Novartis Takes Aim at Bay-Area Biotech with Dana-Farber Roots in Legal Battle Over Potential Lung Cancer Drugs

Xconomy Boston — 

The proverbial 800-pound gorilla has spoken. Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research, the Cambridge, MA-based R&D unit of Swiss drug giant Novartis, has asserted itself in a lawsuit concerning rights to potentially game-changing drugs for lung cancer discovered at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Novartis filed a counterclaim on November 19 in U.S. District Court in Boston against Millbrae, CA-based biotech startup Gatekeeper Pharmaceuticals, according to court records. The counterclaim asks the court for a declaratory judgment that would, among other things, give Novartis and not Gatekeeper rights to an experimental drug called WZ4002 and related compounds discovered at Dana-Farber.

Novartis does not comment on ongoing litigation, an attorney for the company at the law firm WilmerHale said this week.

A point of contention in this case—which Dana-Farber initiated on September 21—is whether the compounds in question were discovered as part of a January 2005 collaborative research agreement between Dana-Farber and Novartis. Novartis said in its counterclaim that they were. Dana-Farber scientists Michael Eck and Nathanael Gray, the filing says, “received approval and funding for, and ultimately directed ‘Funded Research Projects’ under the Novartis CRA during the time period relevant to the WZ4002 invention. The Funded Research Projects directed by Drs. Eck and Gray were specifically aimed at developing … Next Page »

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