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PATENT WATCH: Aug 10, 2001


Series of Patents Awarded for Motorola Clinical Microsensors Core Technology

Motorola’s diagnostic biochip subsidiary Clinical Microsensors (CMS) has received a series of US Patents for its core electronic microarray technology.

“All of these patents have to do with protection of the basic technology and basic system we are commercializing,” said Randy Levine, director of business development for CMS’ eSensor diagnostic array platform.

Patent numbers 6,268,149 and 6,268,150, which were awarded to the California Institute of Technology and will be licensed to Motorola, according to Levine, are both entitled “Nucleic acid mediated electron transfer.” The patents cover inventions by Thomas Meade and CMS CEO Jon Kayyem covering modification of nucleic acids to serve as vehicles for electron transfer, and for use as hybridization probes. These inventions involve modifying nucleic acids by binding electron donor and electron receptor moieties (parts of molecules) to the nucleic acid’s ribose phosphate backbone. These modified nucleic acids serve as templates that can transfer electrons rapidly over large distances, according to the invention. In this way, they can be used as probes for biochips. The electron transfer, which can occur as a result of hybridization between such a modified strand and a complementary strand, can then be used as a detection signal for the presence of a particular sequence. In the second patent, this electronic transfer method, and a particular hybridization temperature, is used to distinguish between a perfect match of two complementary sequence strands and a mismatch.

Meade, a senior research associate in biology at CalTech, and Kayyem also received Patent number 6,265,155, which covers the substrate for these electron-transfer nucleic acid probes and the mechanism for binding them to the substrate. The patent, entitled “Metallic solid supports modified with nucleic acids,” describes solid supports with metallic surfaces, as well as blocking moieties that are attached at one end to the surface and at the other end to a modified nucleic acid that has the electron transfer moieties attached, and that are also attached to nucleic acids at the other end.

CMS also received US Patent number 6,264,825, “Binding acceleration techniques for the detection of analytes.” The patent covers methods for electronic detection of a target analyte in a detection chamber using the electron transfer moiety detailed in the CalTech patents, which transfers electrons to an electrode when bound to the target analyte. This method can also involve placing a sample between at least two electrodes so it can be electrophoretically transported to the detection electrode.

ORNL Scientist receives Tandem Hybridization Patent

Kenneth Beattie, head of the microarray laboratory at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., has received US Patent number 6,268,147, “Nucleic acid analysis using sequence-targeted tandem hybridization.” The patent describes a method in which pre-labeled “auxiliary” oligonucleotides are pre-annealed to a single strand of target nucleic acid, and then this partial duplex is hybridized to the DNA array. This two-step hybridization process is designed to prevent a denatured double-stranded DNA sample from reassociating back to itself, since the strands are pre-attached to the auxiliary oligonucleotides before hybridizing to the target molecule. This method also enables users of chips to test multiple samples in a single assay, the patent stated.

Incyte to License Microarray Fabrication Patents on Case-by-Case Basis

When Incyte and GeneMachines announced in mid-July that GeneMachines had licensed two patents that describe the methods basic to microarraying, US Patent numbers 5,807,522, and 6,110,426, as well as their foreign equivalents, the question was raised as to whether other companies that manufacture contact-printing arrayers are going to rush to license these patents.

But Incyte in-house counsel Lucy Billings has since told BioArray News that Incyte and the companies involved will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a company needs licenses to these patents to operate. “The situation with GeneMachines is fact-specific,” Billings said.

These patents, which are both entitled “Methods for fabricating microarrays of biological samples,” cover the pioneering microarray printing technology developed by Pat Brown and Dari Shalon at Stanford University in the mid-1990s. They describe the process of using an automated capillary dispenser, a pinhead, to deposit a specific volume of liquid onto a microarray.

At the time, GeneMachines said it needed the patents to continue to operate in the arraying instrumentation space. Incyte has also licensed these patents to Merck, and licensed the ‘522 patent to Kyron in recent months. “We have a broad licensing program in place,” said Billings. “Our goal is to provide access to as many companies as need the technology.”

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