Novo Nordisk A/S and Serono Laboratories Inc. settled their patent fight over human growth hormone, but Genentech Inc. is going ahead with its infringement battle against the University of California, after an appeals court's ruling.

Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based Nordisk and Serono Laboratories Inc., the Norwell, Mass., unit of Geneva, Switzerland-based Ares-Serono Group, agreed on undisclosed terms. Their dispute involved the marketing of Nordisk's Saizen (somatropin for injection), which competes with Serono's Norditropin, a version of the same drug.

The settlement also covers Serostim, yet another version of somatropin, approved in the U.S. for treatment of AIDS wasting (cachexia). Serostim also is marketed by Serono.

Nordisk said it will move ahead with its litigation against three other companies named in the lawsuit: Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco; Eli Lilly & Co., of Indianapolis; and Pharmacia & Upjohn Co., of London.

"We plan to vigorously assert our patent against them and any other company that comes along and violates it," said Susan Jackson, spokeswoman for Nordisk. The patent in dispute was granted to Nordisk in May 1997.

Court skirmishes over human growth hormone have been going on for years. Norditropin, approved by the FDA in 1995, did not enter the U.S. market until two years later because of litigation that remains on the docket. In March 1997, an appeals court vacated an injunction sought by Genentech to block Nordisk from selling Norditropin in the U.S. (See BioWorld Today, March 18, 1997, p. 1.)

Most recently, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit reversed a lower court's dismissal of Genentech's declaratory action against Nordisk, which means the lawsuit will continue.

Mark Simon, an analyst with BancAmerica Robertson Stephens, of San Francisco, said the importance of Genentech's victory in the ongoing human growth hormone melee is not worth measuring.

"It's just not that impactful," Simon said. — Randall Osborne

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