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Foley Hoag Secures Win for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on Challenge to Inventorship of Groundbreaking Cancer Immunotherapy Patents

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U.S. District Court rules Dana-Farber scientist Gordon Freeman, PhD,
was co-inventor of all six patents in issue

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of Foley Hoag LLP’s client,
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, that Dana-Farber scientist, Gordon
Freeman, PhD, and another scientist, Clive Wood, PhD, are co-inventors
on a series of cancer immunotherapy patents previously issued to a
Japanese researcher and Japanese drug company. The ruling directs that
the patents be corrected to name Freeman and Wood as inventors.

In her decision, Chief Judge Patti B. Saris wrote that “Dana-Farber has
presented clear and convincing evidence that Dr. Freeman and Dr. Wood
are joint inventors” of the six patents at issue. Foley Hoag attorneys
Donald R. Ware, Barbara A. Fiacco, Sarah S. Burg, Brendan T. Jones,
Michael B. Hoven, Emma S. Winer, Urszula Nowak, and Meagen Monahan
represented Dana-Farber in this victory.

We are pleased that the court recognized Dana-Farber’s significant
contributions to this groundbreaking new cancer treatment,” said Foley
Hoag partner Donald R. Ware, who led the Foley Hoag team. “Gordon
Freeman and Clive Wood will now be rightfully acknowledged as
co-inventors of the patents, and Dana-Farber will become a co-owner of
this important intellectual property.”

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The decision will enable Dana-Farber to license the technology, which is
embodied in several of the newest cancer immunotherapy drugs, to
additional companies seeking to develop PD-1 and PD-L1 antibody
therapeutics for a wide range of cancers.

In 2015, Dana-Farber filed suit asking the U.S. District Court in Boston
to correct the inventorship on six patents that were assigned to Ono
Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. and Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, of Kyoto University.
The patents describe a cancer treatment that helps patients’ own immune
systems attack cancer cells in the body. This approach works by blocking
the “PD-1/PD-L1” pathway, the centerpiece of a mechanism that cancer
cells use to escape attack by a patient’s T cells, thereby freeing the
immune system to launch a more effective response against the disease.
The trial was held over three weeks earlier this year.

In 2000, Freeman, Wood, and Honjo published a joint research study
announcing the discovery of the protein PD-L1 (programmed cell death 1
ligand 1). The researchers found that PD-L1 exerts an inhibitory effect
on T cells by binding to the T cell co-receptor PD-1, thereby signaling
the T cell not to instigate an immune system attack. In pursuing his
study of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway, Freeman discovered that the PD-L1
protein is expressed not only on normal cells but also on many cancer
cells. The implication was that an agent that blocks PD-1 or PD-L1 (or a
related ligand, PD-L2) could release the brakes on the immune system’s
attack on cancer. These discoveries prompted pharmaceutical companies to
pursue the development of drug agents that block PD-1, PD-L1, or PD-L2.
A half dozen of these drugs – known as immune checkpoint inhibitors –
have received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for
treating multiple types of cancers and are being tested in the clinic
for treatment of a wide variety of other cancers.

In her findings, Saris noted that the three scientists’ “simultaneous
focus on blocking the pathway to treat cancer in early 2000 shows that
they were all working toward a shared goal.” The court also found that
conception of the inventions in the Honjo patents was the result of the
collaboration of all three scientists.”

About Foley Hoag LLP

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Foley Hoag provides innovative, strategic legal services to public,
private and government clients across the globe. We have premier
capabilities in the life sciences, healthcare, technology, energy,
professional services and private funds fields, and in cross-border
disputes. The diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences of our
lawyers and staff contribute to the exceptional senior level service we
deliver to clients ranging from startups to multinational companies to
sovereign states. For more information, visit www.foleyhoag.com
or follow @FoleyHoag on Twitter.

Contacts

Brian C. Dygon
Foley Hoag LLP
617.832.7127
[email protected]

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