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A high-stakes race has broken out among companies attempting to develop new drugs based on the mountains of data produced by the Human Genome Project. Incyte Genomics of Palo Alto, Calif. could face a challenge to its critical patent in the area of genomic databases after a $10,000 reward posted on the BountyQuest Web site yielded significant and highly relevant prior art documents that were overlooked in the original patent application. Through its online network of thousands of scientists, engineers, graduate students and patent law experts, BountyQuest quickly and cost-effectively turned up scientific research papers overlooked on the original genetic database patent. Incyte recently settled a patent infringement action against Gaithersburg, MD-based Gene Logic, requiring them to pay an undisclosed fee for access to similar patented relational database technology. However, Incyte officials declined to comment on the impact this finding might have on their genomic database portfolio. University of Munich computer science grad student Holger Blasum, who also holds a masters degree in biology, won a $10,000 reward for his submission of 1993 and 1994 articles from the journal Nucleic Acids Research that predate an Incyte patent (US 5,966,712) on a relational database system for storing and manipulating reams of genetic information. “We are excited by this demonstration of the international reach of our network,” says BountyQuest CEO Charles Cella. “How else but through BountyQuest could you find and connect with a German grad student, with a masters in biology and a genomics and computer science background? With his intimate knowledge of the field he was able to track down what we needed in a couple of hours of searching.” With the latest announcement, BountyQuest has now paid out large cashrewards to six winners to date, in connection with patents held byCisco, Oracle, Walker Digital, DoubleClick, InTouch, and others. And arecent challenge to the Amazon.com 1-Click Shopping patent ended in anear match, with three runners up splitting a $10,000 consolation prize. For more details and online press materials, come to www.bountyquest.com.

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