WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, RAMA
Last week (August 9) the Alzheimer’s Institute of America (AIA) dropped its lawsuit against the Jackson Laboratory of Bar Harbor, Maine, for patent infringement in the distribution of transgenic mouse models of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, reports Nature.
The AIA, based in St. Louis, Missouri, first filed suit against the Jackson Laboratory and several other institutes and companies in February 2010. As the patent holder for the so-called Swedish mutation, which causes the disease in mice, the AIA allows non-profit research on its mouse models, but was concerned that the Jackson Laboratory was profiting from their sale of 22 mouse models--a patent infringement, Nature reported. In December, the Jackson Laboratory requested help from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) because much of its work to distribute the Alzheimer’s mouse models to researchers is federally funded.
Last month (June 17), the NIH responded to Jackson Laboratory’s request for help by granting its “authorization and consent” for the lab to use any US patented invention as long as it was operating as a government contractor. This move effectively shields the lab from patent litigation. The AIA could have chosen to pursue a lawsuit against the NIH, but instead dismissed the Jackson Laboratory from the suit. They continue to pursue litigation against the remaining defendants.
"So much Alzheimer's research depends on the transgenic mice that express this mutation," Rudolph Tanzi, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Nature. “I think you need to respect people's intellectual property, but the impact on field if the mice were not freely available would be devastating.”