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Biosearch Expands License with Qiagen for Scorpions Probe Tech

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Biosearch Technologies said today that it has expanded a license with Qiagen that will give Biosearch broad commercialization rights to Qiagen's Scorpions primer assays.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Novato, Calif.-based Biosearch can now manufacture, catalogue, and sell Scorpions primer assays into the research, applied, and infectious disease testing markets, the company said.

In addition, the new license grants Qiagen worldwide rights to market labeled probes based on Biosearch's Black Hole Quencher dyes for qPCR assays in all applied testing and in vitro diagnostic fields, Biosearch said.

The agreement builds on a previous license between Biosearch and Scorpions probe developer DxS, which was acquired by Qiagen last year for up to $130 million. Under the original agreement, Biosearch manufactured Scorpions probes for R&D applications under license from DxS.

"Biosearch has been working with Qiagen since 2002, manufacturing custom Scorpions primers for the majority of Scorpions licensees," Marc Beal, director of corporate development at Biosearch, said in a statement. "We are excited to expand our Scorpions license rights … to include catalogued products and applied markets."

Beal noted that applied testing fields now covered by the license include environmental testing, animal identity and food testing, genetically modified organism testing, industrial microbiology testing, biosecurity applications, and forensic and human identity fields.

The license also enables Biosearch to manufacture BHQ-labeled Scorpions primer assays for IVD applications in infectious disease, and further signals the company's gradual entry into the IVD market. In March, the company said that it had expanded its license with Roche Molecular Systems in order to manufacture and sell validated kits to the IVD marketplace as licensed products covered by multiple patents assigned to Roche and related to TaqMan probe technology (PCR Insider, 3/10/2010).

That agreement built on an original licensing agreement between Biosearch and Roche signed in September 2009 that covered practice of the 5' nuclease process, and allowed Biosearch to manufacture dual-labeled 5' nuclease probes to conduct in-house research; to catalog related probes and primers; and to provide them to Roche-licensed CLIA labs providing molecular diagnostic assays.

In August, Biosearch also said that it had exclusively licensed a single-molecule fluorescent in situ hybridization technology from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in order to manufacture, catalogue, and sell validated RNA FISH probes, assays, and kits in the research, applied markets, and IVD fields.

Scorpions primer assays are used to amplify and detect diagnostic targets. The bi-functional molecules contain a PCR primer covalently linked to a probe. The fluorophore in the probe interacts with a quencher, which reduces fluorescence. During a PCR reaction the fluorophore and quencher are separated, which leads to an increase in light output from the reaction tube.

According to Biosearch, Scorpions primers have distinct advantages over linear probed molecular diagnostics methodologies.

As part of its new agreement, Biosearch also said that it intends to work with Qiagen to "expand on the potential of Scorpions and capture this value in research, applied, and infectious disease markets."

Subject to certain undisclosed milestones, Biosearch will also become the "Center for Excellence for Scorpions" to design and manufacture Scorpions primers and related assays, Biosearch said. The company plans to generate and launch Scorpions design software accessible via the Biosearch website for customers and Qiagen Scorpions licensees.

According to Qiagen's website, existing licensees of Scorpions include Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Minerva Biolabs, Sangtec Molecular Diagnostics, Focus Diagnostics, DuPont Qualicon, Cepheid, ETS Laboratories, Diagnocure, SIRS Lab, AB Analatica, and Epigenomics.

In a statement, Achim Ribbe, vice president of licensing and corporate business development at Qiagen, said that the company is "excited to further leverage our strong IP situation with innovative partners such as Biosearch who manufacture and develop advanced primer assays based on this cutting-edge technology."

He added that the agreement also enables Qiagen to extend its reagent pool for designing more sensitive qPCR assays. "Therefore, Biosearch’s Black Hole Quencher dyes allow us to further strengthen our development capabilities for profiling assays in global, applied, and IVD testing markets," he said.

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