A new patent on disease treatments that operate through a key biological trigger, the NF-kB messenger protein, has lawyers, university researchers, and technology transfer officers bracing for an intellectual property crackdown that they fear could reach into academia. Issued June 25, 2002, to a dozen researchers including David Baltimore, who identified the NF-kB signaling pathway, the patent was granted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Harvard University. The patent, which expires in June 2019, covers disease treatment methods that affect the NF-kB pathway, a trigger described in more than 5,000 scholarly papers. The research institutions had already licensed the method to a biotechnology company, which has sued a pharmaceutical giant, claiming patent infringement.

Photo: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins University
 William P. Tew

The lawsuit highlights fears that the aggressive prosecution involving a patent that protects drugs...

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