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US Investigates Origins of Patents on PE Sequencers

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LOS ANGELES--US government officials are investigating whether federal funds were used in the 1980s by California Institute of Technology scientists, led by Leroy Hood, to develop the first automated DNA sequencing instrument. If so, patents and licensing agreements for the device, which is now manufactured by PE, could be challenged, the Los Angeles Times reported. A lengthy article in the Times on May 16 described Hood's founding of Applied Biosystems to commercialize the technology and reported that investigators have subpoenaed his laboratory notebooks to determine whether the technology was fully developed by the time the lab was awarded federal grant money in 1985. If it was, the article said, the government could be owed anywhere from $400,000 to more than $25 million in refunds for purchases of the machines over the last decade.

The inventors claimed the instrument had been developed before federal funds were allotted, and Hood told the Times, "Someone out there had a vendetta."

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