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Biologics Blog is a source of insights, information and analysis related to biologics, including the legal developments, trends and changing regulation that impact the biotechnology industry. Patterson Belknap represents biotechnology, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in a broad range of patent litigation matters, including patent infringement cases, PTO trial proceedings, patent licensing and other contractual disputes. Our team includes highly experienced trial attorneys with extensive technical knowledge, many of whom have advanced scientific degrees and industry experience in fields such as molecular biology, biochemistry, chemistry, statistics and nuclear engineering.

PTAB Denies Sigma-Aldrich’s Petition for Patent Interference on CRISPR-Cas9

On September 23, 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) issued a decision dismissing Sigma-Aldrich’s interference petition related to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 biotechnology.  The claims at issue in Sigma-Aldrich’s petition were directed to methods of genetically modifying a eukaryotic cell using a CRISPR-Cas9 system.  The petition was unusual because it sought an interference although none of Sigma-Aldrich’s claims had yet been allowed.  On this basis, PTAB denied the petition as premature (and on other procedural grounds) and dismissed it without prejudice to refiling.

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Sigma-Aldrich Files “Urgent” Petition for Patent Interference on CRISPR-Cas9

On July 19, 2019, Sigma-Aldrich filed a petition with the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) and the Chief Administrative Patent Judge (“CAPJ”) of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) seeking an interference between itself and the Regents of the University of California (“UC”) that would parallel an interference that was recently declared between UC and the Broad Institute (“Broad”).  The claims at issue are directed to methods of genetically modifying a eukaryotic cell using a CRISPR-Cas9 system.  The petition is unusual because it seeks to provoke an interference although Sigma-Aldrich’s pending claims have not been allowed, contrary to 37 C.F.R. § 41.102 and MPEP § 2303.  Sigma-Aldrich argues that the circumstances here are extraordinary and warrant an exception to the rule.  

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Lawmakers Release Framework for Section 101 Reform

On April 17, 2019, several lawmakers from the Senate and House of Representatives released a bipartisan, bicameral framework for statutory reform of 35 U.S.C. § 101.  The framework was released about two months after the revival of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property.  For the past several years, innovators, the Patent Office, and even judges on the Federal Circuit have raised concerns that Section 101 has become a runaway law for invalidating patents that reflect genuine advances in science and technology.  The revival of the Senate subcommittee and the release of this framework indicate that Capitol Hill has heard, and is moving towards a response to, these concerns. 

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Federal Circuit Strikes Down Diagnostic Patent in Latest § 101 Decision

On February 6, 2019, the Federal Circuit issued its latest opinion on patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Servs., LLC, No. 2017-2508, slip. Op. (Fed. Cir. Feb. 6, 2019).  Judge Lourie wrote for the majority in this split decision, expressing some regret but affirming an order invalidating a diagnostic patent involving proteins.  Judge Newman dissented, voicing a concern that § 101 jurisprudence has become counterproductive to the goals of patent law.  Though unsurprising, the decision further narrows an already shrinking space for patents to diagnostic methods.  It is unclear from this decision what diagnostic methods, if any, are safe from future § 101 challenges.   

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Hepatitis C Patent Falls for Non-Enablement, Wiping Out $2.5 Billion Infringement Verdict

In a hard-fought patent battle involving “groundbreaking” work by both parties, Chief Judge Stark of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware ruled that plaintiff Idenix’s patent for treating Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection was invalid as a matter of law for lack of enablement.  The decision overturns a $2.5 billion award to Idenix, a Merck subsidiary.  The opinion provides valuable insight into the court’s thinking on enablement of method of treatment claims encompassing a large genus of therapeutic agents.

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Part III: Stakeholder Comments on FDA’s Interchangeability Guidance for Biosimilars

This post, Part III, of a three-part series (Part I and Part II) on FDA’s interchangeability draft guidance highlights a number of open issues that stakeholders have identified in their comments to FDA.  These include the naming and labeling for interchangeable products as well as the relationship between multiple interchangeable products for the same reference product.  Biosimilar makers also wanted FDA to make clear that physician-mediated switching is possible for non-interchangeable biosimilar products even if pharmacy-level substitution is not.  A number of patient groups, by contrast, expressed concern that payers were in effect mandating pharmacy-level substitution for non-interchangeable biosimilars by taking innovator products off formularies.

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    Part II: Stakeholder Comments on FDA’s Interchangeability Guidance for Biosimilars

    This post, Part II, of a three-part series (Part I) on FDA’s interchangeability draft guidance, highlights the key issues that were raised in the stakeholder comments provided to FDA.  FDA received 52 comments in total from a variety of stakeholders, including patients, physicians, insurers, innovators and biosimilar makers.  The stakeholders were divided in their views in a number of areas.  Patient and physician groups and innovators urged FDA to adopt more stringent requirements for interchangeability assessments.  Biosimilar makers and insurers, by contrast, generally pressed for a loosening of the guidance provided by FDA as well as clarification that interchangeable biosimilar products were not more similar to the innovator product than the non-interchangeable ones.  The comments also raised a number of issues not addressed by the guidance, which will be discussed in the third post in this series. 

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    Part I: Stakeholder Comments on FDA’s Interchangeability Guidance for Biosimilars

    The comment period for FDA’s draft guidance Considerations in Demonstrating Interchangeability With a Reference Product closed on Friday, May 19, 2017.  Innovators, biosimilar makers, patients, healthcare providers and other stakeholders have weighed in on the long-awaited guidance.  Interchangeable biosimilars, unlike other biosimilars, may be substituted for the innovator product without the intervention of the healthcare provider who prescribed the innovator product.  FDA’s guidance for interchangeable biosimilars is thus particularly important to stakeholders.  This post, Part I of a three-part series, provides an overview of the key provisions of the guidance.  Parts II and III will focus on the comments from stakeholders and open issues. 

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    FDA Says BPCIA Poses No Fifth Amendment Taking for Innovator Biologics Submitted Prior to Its Enactment

    On the same day that FDA approved the first biosimilar of Humira, the fourth biosimilar to be approved in the U.S., it also denied a citizen petition filed by Abbott Laboratories (now AbbVie) requesting that FDA not accept any filing or approve any application for a biosimilar version of Humira® (adalimumab), AbbVie’s best-selling biologic, or any other product for which a biologics license application (BLA) was submitted to FDA prior to March 23, 2010, the date on which the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) was signed into law.  AbbVie argued that to accept or approve any such biosimilar filing would constitute an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment.  AbbVie filed its petition in April 2012, long before any biosimilar was approved in the U.S. and before Amgen filed its biosimilar application for Humira with FDA.  All four of the U.S. biosimilars approved to date have relied on BLAs submitted to FDA prior to March 23, 2010.  

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