Chiron relaxes patent licences for hepatitis C

Chiron Corp plans a change in the licensing policy on its patents covering the genetic makeup of the hepatitis C virus, a move that they say could lead to the development of new drugs to fight the disease.

Scientists at Chiron were the first to identify hepatitis C virus in 1987, and the company has more than 100 patents on the virus’ genome, many of which still have over 10 years to run. Tight control of these patents and high licensing fees have often been claimed to limit research into new therapeutic treatments, including in a report by the National Academy of Sciences on intellectual property rights.

Chiron has now decided to no longer demand that licensors pay upfront fees and make annual payments to obtain rights to the hepatitis C patents.

Chiron, which is working on a vaccine and drug for hepatitis C, has licensed its patents to 15 other companies. Chiron had revenue of $1.8 billion last year, of which $312.2 million was royalties, mostly from licences on hepatitis C, HIV and a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis,

Source: Denise Gellene, LA Times 22 June, 2004

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