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In Brief This Week: Natera, Sync for Genes, Castle Biosciences, BioMérieux, PathogenDx, More

NEW YORK – Natera said last week that the US Patent Office has upheld all claims of one of its patents that were under scrutiny in an inter partes review initiated by Illumina in 2019.

The patent, US Patent No. 8,682,592, "System and method for cleaning noisy genetic data from target individuals using genetic data from genetically related individuals," was also the subject of a patent infringement lawsuit between Natera and Illumina that was settled in May.

Natera said the patent office deemed all challenged claims of the '592 patent as patentable. It said the patent describes core DNA quantitation methods and methods using genotyping for analyzing small amounts of DNA and is useful for various applications, including noninvasive prenatal testing, circulating tumor DNA molecular residual disease testing, and donor-derived cell-free DNA testing in organ transplant recipients.


The US government's Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is soliciting demonstration sites for Phase 4 of the Sync for Genes program. Participants can be genomic medicine companies, health IT vendors, researchers, or care provider organizations. Applications are due by Jan. 8. Download the requirements and application here.


Castle Biosciences said this week that it has prepaid in full an outstanding term loan facility in an effort to improve its balance sheet. The Texas-based cancer diagnostics firm paid the lenders, Oxford Finance and Silicon Valley Bank, approximately $21.6 million including pay-off amounts for principal, interest, fees, reimbursement of expenses, and other items.


BioMérieux and its subsidiary Invisible Sentinel received a COVID-19-related certificate of validation for the Veripro SARS-CoV-2 Environmental Assay this week from the AOAC International emergency response validation (ERV) program. The assay uses one-step RT-PCR for qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 on stainless steel, concrete, plastic, ceramic, and other surfaces without the need for supplies and reagents typically used in clinical testing.

Scottsdale, Arizona-based PathogenDx also received an ERV certificate this week from AOAC for its EnviroX-Rv test on its multiplex microarray platform. The kit is intended for commercial SARS-CoV-2 testing on concrete, plastic, and other non-porous high-use surfaces.


Dutch diagnostics firms PathoFinder and EWC Diagnostics announced they are collaborating to expand COVID-19 testing capacity in the Netherlands, providing the Dutch government with sets of sample collection materials and test kits. Specifically, the firms are providing EWC's nasal and throat swabs and viral transport medium along with PathoFinder's RealAccurate Quadruplex SARS-CoV-2 PCR kit, which has the CE-IVD mark. EWC is distributing the products throughout the Netherlands.

The announcement comes less than a week after EWC said that it had teamed with MolGen and Hamilton to ramp up SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity in the Netherlands. As part of that alliance, EWC is providing the PathoFinder PCR tests and PCR instrumentation from Bio-Rad Laboratories.


Twist Bioscience said this week that it plans to add a new manufacturing facility in Wilsonville near Portland, Oregon. The 110,000-square-foot facility is expected to become operational in 2022 and add up to 400 jobs to the region over several years.


908 Devices, a firm developing miniaturized mass spectrometry instruments for chemical and biomolecular analysis, closed its upsized initial public offering with 7,475,000 shares sold at $20 per share, which includes the full exercise of the underwriters' option to purchase an additional 975,000 shares, yielding gross proceeds of $149.5 million. The company originally priced its IPO of about 6.5 million shares at $20 per share on Dec. 18, for anticipated gross proceeds of $130 million. Shares of 908 Devices began trading on that date on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol "MASS."


In Brief This Week is a selection of news items that may be of interest to our readers but had not previously appeared on GenomeWeb.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.