Technology: Millennium Is Granted U.S. Patent for Gene Related to Obesity
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. said the U.S. Patent
Office granted it a patent on a gene that scientists say is involved in
regulating body weight in mammals.
The patent for the so-called tubby gene is believed to be the first granted
for a full-length gene involved in obesity, says Millennium's patent
counsel, Mark Boshar. Other companies have patented smaller sections of
Millennium discovered the gene under a $70 million collaboration with
Hoffmann LaRoche Inc., a unit of Roche Holding Ltd. of Switzerland. The
U.S. biotechnology company has been granted a "broad" patent that covers
all variations of the gene in mammals, Mr. Boshar said.
Sequana Therapeutics Inc. of La Jolla, Calif., last year announced that it
had discovered the tubby gene -- and beat Millennium to press by eight days
with an article in the British journal Nature. But patents are based on who
first made a discovery, rather than who first made it public, and it now
appears that Millennium -- not Sequana -- has won that race.
Tim Harris, senior vice president of research and development at Sequana,
said the company is "not in the least bit concerned" about Millennium's
patent because Sequana is attempting to patent another form of the tubby
gene. If either form of the gene turns out to be linked to a cure, he said,
"we'll talk to Millennium and I'm sure they'll want to talk to us."
Mice in which the tubby gene isn't working properly get fat even when they
eat normally. Scientists at Millennium and other companies hope that
broader understanding of the genetic mechanisms underlying obesity will
eventually lead to new slimming drugs.
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