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Boehringer Ingelheim, Seahorse Bioscience, and Merck Awarded US Patents

Boehringer Ingelheim has been awarded US Patent 7,276,373, “Surrogate cell-based system and method for assaying the activity of hepatitis C virus NS3 protease.”
The inventors listed on the patent are Charles Pellerin and Daniel Lamarre.
As stated in the abstract, the invention describes a cell-based assay system having improved sensitivity to HCV NS3 protease activity when compared to known assays. The assay is useful for screening test compounds capable of modulating (particularly inhibiting) HCV NS3 protease activity. This system provides a first construct comprising a transactivator domain joined downstream of the NS3 5 domains of HCV under the control of a non-cytopathic viral promoter system. A second construct is also provided that comprises a reporter gene under the control of an operator sensitive to the binding of the transactivator. The NS3 5 domains encode the NS3 polyprotein, which comprises: the NS3 protease, followed by the NS4A co-factor, the NS4B and NS5A proteins (including any derivative, variant, or fragment thereof), terminated by the NS5B protein (including any derivative, variant, or fragment thereof) sufficient to constitute a NS5A/5B cleavage site. The transactivator, when expressed and released from the polyprotein, initiates measurable transcription and expression of the reporter gene.

Seahorse Bioscience has been awarded US Patent 7,276,351, “Method and device for measuring multiple physiological properties of cells.”
The inventors listed on the patent are Jay Teich, Andy Neilson, Michael Sweeney, and Geoff Uhl.
The invention provides a method of analyzing cells disposed in media within a vessel that includes the steps of providing a vessel having an original volume of media about the cells, reducing the original volume of media about at least a portion of the cells to define a reduced volume of media, and analyzing a constituent related to the cells within the reduced volume of media, according to the patent abstract. An apparatus for analyzing cells includes a stage adapted to receive a vessel holding cells and a volume of media, a plunger adapted to receive a barrier to create a reduced volume of media within the vessel including at least a portion of the cells, the barrier adapted for insertion into the vessel by relative movement of the stage and the plunger, and a sensor in sensing communication with the reduced volume of media, wherein the sensor is configured to analyze a constituent disposed within the reduced volume.

Merck has been awarded US Patent 7,276,206, “Electrical field stimulation of eukaryotic cells.”
The inventors listed on the patent are Paul Augustine, Randal Bugianesi, Gary Kath, Owen McManus, Paul Bennett, Tina Garyantes, and John Imredy.
According to the abstract, the patent discusses methods of identifying activators and inhibitors of voltage-gated ion channels that employ electrical field stimulation of the cells in order to manipulate the open/close state transition of the voltage-gated ion channels. This allows for more convenient and precise experimental manipulation of these transitions, and together with efficient methods of detecting the result of ion flux through the channels, provides methods that are especially suitable for high-throughput screening.

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