This story, originally published on April 4, has been updated from a previous version to include a comment from Roche.
By Ben Butkus
Eppendorf said today that it has licensed patents covering gradient technology for thermal cyclers to Roche, and to Labnet International, a subsidiary of Corning.
Both patents concern the use of a thermal gradient block, a thermostated block in contact with wells containing sample vials and generating different temperatures at different sites of the block.
Such temperature-gradient technology is commonly used in thermal cyclers containing a plurality of wells in order to optimize the temperature of a PCR reaction in different areas of a well plate.
In an e-mail to PCR Insider, Sven Bülow, executive vice president for corporate development at Eppendorf, said that the company does not comment on its licensing strategies.
However, he added that "Eppendorf honors the intellectual property of others and expects the players in the industry to respect Eppendorf's IP;" and that Eppendorf is "taking an active role in outlicensing some of its technologies."
Bülow noted that several other companies have acquired licenses to Eppendorf's gradient technology in the past, but he didn't specify which ones.
Bülow also said that Eppendorf "continues to offer its full line of cyclers, including models incorporating this technology." Eppendorf offers the Mastercycler line of thermal cyclers, which includes the Mastercycler Pro Gradient, Gradient, and EP Realplex models.
According to the company's website, Masterplex cyclers feature a programmable temperature gradient range of up to 20°C, enabling the optimization of all temperature steps of a PCR protocol, in particular annealing temperature.
Meantime, Roche sells the LightCycler 2.0, LightCycler 480, and LightCycler 1536 systems. A Roche spokesperson told PCR Insider this week that the company took the license "to ensure the technology for possible future developments," and noted that Roche currently has no plans to incorporate the technology in its existing systems.
Labnet, a wholly owned subsidiary of Corning, sells the Multigene gradient thermal cycler, which features a gradient with a maximum spread of 24°C, allowing twelve temperatures to be evaluated simultaneously, according to the company's website.
Eppendorf did not disclose financial terms of the Roche and Labnet agreements.
In a separate agreement announced today, Eppendorf licensed technology for electronic pipettes to Gilson. The licensed technology is covered in US Patent No. 6,778,917 and European patent 999,432 B2.
Under this agreement, Eppendorf receives an undisclosed upfront payment plus running royalties. Eppendorf uses the electronic pipetting technology in its Eppendorf Research Pro electronic pipettes.
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