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Eli Lilly and Company patent appeal upheld

Courts have upheld an appeal by Eli Lilly and Company regarding a patent overturn of a gene sequence held by Human Genome Sciences

UK courts have upheld an appeal by Eli Lilly and Company regarding an overturn on the patent of a gene sequence held by Human Genome Sciences (HGS).

The gene sequence is that of neutrokine-alpha, a novel member of the TNF ligand superfamily, which HGS filed a patent for in 1996, with it initially granted in 2005.

After a challenge by Lilly, the patent was revoked in 2008 on the basis that "the claimed invention lacked any inventive step and constituted a claim to an arbitrary member of the TNF ligand superfamily without a known function," according to Mr Justice Kitchin, who presided over the case.

The appeal upheld this decision, with appeal judge, Lord Justice Jacob agreeing with Mr Justice Kitchin that the patent was invalid as the uses for neutrokine-alpha were implausible at the time due to lack of research, and the invention was not viable for industrial use.

There was speculation over what this meant for biotech patents currently in force, meaning drug targets, including gene sequences, derived through computer analysis rather than experimental data.

HGS are currently working with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in the development of Benlysta (belimumab), a treatment for lupus that will act as an anti-body against neutrokine-alpha.

In a statement, GSK said it would not be affected by the ruling, with Benlysta protected by a number of other patents.

 


 

11th February 2010

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