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Scripps sues sequencing leader Illumina

Scripps Research Institute alleges Illumina’s sequencing technology infringes patent

by Ann M. Thayer
March 24, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 13

Credit: Illumina
Scripps claims Illumina’s BeadChips infringe its patent.
Illumina’s BeadChip for gene sequencing.
Credit: Illumina
Scripps claims Illumina’s BeadChips infringe its patent.

In the latest lawsuit in the highly competitive area of genetic analysis, Scripps Research Institute is suing instrumentation market leader Illumina. The renowned biomedical research institute alleges that Illumina’s BeadChip DNA microarrays infringe a Scripps patent.

The patent describes making and using bifunctional molecules having an oligonucleotide target probe linked to an encoded section that identifies the sequence of the target probe. For genetic analysis, specific oligonucleotide sequences target complementary DNA or RNA in a sample. In Illumina’s microarrays, each of the thousands of beads on a chip has hundreds of thousands of bifunctional molecules attached to it.

The patent, titled “Encoded Combinatorial Chemical Libraries,” was issued in May 2000 to Richard Lerner, Kim Janda, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner Sydney Brenner for work conducted while at Scripps. It expired in March 2012.

During the term of the patent, Scripps claims, Illumina infringed it by making and selling microarray products. Scripps also claims that Illumina must have been aware of the patent because it had licensed others from Brenner.

Illumina is not commenting on the lawsuit and has until early April to respond. In late 2014, it settled a four-year-long battle with Syntrix Biosystems over rights to other aspects of BeadChip technology. In the end, Illumina paid Syntrix $70 million for past damages. The deal also gave Illumina an exclusive license to the relevant Syntrix patent.

Just last month, Illumina initiated its own patent infringement case against competitor Oxford Nanopore Technologies. And Illumina remains embroiled in a dispute with Columbia University and its licensee Intelligent Bio-Systems over claims to using labeled nucleotides in next-generation sequencing.


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