Life Tech and Illumina, Two San Diego Biotech Giants, in Patent Dispute

9/24/09

In what is shaping up as the battle of San Diego’s biotechnology tools titans, Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) has filed a patent-infringement suit against rival Illumina, claiming that some of Illumina’s best-selling genetic-sequencing products violate Life Tech’s intellectual property.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware, claims that certain Illumina products, including the Genome Analyzer and the second-generation Genome Analyzer II, infringe upon three Life Tech patents. The suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages, and a permanent injunction restraining Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN) from further infringement. If granted, the injunction would prevent Illumina from selling its equipment.

Telephone and e-mail messages to an Illumina spokesperson were not returned.

Illumina’s Genome Analyzer products are a mainstay of the company’s genetics analysis business, and are important to Illumina’s growth. The $50,000 whole-genome analysis that Illumina began offering to the public in June uses the Genome Analyzer. The company has stated that one of its corporate goals is to make the Genome Analyzer the industry standard for genetic analysis. Last year, the device accounted for the bulk of Illumina’s $64.8 million increase in instrument sales.

Life Technologies, formed last November through the merger of Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems, claims it is the leader in the genetic sequencing business. The Carlsbad, CA-based company had revenue of $3.1 billion in 2008, dwarfing Illumina’s 2008 revenue of $570 million.

Listed as plaintiffs along with Life Tech are patent owners Alexander Chetverin and Helena Chetverina, both of Russia; The Institute for Protein Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and William Hone of New York. According to the suit, the patents cover certain methods of amplifying and expressing nucleic acid, a building block of DNA. Applied Biosystems had an exclusive license to the patents, which issued in the late 1990s.

Illumina subsidiary Solexa is also named as a defendant.

Denise Gellene is a former Los Angeles Times science writer and regular contributor to Xconomy. You can reach her at dgellene@xconomy.com Follow @

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