Trubion Wins Patent Dispute With Genentech, Biogen Idec

Xconomy Seattle — 

Trubion Pharmaceuticals just scored a victory in the world of patents over a couple of biotech heavyweights. The Seattle biotech company (NASDAQ: TRBN), which is developing a drug for rheumatoid arthritis, said today that the European Patent Office granted its request to revoke a patent held by Genentech and Cambridge, MA-based Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) over the use of drugs like Rituxan that block a certain target on cells for people with the joint-damaging disease.

Trubion shares have been beaten down this year, but today the stock jumped 11 percent after the news to $3.94 at 2:08 pm Eastern time.

The patent at stake, called 1176981, applied to the use of antibody drugs that block the CD20 target on cells for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Trubion is developing such a drug, TRU-015, which if successful would compete with Genentech and Biogen’s Rituxan, known as MabThera in Europe. Genentech and Biogen have the right to appeal the decision, Trubion said. Trubion initiated the case, and was later joined by other companies who agreed the patent was too broad, namely Wyeth, Medimmune, Genmab, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson’s Centocor unit, and Merck KGaA, said Trubion spokesman Jim DeNike.

“This doesn’t change our development activity of TRU-015 with Wyeth, but if anything, this strengthens our understanding of the potential market opportunity for the compound,” says Trubion Chief Financial Officer Michelle Burris.

Trubion isn’t aware of a similar patent being issued to Genentech and Biogen in the U.S., Burris says. To paraphrase the highly technical argument, Trubion made the case that the European patent was too broad, because it attempted to block competition from multiple kinds of targeted drugs, which use multiple kinds of biological mechanisms to treat rheumatoid arthritis, a disease in which the immune system goes awry and attacks healthy tissue. An estimated 2 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis, and Rituxan generated $2.3 billion in U.S. sales last year.

Biogen spokeswoman Naomi Aoki referred questions about the matter to Genentech. Genentech spokeswoman Caroline Pecquet said the company can’t comment on the case because it’s an “ongoing legal issue.”