The European Patent Office (EPO) has approved a restricted patent on the Harvard OncoMouse, dealing a setback to activists who fought for 9 years to bar EU patents on living organisms.

The EPO on July 6 limited the patent to mice; the original European patent, granted in 1992, extended the patent to all mammalian species with a transgenic oncogene. That patent had been restricted to just rodents in 2001.

The restricted patent protects any OncoMouse, whether created using methods discovered by the inventors or using other techniques. The cancer research tool, which was first recognized by a US patent in 1988 for a mouse containing the myc oncogene, has become a significant symbol for animal activists as well.

Harvard University Professor Philip Leder, who invented the original OncoMouse with Timothy Stewart (now a staff scientist at Genentech), praised the EPO decision to uphold the patent, even in...

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