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Agilent Secures First On-array Sequence Capture IP, But Market Impact is Unclear

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By Justin Petrone

Agilent Technologies was recently awarded a US patent for the process used in on-array capture of genomic elements for downstream analysis, including next-generation sequencing.

The patent, number 7,867,703, was issued Jan. 11, 2011. Entitled "Element defined sequence complexity reduction," the firm said the method "uses oligonucleotide probes attached to a solid support as a sequence-specific affinity agent to isolate and facilitate the amplification of a defined nucleic acid fragment mixture."

Agilent announced its receipt of the on-array capture patent last month and it is still not clear what impact it will have on the market for target-enrichment methods. Robert Schueren, vice president and general manager of the company's genomics business, said the company is open to licensing its IP to others.

"In addition to continuing its own commercial use of the patented technology, Agilent would consider licensing the technology under appropriate terms and conditions," Schueren told BioArray News in an e-mail. He did not elaborate.

In a statement discussing the patent when it was issued last month, Schueren called it an example of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm's "leadership in providing tools for targeted re-sequencing," and said that Agilent is "committed to growing our in-solution and on-array SureSelect products, and offering scientists unmatched technology for research using next-generation sequencing."

Agilent's SureSelect Target Enrichment System includes on-array and in-solution kits for use with next-gen sequencing systems sold by Illumina, Life Technologies, and Roche 454 Life Sciences. While the firm has a number of competitors in the target-enrichment field, such as Illumina and Fluidigm, its most direct rival in the on-array sequence capture market is Roche NimbleGen.

A Roche NimbleGen spokesperson this week said that the company will "continue to offer and sell these products into the market."

He added that the Madison, Wis.-based array vendor is also "continuously monitoring the competitive and intellectual property landscape to identify changing needs and will continue to do so." The spokesperson did not elaborate.

Michael Zwick, a professor of molecular evolution and evolutionary genetics at Emory University who has developed sequence-capture methods in collaboration with Roche NimbleGen, said that he doesn't think Agilent's new IP is likely to alter the market dynamic at this time.

"I do not think there is any impact on users, until and unless there is a lawsuit that impacts the ability of a user to purchase their reagent from either company," Zwick told BioArray News this week. He added that, at this point, "no one knows how to interpret" Agilent's newly awarded IP.

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