Send In the Clones
As reported by Genomeweb, BGI/MGI has been found guilty of patent infringement, and Illumina has been awarded $8M in damages. But it’s not all good news for Illumina as they also invalidated one of Illumina's patents (7,541,444). This is the nucleotide patent that had the longest to run. According to Genomeweb and other sources, this means that MGI will be free to sell instruments from August 2022.
This is somewhat surprising news. And while it means MGI should be unblock from selling instruments sooner than expected, there are likely broader implications.
In particular, it makes Singular’s use of alternate nucleotides less of an advantage in the short term. I suspect these nucleotides are somewhat worse than the reversible terminator method developed by Solexa. Singular could now switch using Illumina style nucleotides. But there’s even less to differentiate them from Genome Analyzer/Hiseq era instruments.
And as previously mentioned, Singular are likely not the only company using expired IP to create a “Illumina-like” sequencing platform. The invalidation of the “444” patent means they will also likely be able to enter the market earlier.
I’m excited to see what variations on the Illumina approach will appear and how this will effect Illumina huge margins.
Disclaimer: As always, you should be aware that I have equity in sequencing companies (based on prior employment) and am current working on a novel sequencing approach.