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Biolog granted gene function patent.

Biolog, Inc. (Hayward, CA; 510-785-2564) has been issued two United States patents, one for a technology that can be used to determine the functions of genes and the second for novel anti-capsule agents used in cell identification products.

The company now has 12 United States patents in the company's core area of cellular testing and analysis. Additional United States and international patents also are pending. The new patents were issued April 25.

The gene function patent is a broad seminal patent that will support Biolog's recent entry into the rapidly growing fields of genomics and phenomics. The patent describes the use of Biolog's new Phenotype MicroArray technology and how that technology can be used to determine the functions of genes. Phenotype MicroArray technology is a major new platform for biological analysis, according to Barry Bochener, MD, Biolog chairman and Phenotype MicroArray technology inventor.

"Just as Affymetrix's GeneChip technology allows for simultaneous measurement of expression levels of thousands of genes, Biolog's Phenotype MicroArray technology allows simultaneous quantitative measurement of thousands of cellular phenotypes," he said. "The method for determining gene function covered in this patent builds onto Phenotype MicroArray technology, employing comparative phenotype analysis to directly measure the consequence of a genetic change.

"Modern sequencing technology has enabled explosive growth in the rate at which genes can be identified but it is still difficult to determine the functions coded for by genes. Understanding gene function is important in basic and applied research, especially as a part of drug discovery programs. It is also highly valued in being able to stake out intellectual property rights. A strong patent on a newly discovered gene cannot be obtained without an understanding of the function of that gene."

The patented method involves comparing two cell lines, one of which has the gene of interest inactivated by mutation. These two cell lines are compared in Phenotype MicroArrays, which can test thousands of physiological properties of the cell all at once. This permits the scientist to directly observe how the cell has changed due to loss of that gene activity. If the gene has many functions in the cell, this is also detected by the Phenotype MicroArray technology. An analysis of this type typically takes a day or two, and many such analyses can be run automatically using high throughput instrumentation that the company has developed. Patents are also pending on the instrumentation that monitors and quantitatively records the response of cells in Phenotype MicroArrays.

At a fundamental level, the patented technology allows a very detailed comparison of two cell lines. Beyond functional genomics there are many situations where this type of comparison can be very valuable. For example, scientists can compare (1) pathogenic versus non-pathogenic microorganisms, (2) bacterial, fungal, or insect cells versus the animal or plant cells that they attack, (3) virus-infected versus virus-free cells, (4) cancerous cells versus non-cancerous cells, (5) diseased versus healthy cells, and (6) cells in various states or stages of growth and development.

"Drug companies looking to define new drug targets and other researchers will find this approach extremely productive and valuable, and there is no other way to obtain this type of key information," said Tim Mullane, Biolog president and CEO. "Until recently, little direct phenotypic analysis was done because phenotypes could only be analyzed one at a time. A few companies have introduced technologies that enable observation of a small number of cellular phenotypes. Our technology jumps the number up into the thousands. Biolog is in discussion with several pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies interested in licensing the technology."

The second patent describes the discovery of novel anti-capsule agents. This technology is especially useful in work with microbial cells, which frequently contain an outer coating made of a complex polysaccharide called a "capsule." The capsule appears to play an important role in microbial attachment to surfaces, biofilm formation, pathogenicity and drug sensitivity. Biolog uses the patented anti-capsule chemistry in its MicroLog line of microbial cell identification products and also in its new PM technology.
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Publication:BIOTECH Patent News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2000
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