UK firm’s use of pore proteins in DNA sequencing alleged to contravene two Illumina patents

US biotechnology giant Illumina is suing Oxford Nanopore Technologies for patent infringement. The lawsuit is targeted at two of the UK biotech’s DNA sequencing products, including a portable USB device capable of sequencing human genomes in real time.

Oxford Nanopore’s technology is based on threading single DNA strands through a pore protein. Measureable changes in the electrical output allow the base order to be established.

Since its first successful mapping of a complete viral genome in 2012, the biotech has incorporated its proprietary nanopores into its benchtop PromethION instruments, as well as the MinION, a pocket-size DNA sequencer that plugs into a laptop.

But both products are now the subject of a patent lawsuit filed by Illumina, which had previously invested $18 million (£12.9 million) in Oxford Nanopore before severing ties in 2013. Illumina contends the UK firm’s use of these nanopores contravenes two of its US patents. The patents cover the ‘making and using’ of the pore protein mycobacterium smegmatis porin in sequencing products.

It remains unclear whether the UK biotech company uses this particular nanopore in either the PromethION or MinION instruments. Oxford Nanopore’s chief executive, Gordon Sanghera, said in a statement dismissing the suit: ‘It is gratifying to have the commercial relevance of Oxford Nanopore products so publicly acknowledged by the market monopolist for next-gen sequencing.’