

The offering includes: patents for coded beads to which polymer probes are attached; methods for identifying target molecules by reading a binding reagent coding system attached to beads; methods for distinguishing between biological materials using nucleic acid probes attached to beads; and IP for laser scanners or other devices for detection of fluorescently labeled nucleic acid targets bound to nucleic acids that are attached to beads.

The company said its program would include intellectual property in areas such as DNA and protein arrays, scanner and detector technologies, and microfluidics.

“Our vision is to make our intellectual property estate accessible on reasonable terms to stimulate the broad commercialization of genome analysis technologies so that science and society can reap the benefits,” Alan Sherr, Affymetrix’s director of licensing, said in a statement.

The Affymetrix licensing portfolio offering includes patents in these general areas:

  • arrays of biological polymers on various substrates at various densities;
  • use of bar codes with biological polymer arrays or array packages;
  • scanning technology and associated instrumentation and software;
  • microfluidics related to experimentation using microarrays;
  • and assays and reagents;

The company did not specify what patents would be included in this offering, which appears to be the microarray industry leader’s equivalent of a spring house-cleaning of its non-core technology.

The patents, the company said, are available for licensing to organizations commercializing and using bead technology, designing microarrays, manufacturing or using microarrays, detecting and analyzing signals from microarrays, employing bioinformatics and software to analyze microarrays, and other array-related areas.

The United States Patent and Trademark office lists some 212 patents assigned to the company, from No. 5,556,752, granted on Sept. 17, 1996 to No. 6,709,816 granted on March 23, 2004. Of these, some 41 reference beads in the patent description. They range from No. 5,556,752 of Sept. 17, 1996 to No. 6,660,234, granted on Dec. 9, 2003.

Company officials did not respond to a request for comment in time for the deadline for publication of this article.

Officials of Illumina, a manufacturer of a bead-based gene expression platform, declined comment.

— MOK

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