Sanofi’s biologics patent lawsuit fails

 Sanofi has lost a legal appeal against the decision that Roche and Biogen Idec did not infringe its patent for biologic drug development.

Roche’s Genentech business and biotech specialist Biogen Idec did not steal Sanofi’s IP for genetic medicine to develop the cancer drugs Avastin and Rituxan, a US appeals court determined.

The decision reflects the growing commercial potential of biologics and the tense relationship between big pharma and the biotech sector.

The dispute began in 2008, when Genentech cancelled its long-standing licensing agreement with Sanofi. The genetic medicine specialist was acquired by Roche in 2009.

Sanofi claimed that Genentech and Biogen Idec had used its proprietary techniques to enhance gene expression, improving the efficiency of drug production.

However, the US court upheld the previous decision that in both cases, the drug production methods were different from those covered by Sanofi’s patent.

Avastin and Rituxan, both cancer drugs, are among Roche’s best-selling products: Rituxan achieved sales of $6.6bn, and Avastin $5.81bn, in 2011. Avastin is marketed by Roche, while Rituxan is co-marketed with Biogen in the US.

According to Sanofi spokesperson Carrie Brown, the company is “currently evaluating its options and next steps.”