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USPTO, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Geron, GenVec, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington, NanoBio, Redpoint Bio, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, National University

USPTO Upholds Pair of WARF, Geron Stem Cell Patents
The US Patent and Trademark Office has upheld the validity of the two most important stem cell patents assigned to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and exclusively licensed by Geron, WARF and Geron said this week.
The USPTO specifically upheld US Patent Nos. 5,843,780 and 6,200,806, which respectively claim preparations of primate and human embryonic stem cells and methods for their isolation.
During the proceedings, WARF made minor amendments to certain claims to improve clarity and consistency and added three new claims to each patent. The decisions of the patent office on these two patents are final and cannot be appealed, Geron and WARF said.
In February, the USPTO upheld a third WARF stem cell patent, US No. 7,029,913 (see BTW, 2/5/2008). This patent is also licensed exclusively to Geron, which has the right to use all three patents to develop and commercialize therapies based on three types of cells derived from hESCs: neural cells, cardiomyocytes, and pancreatic islet cells.
Last year, consumer watchdog groups the Public Patent Foundation and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, along with Jeanne Loring, a stem cell scientist at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, challenged the validity of the patents (see BTW, 3/5/2007 and 4/9/2007).
WARF said that it continues to support the distribution of cell lines and methodologies for isolating and culturing hESCs to academic researchers through its affiliate, the WiCell Research Institute.
Since 1999, WiCell has granted 914 free academic licenses for patent rights to stem cells and completed agreements for 25 commercial licenses with industrial partners, WARF said.

GenVec Wins SBIR Grant to Work with Hutchinson CRC, UW on HSV Vaccine
GenVec said last week that it has received a two-year, $600,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation and Research grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to support the company’s efforts to develop adenovector-based vaccines for the HSV-2 virus.
The grant will support work being conducted at GenVec in collaboration with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the University of Washington.
Researchers from GenVec and the academic institutions will focus on testing adenovirus vectors containing antigens for HSV-2, the virus responsible for most cases of genital herpes. The vaccine candidates will be evaluated for their ability to generate CD8 T-cell responses in mice and nonhuman primates.

UMich Spinout NanoBio Closes Third $10M Financing Round
NanoBio, a spinout of the University of Michigan, has received its third $10 million tranche of equity funding from private equity management firm Perseus.
The third round of funding was triggered after NanoBio met three development milestones: validating the efficacy and safety of its two topical treatments for skin infections, and demonstrating the strength of its influenza vaccine in ferret studies.
NanoBio has received a total of $30 million over the past 18 months from Perseus. The funding has enabled NanoBio to conduct Phase II clinical trials on its two lead products, topical treatments for herpes labialis and onychomycosis.
The funding has also supported animal studies supporting the company’s nasal vaccines against influenza, hepatitis B, and other pathogens.

Taste Receptor Assay Patent Granted to Mt. Sinai, Licensee Redpoint Bio
Redpoint Bio said that the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued Patent No. 7,341,842 to Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Redpoint is an exclusive licensee of the patent.
According to Redpoint, based in Ewing, NJ, the patent covers the use of assay technology to identify modulators of the TRPM5 ion channel, which is highly expressed in taste receptor cells and associated with the perception of bitter, sweet, and savory tastes.
Redpoint said that modulators of the TRPM5 ion channel could be used as flavor enhancers in foods and beverages or to block the bitter taste of many pharmaceuticals.

NUI-Galway Opens Office to ‘Ignite’ Tech Transfer
The National University of Ireland, Galway, has launched the Ignite technology transfer office to provide expertise and guidance to researchers, businesses, and entrepreneurs in the country’s Western region, NUI-Galway said last week.
The 15-member Ignite TTO team will offer a range of programs and services to support intellectual property management and new enterprise development, and will build on existing tech-transfer activities at NUI-Galway.
Programs and services offered by Ignite will include early-stage identification and protection of IP, technology marketing, technology valuation, and technology commercialization.

Motif Collaborating with Imperial College London on Diabetes, Obesity Genetics Research
The specialized genetics company Motif BioSciences is forming a new partnership with the Imperial College London aimed at deciphering the genetics of diabetes, obesity, and other related metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, the company said this week.
Motif, which is an Amphion Innovations partner company, plans to team up with Imperial College’s head of genomic medicine Philippe Froguel, who has extensive experience studying metabolic diseases. Once they receive appropriate permission, Motif plans to access genetic samples and clinical data that Froguel and his collaborators have collected in Morocco.
Using their genomic analysis tools and high-density microarray technology, Motif hopes to identify genomic variants that predispose some individuals to diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. This, in turn, may reveal new druggable targets and molecular biomarkers, they said.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.