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Avoiding Legal Battle Over 2D Gel Platforms, GeneProt Pays OGS $1M


Bowing to pressure from its UK-based rival, GeneProt has agreed to pay $1 million in cash and equity to Oxford GlycoSciences for the right to license two patents covering a procedure for separating and analyzing proteins using an automated 2D gel electrophoresis platform, the companies said last week.

The $1 million, seven-year, nonexclusive licensing agreement, which consists primarily of a cash payment, will allow GeneProt to continue operating its established 2D gel electrophoresis platform, and does not include any transfer of technology from OGS to GeneProt, said Stephen Parker, OGS’ chief financial officer. GeneProt is the first licensee of OGS’ automated 2D gel technology.

Parker added that unless OGS is “severely pushed we’re not very keen on spending shareholders’ money litigating through the courts,” but said that the company had sent around its most recently issued US patent covering its automated 2D gel spot-picking and image-analysis procedure, which may have prodded GeneProt into seeking a license.

GeneProt’s ambitions to go through an IPO this year may also have contributed to its signing the license, Parker added. “They’re doing a fundraising at the moment, and they have ambitions for an IPO this year and I imagine that was a factor in getting them to step up,” he said.

GeneProt was initially awarded a patent covering its automated 2D gel platform in 2000, which several companies challenged as being too broad and drawing from the prior art, he added. A more narrowly defined patent was awarded last year, and the patent examiner rejected the challenges, according to Parker.

“The view that potentially GeneProt took was that there were questions as to whether [the first patent] would stick, but when [the revised patent] was reissued I think they recognized that they probably would be infringing and therefore sought a license,” he said.

GeneProt was not available to comment for this article. In a statement, the North Brunswick, NJ-based company said that the license will allow it the freedom to continue running automated 2D gels as part of its MacroProt process for analyzing large proteins and other proteins not easily separated using liquid chromatography-assisted separation.

The patents’ primary claim covers the robotic picking and excision of proteins from a 2D gel, and the subsidiary claims cover a procedure for immobilizing a gel on a glass plate, OGS’ suite of fluorescent stains used to image the proteins on the gel, and the process for scanning that image into a computer — all of which is performed robotically, Parker said.


Others To Follow?


GeneProt’s decision to seek out a license for the technology may indicate that other companies will also consider signing a license agreement with OGS. Parker indicated that OGS believes there are other parties who would “be eligible” for a license, adding “we’re not necessarily accusing anyone.

“I certainly hope that with the publication of [the revised patent] and now this announcement that those companies involved in 2D gels will get their lawyers to run an eye over where they stand,” he said.

Under the licensing agreement, GeneProt will pay additional annual fees, which will increase if equivalent patents covering OGS’ 2D gel technology are awarded in Europe and Japan.