University sues Glaxo over Epivir

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Glaxo Wellcome says it would vigorously fight a patent infringement suit brought against the company yesterday by Atlanta's Emory University over a new Aids treatment called 3TC.

The university's suit seeks damages on the sale and distribution of 3TC, which Glaxo licenses from BioChem Pharma and sells as Epivir in the US. BioChem Pharma is a Canadian research company and is also being sued by Emory.

Glaxo's shares finished the day in London down 27.5p to 884p, having dropped 31.5p in mid-afternoon.

Emory said yesterday that the US Patent and Trademark Office had granted the Georgia-based university a patent on 3TC. It said its scientists had discovered the process by which 3TC is made. It acknowledged, however, that BioChem Pharma discovered the compound from which the drug is derived.

Glaxo refused to say whether it would be prepared to settle with Emory. Analysts said that even if the drugs companies lose the suit, it probably wouldn't hit profits or sales badly.

Typically in such cases "process" patent holders can get 1 to 2 per cent of sales, although it is unclear whether any such settlement would come from Glaxo Wellcome or BioChem Pharma. It is understood that Glaxo already pays a royalty on the drug to BioChem of 14 per cent.