Graphic: Cathleen Heard

The pharmaceutical industry instantly took note when the federal government granted U.S. patent number 6,048,850 to the University of Rochester on April 11, 2000. The patent for "Method of inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis in a human host," described as "broad," "dominant," and "blocking" in the lexicon of the patent attorney, had a distinct everything-but-the-kitchen sink flavor about it. The patent covers inhibitors of the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) that include nearly everything short of leechee nuts--antisense constructs, ribozymes, triple helices, antibodies, polypeptides, and small inorganic molecules. It also mentions uses in diagnosis, pharmaceutical formulation, route of administration, and gene therapy.

"The Rochester patent is a pioneer patent in that it opens an entire field, that of COX-2 inhibitors. As such, it dominates any patent subordinate to it," explains Terry O'Grady, associate counsel for the University of Rochester.

Patent 6,048,850 was a long time in coming--eight years--and reflects the...

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