University to Appeal Ruling in Patent Case Against Pfizer and Pharmacia

Federal Circuit Court to Decide Landmark Case Involving the Arthritis Drug Celebrex

March 06, 2003

The University of Rochester intends to appeal a federal court's decision, issued today, that ruled invalid its patent covering the class of drugs known as cox-2 inhibitors. The ruling was issued by a judge presiding over a patent infringement lawsuit filed by the University against drug makers Pfizer and Pharmacia, which jointly market the cox-2 inhibitor Celebrex.

"The United States patent office spent eight years considering this important patent, and we believe -- as they do -- that the patent is valid. After we discuss this with the University Board of Trustees, our intention is to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals within the next few days, and we're very confident that we're going to come away with a favorable ruling," said Jerry Dodson, the head of the legal team representing the University in the case.

The landmark patent entitling the University to collect royalties on the sale of the drugs was awarded in April 2000, more than a decade after researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered the gene that contains the chemical instructions for producing the enzyme called cox-2, and revealed the enzyme's role in causing inflammation. The discovery set in motion a worldwide race among pharmaceutical companies to identify drugs that would inhibit the action of the enzyme and, in turn, reduce inflammation and pain.

The University of Rochester research team was led by Donald Young, M.D., a physician and biochemist who for more than three decades has studied the mechanisms of inflammation.

"Companies often dismiss the value of the basic research that enables the development of drugs like cox-2 inhibitors, which benefit millions of people," said Jay H. Stein, chief executive officer of the University of Rochester Medical Center. "Our researchers are dedicated to this work, and as an institution we are absolutely committed to protecting the intellectual property they produce. We intend to defend this patent vigorously."

"While courts are comfortable with narrow patents, there is widespread interest among research universities in ensuring that our broader, more basic research work is likewise protected by the nation's patent laws," said President Thomas H. Jackson. "We believe this case exemplifies that principle, which is so fundamental to higher education's work."

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