By Matthew Willett
Watchers heralded the Amgen Inc./Transkaryotic Therapies Inc. decision handed down by Judge William Young in U.S. District Court of Massachusetts as a marker for the future of biotechnology intellectual property rights, and patent law in general.
Pacific Growth Equities Senior Analyst Tom Dietz said the implications of the decision might not be as far-reaching as some imagined.
"I really don't see this as Armageddon for biotech, as many tried to describe it," he said. "Not at all. It's a little naove to think of it that way. I think of this as more of a media-derived scenario of Armageddon for the industry, than reality. The reality doesn't support those arguments in any way."
At issue were product patents and use patents. Dietz maintained the case shouldn't serve as a benchmark for future decisions.
"If someone has a process patent, like Genentech Inc., for example, with its insulin - they've figured out a better way to make it, as a recombinant, than [Eli] Lilly did - they didn't invent the product, they figured out a better way to make it," Dietz said.
"Amgen didn't invent EPO; they figured out a way to make it commercially viable," he continued. "It's surprising they have a product patent as broad as the judge ruled it. I believe TKT was just doing something done by the biotech start-ups years ago, the Genentechs and the Amgens. It figured out a better way to make a protein."
That's just what TKT's Gene Activated platform does. Though TKT CEO and President Richard Selden said the decision won't effect his company's product advancement plans, Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown Analyst Kevin Tang told BioWorld Today he believes otherwise.
"I think what this loss has done is place a significant cloud over the entire Gene Activation technology, and now there's a large question mark as to what the value of that might be if TKT is prevented in moving forward with its Gene Activated proteins," Tang said.
Dietz holds fast to a company's right to innovate.
"If Amgen figures out that EPO is good for treating XYZ disease and patents that, that's a use patent," Dietz said. "Why shouldn't someone else figure out a better way to make it?"