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Court Deals Blow to Universities' Patenting Potential

The federal appeals court that handles patent cases has dealt a blow to universities hoping to patent basic research undertaken by their academics, according to a story in The Chronicle of Higher Education. And the court, says The Chronicle's Goldie Blumenstyk, knew exactly what it was doing. In their 9-2 decision, the judges said that patents should be awarded for "useful arts" — inventions with a practical use — not for academic theories, "no matter how groundbreaking or necessary to the later patentable inventions of others." This ruling, says Blumenstyk, came out of a 2002 case involving the validity of a patent on a technique for the identification of how a messenger protein regulates cell function. On the day the patent was awarded, the three grantee institutions and Ariad Pharmaceuticals — which held exclusive rights to commercialize the invention — sued Eli Lilly. They claimed two of Lilly's drugs — Evista and Xigris — infringed the patent. Lilly was ordered to pay $62.5 million in damages, but appealed and said the patent was invalid because it "failed to adequately demonstrate how to actually make the new technique." And the appeals have now gone Lilly's way. According to Blumenstyk, the judges said that universities may not have the resources to work out the practical applications of the research they do, and that might mean they are "disadvantaged" when seeking patents. But, they added, that's the intention of the law.

The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.