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Agilent Says New CGH IP Reflects 'Dedication' to Cyto Clinical Research Market

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Agilent Technologies this week announced that it has received a "significant" patent for its array comparative genomic hybridization technology.

The US Patent and Trademark Office awarded the Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm the patent, No. 8,232,055, on July 31. Entitled "Comparative genomic hybridization assays using immobilized oligonucleotide features and compositions for practicing the same," the patent includes claims for "measuring copy number changes in genomic DNA" and covers both "one-color and two-color assays using oligonucleotide probes and samples with high-sequence complexity, such as human genomic DNA samples," according to Agilent.

Robert Schueren, Agilent's vice president of genomics, told BioArray News this week that the receipt of the patent shows Agilent's "continued commitment and investment in the cytogenetic space."

At the same time, Schueren said it is "difficult to speculate" how Agilent's new IP will impact the market. He said that Agilent has "not yet determined a licensing strategy" for the '055 patent, but is "open to conversations with anyone who needs access to such IP."

Agilent filed its application for the '055 patent in December 2003. The inventors are Laurakay Bruhn, Alicia Scheffer, Michael Barrett, Douglas Amorese, and Stephen Laderman.

According to the patent's abstract, it covers comparative genomic hybridization assays that employ "solid support immobilized oligonucleotide feature elements ... in the form of an array."

In line with the claims of the patent, "first and second nucleic acid populations prepared from genomic templates are contacted with ... distinct oligonucleotide feature elements immobilized on a solid support surface and the binding of the at least first and second populations is then evaluated."

Agilent has sold CGH arrays since 2005, and recently introduced a platform that supports both copy number and SNP detection. The firm is a major supplier of CGH and CGH+SNP arrays to cytogeneticists who use them to identify the causal variants of constitutional abnormalities or to diagnose and make prognoses for different kinds of cancer.

Agilent has a number of competitors serving the same market, including Affymetrix and Illumina. A third rival, Roche NimbleGen, is likely to shutter its operations by year end, following restructuring plans announced earlier this year (BAN 6/12/2012). Following Roche's announcement, an Agilent spokesperson affirmed the company's "commitment to the continued investment and development of our microarray platform" (BAN 6/19/2012).

Each of the remaing large array vendors has its own IP protecting its cytogenetics-focused products. For instance, Affy earlier this year received US Patent No. 8,190,373, "Methods for identifying DNA copy number changes" (BAN 5/29/2012). The patent describes the use of Affy's arrays to "detect copy number changes in cancerous tissue compared to normal tissue" and to "diagnose cancer and other diseases associated with chromosomal anomalies."

Though Agilent has kept its array business out of the courtroom in recent years, the firm seems to be keen on promoting its IP position. Last year it made a similar announcement when it was awarded a US patent for the process used in on-array capture of genomic elements for downstream analysis, including next-generation sequencing. Schueren said at the time that the firm was opening the sequence capture IP to others.

It is unclear whether other firms have obtained a license to that patent since it was issued, but it has not been publicly challenged (BAN 3/15/2011).

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