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Medical Research Council, AZN, MitoKor, Applera Win US Patents


The Medical Research Council in London has been awarded US Patent No. 6,808,882, “Optical sorting method.”

Inventors listed on the patent are: Andrew Girffiths, Dan Tawfik, and Armin Sepp.

According to its abstract, the patent describes a method for isolating one or more genetic elements encoding a gene product having a desired activity. The method comprises the following steps: compartmentalizing genetic elements into microcapsules; expressing the genetic elements to produce their respective gene products within the microcapsules; and sorting the genetic elements which produce the gene product having the desired activity using a change in the optical properties of the genetic elements, the abstract states. The invention enables the in vitro evolution of nucleic acids and proteins by repeated mutagenesis and iterative applications of the above method.

Furthermore, according to the patent, cell-based screening assays can be designed by constructing cell lines in which the expression of a reporter protein … is dependent on gene product. Such an assay enables the detection of compounds that directly modulate gene product function, such as compounds that antagonize gene product, or compounds that inhibit or potentiate other cellular functions required for the activity of the gene product.

AstraZeneca AB has been awarded US Patent No. 6,808,892, “Method for identifying inhibitors of IPC synthase.”

Inventors listed on the patent are: Norbert Schnell and Jini Chavada.

According to its abstract, the patent describes a screening assay for identifying a selective IPC synthase inhibitor, in which the assay comprises: Contacting a test compound with engineered cells whose capability to synthesize sphingolipids depends on the addition of exogenous phytosphingosine, and which are capable of sustained growth via compensatory phospholipids; adding phytosphingosine; and determining IPC synthase inhibition by the test compound by referencing any cell growth inhibition. The patent also describes engineered cells for use in the assay, the abstract states.

MitoKor has been awarded US Patent No. 6,808,873, “Screening assays using intramitochondrial calcium.”

Inventors listed on the patent are: Anne Murphy and Amy Stout.

According to its abstract, the patent provides methods for screening for agents that modulate mitochondrial function, in particular mitochondrial regulation of intracellular calcium. The methods may be used to detect agents that bind to a mitochondrial calcium uniporter, and may also detect inhibitors or uncouplers of mitochondrial respiration, the abstract states. Agents identified using the screens provided have application in the prevention and treatment of a variety of diseases associated with abnormal mitochondrial function, the abstract states.

Applera has been awarded US Patent Nos. 6,806,072, 6,808,911, and 6,808,912, all of which are titled “Isolated human kinase proteins, nucleic acid molecules encoding human kinase proteins, and uses thereof.”

Lead inventors listed on the patents are Jane Ye, Marion Webster, and Ming-Hui Wei, respectively.

According to their abstracts, the patents provide amino acid sequences of kinase peptides (related to the membrane-associated guanylate kinase subfamily, the MEK kinase alpha subfamily, or the protein kinase N kinase subfamily, respectively) that are encoded by genes within the human genome. The patents specifically provide isolated peptide and nucleic acid molecules, methods of identifying orthologs and paralogs of the kinase peptides, and methods of identifying modulators of the kinase peptides.

Furthermore, according to the patents’ bodies, the disclosed proteins are useful in cell-based or cell-free drug screening assays. Cell-based systems can be native, for example, cells that normally express one of the kinases, as a biopsy or expanded in cell culture; or, in an alternate embodiment, cell-based assays involve recombinant host cells expressing the one of the kinase proteins.


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