Life sciences receives boost from patent ruling

A decision yesterday from  the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has paved the way for more expansive patent opportunities in the biotech industry, as it upheld a patent that describes a process for repeatedly freezing and thawing a liver cell in a way that preserves it for testing or treatment purposes.

There has been a prevailing view that patents cannot cover laws of nature and therefore until now creating innovation off the back of this mind set has been difficult, if not impossible. This new ruling means, for example, that obtaining patent protection for medicine around DNA to create more Life_Sciences.jpgcustomized medication becomes a feasible option, as it ushers in a less strict definition: You can’t patent nature, but you can now patent technology that serves nature.

In this case, the court has upheld a patent that covers the technology to freeze the cells and allow hepatocytes to survive after multiple freezing, described in the abstract as cryopreservation. The patent in question, US7604929: “Cellular Compositions And Methods For Their Preparation,” was published in October 2009 and currently has an estimated value of $3.9 million. There have been a total of five litigation cases involving the patent.

Adam Kelly, counsellor in intellectual property law at Loeb and Loeb, stated that the ruling is significant for the life sciences industry, as it demonstrates that committing resources for research and development in the area results in “reward for those efforts.” (1)

This will come as good news for an industry that has been struggling of late. Covering the story, Bloomberg reported that the S&P 500 Health Care Services Select Industry Index has fallen by 12 percent in the past 12 months through Friday, and that the trade group representing biotechnology companies had been pushing for this outcome as they seek clarity over what can be legally protected.(2)