A new US Patent has issued for Illumina scientific founder David Walt’s microsphere-based analyte detection platform. The patent, Number 6,327,410, is entitled “Target analyte sensors utilizing microspheres,” and is assigned to Tufts University, where Walt has his research lab. The patent covers a method in which microspheres that carry bioactive agents are dispersed onto a substrate then target analytes are detected for these agents using an optical signature encoding scheme. The patent covers a wide variety of substrates, both two- and three-dimensional. But the preferred embodiment is that which San Diego-based Illumina has adopted, a “modified fiber optic bundle or array.” Illumina’s BeadArray technology consists of DNA strands attached to microspheres, which then fit into the hemispherical craters at the ends of these fiber optic bundles. Up to 2,000 different genes, with 50,000 genes per bead, can fit into the end of a single bundle. The company then arrays these bundles into hairbrush like matrices on a cassette that can fit into the wells of a 96-well plate. Given that each bead includes hundreds of thousands of molecules, the technology can provide a sensitive platform for analyte detection.
PE Corporation (now Applera), received two US patents covering nucleic acid molecules that encode human lipase proteins and human enzymes, as well as the proteins and enzymes themselves. The inventions also provide for methods of identifying these particular molecules using microarrays. The lipase proteins, described in Patent Number 6,326,182, include those related to the hormone-sensitive lipase (arylacetamide deacetylase) subfamily. The enzymes, covered in Patent Number 6,326,180, include those related to the steroid oxidoreductase subfamily.
In the latest milestone of the joint technology venture they began in 1997, Nanogen and Becton, Dickinson have received a patent covering a method of amplifying nucleic acids using electronically induced hybridization of target nucleic acids to the primer. This patent, US Patent Number 6,326,173, “Electronically mediated nucleic acid amplification in NASBA,” details a method known as nucleic acid sequence-based amplification. The method, in addition to using electronics, also uses strand displacement amplification, which requires less temperature control than PCR. It is designed to make amplification much faster and more efficient.