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Illumina, Population Genetics Technologies, Applera

Illumina has received US Patent No. 7,390,459, “Oligonucleotide synthesizer.” The patent claims an apparatus for high-throughput combinatorial syntheses of organic molecules, including a reaction vessel for containing a combinatorial-chemistry synthetic reaction, a liquid dispenser, a liquid aspirator, and an adjustment mechanism. The reaction vessel includes an ingress aperture allowing a liquid to enter into an interior of the vessel and an egress aperture for aspirating the liquid from the vessel. The liquid dispenser dispenses liquid through the ingress aperture. The liquid aspirator aspirates liquid through the egress aperture and includes a rotor for carrying the vessel and orbiting the vessel about an axis of rotation. The rotor is oriented generally in a horizontal plane and includes an adjustment mechanism for adjusting the angle of the vessel relative to the horizontal plane in response to the centrifugal force generated by orbiting the vessel about the axis of rotation. A method of combinatorial synthesis of organic molecules is also disclosed.

Population Genetics Technologies of Cambridge, UK, has received US Patent No. 7,393,665, “Methods and compositions for tagging and identifying polynucleotides.” The patent provides methods and compositions for attaching oligonucleotide tags to polynucleotides for the purpose of carrying out analytical assays in parallel, as well as for decoding the oligonucleotide tags of polynucleotides selected in such assays. According to the patent’s abstract, words, or subunits, of oligonucleotide tags index submixtures in successively more complex sets or tiers of submixtures that a polynucleotide goes through while successive words are added to a growing tag. By identifying each word of an oligonucleotide tag, a series of submixtures is identified including the first submixture that contains only a single polynucleotide, therefore providing the identity of the selected polynucleotide. The analysis of the words of an oligonucleotide tag can be carried out in parallel, for example by specific hybridization of the oligonucleotide tag to its tag complement on an addressable array; or such analysis can be carried out serially by successive specific hybridizations of labeled word complements, the abstract states.

Applera has received US Patent No. 7,394,943, “Methods, software, and apparatus for focusing an optical system using computer image analysis.” The patent claims methods, software, and apparatus for focusing an image in a biological instrument. The method includes: a) moving a focusing element to a plurality of focus positions within a focusing element movement range; b) capturing a sample image of a target sample at the plurality of focus positions; c) resolving the sample image into a plurality of subregions; d) calculating image intensity statistical dispersion values within the plurality of subregions; e) selecting a focus window delineating a desired degree of focus and determined on the basis of image intensity statistical dispersion versus focus element position; f) evaluating image intensity statistical dispersion values versus focus element position for the plurality of subregions; and g) determining an optimal focus position for the focusing element which maximizes the number of subregions residing within the focus window, where the target sample is a high-density microarray.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.