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Thermo Finnigan Sues Applera for Patent Infringement; Says Prism Tool Violates Its Electrophoresis IP

Thermo Finnigan has sued Applera for allegedly infringing a 9-year-old patent covering capillary electrophoresis, ProteoMonitor’s sister publication GenomeWeb News has learned.

In a suit filed on Dec. 8 in the US District Court of Delaware, Thermo claims that Applied Biosystems’ gene analyzers infringe inventions listed in its patent entitled “Controlled-Temperature Anion Separation by Capillary Electrophoresis.”

Thermo said that Applera “willfully” infringes the patent whenever it makes, uses, imports, or sells its analyzer, which includes the Prism 3700. Thermo is seeking damages “in an amount adequate to compensate” the company for allegedly infringing the IP.

Saying that Applera’s alleged infringement has “damaged” Thermo, Thermo also asked the court to treble “any and all damages,” as well order Applera to pay interest on those damages, and legal fees.

“Adequate compensation” was not defined in the court complaint, which was obtained by GenomeWeb News.

The patent, No. 5,385,654, was awarded to Thermo in January 1995.

Officials from Thermo did not immediately return a call seeking comment. An ABI spokesperson declined to comment, citing company policy not to discuss pending litigation.


NIH Provides Up to $30M for Proteomic Research Into Oral Diseases Resulting from AIDS

The NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research issued a request for application last month to support proteomic research into oral diseases associated with HIV/AIDS.

Under the RFA, entitled “Protein Profiles of the Oral Mucosal Tissue in HIV/AIDS,” the NIDCR will award up to $3 million each to up to 10 researchers to characterize protein profiles and protein-protein interactions in the oral mucosa in conjunction with HIV/AIDS.

The suppressed immune system resulting from HIV infection makes patients vulnerable to a variety of oral disorders, including tumors, infections, and ulcers. New research is expected to “identify novel strategies for prevention and management of oral manifestations of AIDS,” according to the RFA.

The deadline for applications is Aug. 16.


Agilent Acquires Computational Biology in Bid to Expand Microarray Platform

Agilent Technologies acquired Computational Biology for an undisclosed sum, and plans to expand its microarray platform based on intellectual property owned by the company, Agilent said this week.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm said the acquisition gives it exclusive access to patents covering ChIP-on-Chip technology, which uses chromatin immuno-precipitation to discover how regulatory proteins interact with the genome of living cells. According to Agilent, the ChIP-on-chip technology will enable researchers to discover how regulatory proteins control gene activity, taking its microarray technology a step beyond measuring gene expression.

“This acquisition is strategically important to the expansion of Agilent’s microarray platform into new array-based genomics applications,” said Fran DiNuzzo, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Integrated Biology Solutions business.

Agilent said that applications for the technology in disease research, drug discovery, and drug development will become roughly 10 percent, or at least $100 million, of the microarray market by 2007.

Agilent also said that within six months it would open a collaborative research center in Cambridge, Mass., where Computational Biology is located. The location of the research center, which will include an Agilent demonstration center for genomics, proteomics, and informatics, will enable close collaboration with Computational Biology’s founders and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Privately held Computational Biology was co-founded by Richard Young and David Gifford of MIT, and biotech executive Heidi Wyle. Gifford and Young, who is a professor at the Whitehead Institute and primary inventor of the ChIP-on-chip technique, will remain in their academic positions while consulting for Agilent on further development of ChIP-on-chip for commercial applications.

The acquisition of Computational Biology follows the November launch of the firm’s fully automated lab-on-a-chip system, an advanced version of the firm’s earlier-generation 2100 bioanalyzer, and the purchase of bioinformatics firm Silicon Genetics in August.


Whatman Plans to Lay Off 160, Provides Details on Schleicher & Schuell Acquisition

Whatman announced last week that a review of its business operations following the Dec. 1 acquisition of Schleicher & Schuell has been completed, and that the company has decided to cut approximately 160 jobs.

This reduction will reduce Whatman’s headcount to about 1000, and result in a one-time charge of £11.4 million, the company said. Whatman announced in early November that it would be acquiring Schleicher & Schuell for €50.2 million.

Whatman also said that its US manufacturing operations will be focused in Stanford, Maine. Its US sales and administrative operations, as well as global business development activities, will be centered in Florham Park, NJ.

Additionally, former Schleicher & Schuell head office functions will be intergrated into Whatman and “streamlined,” while the sales and business development activities of the two companies will be combined and “optimized.”

Whatman said that it is working to narrow the product offerings of the companies from 21,000 to 7,000, an effort that will cost about £800,000. An additional £2.4 million charge unrelated to the Schleicher & Schuell acquisition will also be recorded in 2004.

In total, Whatman expects to record a charge of £14.6 million in 2004, of which the pre-tax cash cost is £13.8 million.

The company said its sales for the year are “disappointing,” coming in about three percent lower than expected, but that earnings before exceptional charges remain in-line with expectations.

Preliminary results for the full-year 2004 will be released in April, Whatman said.


Norak Changes Name to Xsira, Plans Sale of Fluorescent Assay Technology

Norak Biosciences said this week that it has changed its name to Xsira Pharmaceuticals to reflect its transition from a platform technology company to a product development company.

As part of the change, Norak also plans to sell all aspects of its business related to Transfluor, its flagship fluorescent assay technology for screening G-protein coupled receptors.

Terry Willard, executive vice president of Xsira, said that the company doesn’t yet have a buyer for Transfluor, but that several companies are interested.


Illumina Recently Receives $1.5M in NIH Grants

Illumina has won around $1.5 million through a pair of recent grants from the US National Institutes of Health, according to the NIH.

The grants, which the NIH said are effective as of Dec. 26, but that Illumina had not previously disclosed, include:

  • $506,021 for a high-throughput methylation-profiling system
  • $194,951 for research into allelic expression-monitoring by array-based genotyping;
  • $603,106 to develop a protease substrate array; and
  • $169,877 to develop an allergy peptide array.

Predicant Licenses Caliper Microfluidics Technology for Proteomic Tests

Predicant Biosciences has licensed microfluidics patents from Caliper Life Sciences for use in the analysis of proteins by mass spectrometry, the companies said last week.

Under the non-exclusive licensing deal, Predicant, of South San Francisco, Calif., plans to use Caliper’s microfluidics technology to separate proteins from blood for diagnostic tests based on protein patterns that it is developing.

The agreement is part of Caliper’s new outlicensing strategy, “with the goal of permeating the life sciences, diagnostics and other industries with out microfluidics technologies,” Caliper CEO Kevin Hrusovsky said in a company statement.


SGI Installs Supercomputer at China HUPO for Human Liver Proteome Project

Silicon Graphics has installed supercomputing and storage equipment with the China Human Proteome Organization, a member of HUPO, the two organizations said this week.

The equipment, installed last September, will be used for the Human Liver Proteome Project, which is funded with $16 million from the Chinese government for a three-year pilot study, to be completed this year. Currently, 79 research laboratories, about half of them in China, participate in the project.

The equipment includes an SGI Altix 3,000 supercomputer, an SGI SAN solution, and an SGI InfiniteStorage Shared Filesystem CXFS. The location in China where these were installed was not immediately clear.

 

The Scan

Not Kept "Clean and Sanitary"

A Food and Drug Administration inspection uncovered problems with cross contamination at an Emergent BioSolutions facility, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Resumption Recommendation Expected

The Washington Post reports that US officials are expected to give the go-ahead to resume using Johnson & Johnson's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Canada's New Budget on Science

Science writes that Canada's new budget includes funding for the life sciences, but not as much as hoped for investigator-driven research.

Nature Papers Examine Single-Cell, Multi-Omic SARS-CoV-2 Response; Flatfish Sequences; More

In Nature this week: single-cell, multi-omics analysis provides insight into COVID-19 pathogenesis, evolution of flatfish, and more.