Univ. of Chicago Hurdles Drug-Patent Squabble

     (CN) – The University of Chicago need not face claims that it sold certain drug rights but continued developing the implicated patents for Merck, a federal judge ruled.
     Pharmaceutical enterprise Pop Test Cortisol brought the complaint last year in New Jersey against the University of Chicago, the Conzen Research Laboratory, Chardon Pharma and various individuals.
     Pop Test contends that Merck acquired the drug at issue, cortisol-blocker ORG 34517, through a series of mergers and acquisitions after two U-Chicago invented it.
     Though Merck allegedly included ORG 34517 on a list of destined-to-fail patents that it wanted to sell, thereby alleviating regulatory “clogging” problems, ORG 34517 had shown promise in treating psychotic depression, breast cancer, and Cushing’s disease.
     Pop Test says it bought ORG 34517 via a licensing agreement with Merck on Dec. 7, 2010, and that its business was founded on development of the drug.
     It claims that Merck later realized the sale had been shortsighted so it conspired with to continue development of the drug.
     Two Merck employees allegedly created Chardon Pharma in that vein, and Pop Test says these individuals then sent samples of the drug to a scientist at the University of Chicago for testing related to the treatment of breast cancer.
     Pop Test says the university applied for a patent when the tests by Conzen Lab produced promising results.
     The University of Chicago, Conzen Lab the individual researchers sued by Pop Test moved to dismiss the claims against them for lack of personal jurisdiction.
     U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark agreed last week.
     “The allegations linking the Chicago defendants to both New Jersey and to Pop Test Cortisol are so weak as to be uncolorable,” the unpublished ruling states. “The complaint does not even allege that Pan or Kocherginsky sent any communications about ORG 34517 to New Jersey or knew about Pop Test Cortisol. Although plaintiff produced some documents showing that Conzen and [non-defendant university employee Katie] Gut communicated with Merck employees regarding ORG 34517, none of those Merck employees were located in New Jersey, and more crucially, none of the communications mention Pop Test Cortisol.”
     Martini later added: “The only plausible way that the Chicago defendants would have found out about Pop Test Cortisol’s rights was through Merck, and Merck has no plausible motive for sharing the fact of Pop Test Cortisol’s exclusive rights to ORG 34517 with anyone. Merck wanted the University of Chicago’s scientists to help it understand the therapeutic properties of ORG 34517 so that Merck could enrich itself. Letting people at the University of Chicago know that their experimentation might constitute an illegal act could have only made the road to that goal bumpier. While the complaint makes a conclusory conspiracy allegation, it lacks facts demonstrating that the Chicago defendants had any knowledge of Pop Test Cortisol’s exclusive rights to ORG 34517.”
     The judge also denied Pop Test’s motion for jurisdictional discovery.
     The defendants have not returned a request for comment.

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