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PATENT WATCH: Sep 28, 2001


The University of Texas System has received US Patent Number 6,295,153, “Digital optical chemistry micromirror imager,” for a computer-controlled micromirror that redirects light to points on a substrate in order to catalyze a chemical reaction that synthesizes oligo-nucleotides or polypeptides.

This invention, created by UT Southwestern Medical Center biochemistry professor Harold Garner, describes technology that offers a theoretically more flexible alternative to photolithographic masks for light-based synthesis of microarrays.

“The present invention is based on the recognition that photolithographic masks are incapable of being designed, printed and used, at a reasonable cost to achieve the needed diversity for arrays of, e.g., oligonucleotide, polypeptide arrays or small chemical molecules,” the patent states.

Instead the micromirrors can focus UV light, lasers, or other light sources in ways that can achieve the same or similar effect of exposing precise points on an array to light at specific times.

Technology developed by Madison, Wisc., startup NimbleGen uses a similar principle.

Motorola Life Sciences has received two additional patents for its electronic microarray technology, US Patent Number 6,291,188, “Metallic solid supports modified with nucleic acids,” and US Patent Number 6,290,839, “Systems for electrophoretic transport and detection of analytes.” The patents were assigned formally to the California Institute of Technology, and cover inventions by Cal Tech researcher Thomas Meade and Jon Kayyem of Motorola Life Sciences.

The invention described in the first patent, (6,291,188) involves modification of nucleic acids by covalently binding electronically charged moieties to the ribose-phosphate backbone of a nucleic acid in order to use these complexes as probes for biochips. When the complex hybridizes to a complementary strand, it transfers the electron from the moiety, sending an electronic signal that the complementary strand is present.

The second patent, 6,290,839, relates to methods for transporting the electronic analytes to a detection electrode that is made of a self-assembled monolayer.

These patents follow a number of other electronic microarray-related patents awarded to Cal Tech and licensed to Motorola Life Sciences in August.

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