BioChem Pharma Inc. said Atlanta-based Emory University's patentclaim to the company's AIDS drug, Epivir, or 3TC, is "invalid" and it"welcomes" the opportunity to settle the issue in court.

Emory filed a federal lawsuit in July accusing Biochem Pharma, ofLaval, Quebec, and its marketing partner, London-based GlaxoWellcome plc, of infringing the university's patent on 3TC, whichwas issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office the same month.

Biochem Pharma submitted its response to the patent challenge thisweek. In a prepared statement, the company's CEO, FrancescoBellini, said, "The federal courts provide us with the appropriateforum to finally put to rest Emory University's baseless claims to3TC."

Biochem Pharma officials estimated the next court date in the case, apre-trial conference following evidence discovery by both sides, willnot be scheduled for at least eight months.

Emory is seeking a share of revenues for Epivir, which was approvedin the U.S. in 1995. The drug has become the most widely prescribedAIDS treatment and revenues this year are estimated at $300 million.Biochem Pharma receives royalties on Glaxo's sales.

Epivir also is targeted as a treatment for hepatitis B.

Biochem Pharma said it filed its U.S. patent application on 3TC in1989 and received the patent in 1991. The drug is derived from acompound called BCH-189, which was discovered by the company'sscientists.

Emory said its researchers submitted a U.S. patent application for aprocess related to development of 3TC in 1990 and that patent wasissued in July. _ Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.