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Tech Transfer Tidbits: Mar 4, 2009


Senate, House Judiciary Committees Reintroduce Patent Reform Bill

Leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral patent reform legislation this week.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah); and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) joined to introduce the Patent Reform Act of 2009, according to a statement from Sen. Leahy's office.

The Senate and House bills are similar to bipartisan legislation introduced in the 110th Congress. The House of Representatives passed patent reform legislation (HR 1908) in the last Congress (see BTW, 9/10/07), and the Senate Judiciary Committee reported companion legislation in the Senate (S 1145); however, the Senate bill failed to come to a vote (see BTW, 4/16/2008).

Members of the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and university tech-transfer communities, among others, have been vocal in their opposition to patent reform legislation.

As reported this week by the patent blog Patently-O, several of the controversial provisions from previous iterations of the bill remain in the new proposed legislation. However, the newly proposed bill does contain several changes, including that it does not require all patent applications to be published at 18 months; does not require patent applicants to search prior art; and does not address the issue of inequitable conduct.

In a statement issued this week, the Biotechnology Industry Organization said that it welcomed improvements to the patent system, "particularly those that increase patent quality, increase public participation, and provide additional resources" to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

“While BIO continues to have concerns with some of the specific language in the bills introduced today, we understand that today’s introductions are just the beginning of the legislative process," BIO added.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America also issued a statement in response to the introduction of the bill.

“We appreciate the work done by the bill's sponsors to work with all stakeholders and bring forward legislation on this important topic," PhRMA said. "However, we remain concerned that the legislation introduced today does not address the concerns of numerous stakeholders from many industries who would be negatively affected by certain provisions in the bill."

In particular, PhRMA said that certain elements of the bill, if passed, would lower the penalties for those found by a court to have infringed another's patent, thus "reducing the value of the patents that are the lifeblood of America’s innovative business sectors, which depend on intellectual property protection."

The Leahy-Hatch Patent Reform Act is co-sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), James Risch (R-Idaho), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

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FDA Clears Quick-Med Wound Dressing Developed by UF Scientists

The US Food and Drug Administration has cleared a wound dressing primarily developed by University of Florida scientists and manufactured by Quick-Med Technologies, UF said this week.

The FDA gave permission to Quick-Med to start selling the technology, called Nimbus, after reviewing the technology under its de novo process, designed to accelerate the clearance of medical devices for which there are no equivalents on the market, UF said.

Chris Batich, a UF professor of materials science; Greg Schultz, director of the UF Institute for Wound Research; and Bruce Mast, a plastic surgeon formerly at UF and now in private practice, co-invented the technology.

Nimbus is a barrier gauze wound care dressing that retains its antimicrobial properties without allowing any bacteria to migrate back into the wound, meaning the dressing can potentially be worn for longer periods of time, UF said.

Quick-Med, based in Gainesville, is a publicly traded company that develops technologies and licenses them to partner companies for commercialization. It has licensed the Nimbus technology to Derma Sciences, which plans to market it this June under the trade name Bioguard.

GSK and University College London Ink Research Pact for Ophthalmology Rxs

GlaxoSmithKline and the University College London's Institute of Ophthalmology have inked a three-year strategic collaboration to investigate new compounds to treat potentially sight-threatening disorders, GSK and UCL said last week.

Specifically, researchers from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology will investigate the potential of compounds provided by GSK's ophthalmic drug-development unit Ophthiris.

The collaboration will provide the institute with dedicated staff and undisclosed funding. The deal also provides for undisclosed royalty payments to UCL, should products arise from the partnership.

Additional details of the partnership were not disclosed.

Cellatope Sells University of Pittsburgh IP, License to Cypress Biosciences

Cell-analysis company Cellatope said last week that it has sold the rights to certain intellectual property surrounding its cell-bound complement activation products to Cypress Biosciences for an undisclosed amount.

As part of the deal, Cypress has assumed the license held by Cellatope from the University of Pittsburgh and received intellectual property and certain other intangible assets owned by Cellatope, including cell-bound complement activation assays that Cellatope was developing for the diagnosis and monitoring of systemic lupus erythematosus.

Cypress plans to complete the development program and add lupus personalized medicine services to its Avise product line, which includes tests for diagnosing, monitoring, and/or treating rheumatoid arthritis.

The technology may also have applications in other fields of medicine, such as diagnosing and monitoring other autoimmune disease, and monitoring organ transplantation rejection, Cellatope said.

Joseph Ahearn and Susan Manzi, co-directors of the Lupus Center of Excellence of the University of Pittsburgh and Magee-Women's Hospital of the UPitt Medical Center, are the principal inventors of the technology.

InfoStrength's Biz Management Software to Support NCBC's BATON Program

Software firm InfoStrength said last week that it has signed a strategic partnership with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Under the agreement, InfoStrength, based in Research Triangle Park, will provide its business management software, called the Smart Enterprise Suite, to support NCBC's Business Acceleration and Technology Outlicensing Network, or BATON, program.

InfoStrength specifically serves the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries. Its Smart Enterprise Suite software is a configurable, modular, web-based application specifically designed to address business and regulatory issues.

Luminos, University of Michigan File Patent App for Demethylase Enzyme Assay

A pair of researchers from Luminos and a professor from the University of Michigan have filed a US patent application relating to a new method to detect demethylase enzyme activity, Luminos said last week.

The technology allows demethylase activity to be determined by adding a single reagent that produces a fluorescent signal in direct proportion to the amount of formaldehyde produced, thus enabling analysis of multiple samples in high throughput.

Enzymatic demethylation of protein and DNA has emerged as an important pathway for regulating gene expression and other genomic processes, and several histone demethylases have been implicated in various forms of cancer, said Ray Trievel, a professor of biological chemistry at UM and co-inventor of the technology.

Russell Hart, a co-founder of Luminos and co-inventor of the technology, said in a statement that the combined work "is an excellent example of a University of Michigan-life science company collaboration that yields intellectual property, life science employment, and long-term economic growth for Michigan."

Luminos said that kits based on the technology will be available this spring.

Luminos, based in Ann Arbor, was founded in 2007 by Hart and two other senior scientists and managers from Assay Designs, another Ann Arbor-based biotech tool company founded in 1992.