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Nobel winner Honjo eyes decision on Opdivo lawsuit in July

The Japan Times

OSAKA - Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo said he will make a decision as early as July on whether to sue Ono Pharmaceutical Co. to demand a hike in the licensing fee for cancer drug Opdivo, which was developed based on his research. "It would lead to serious trouble in the future if this case is settled in an ambiguous way," Honjo said in a recent interview, hinting at his intention to continue negotiating with the drugmaker. The 2018 Nobel laureate in medicine is in a dispute with the company over a licensing fee set under a patent agreement signed in 2006, arguing his current share of the patent income is significantly low. Ono Pharmaceutical is seeking to settle the dispute through negotiations and has offered to donate up to ¥30 billion ($277 million) to Kyoto University, where Honjo is a distinguished professor. It would be difficult for the company to comply with his demand, which involves a major change in the terms of the agreement, because such a revision would influence contracts with other researchers and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, industry sources said.


Japanese Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo to sue Ono Pharmaceutical over cancer drug patent royalties

The Japan Times

KYOTO - Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo plans to bring his patent royalty dispute with Ono Pharmaceutical Co. to court as early as September, seeking an additional payment of ¥15 billion, according to informed sources. In the planned lawsuit with the Osaka District Court, Honjo will claim that he is entitled to 10 percent, or about ¥15.4 billion, of the amount Ono Pharmaceutical and U.S. drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. received from U.S. drug giant Merck & Co. when they settled a patent infringement lawsuit. Ono Pharmaceutical set aside some ¥400 million at a regional legal affairs bureau from January 2017 to March 2018 to make payments to Honjo. Honjo, a professor at Kyoto University, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with a U.S. scientist for their immunology research that led to the development of the cancer drug Opdivo, which is at the center of the royalty dispute. In October 2006, Honjo and Ono Pharmaceutical entered into a contract that limited his compensation to 1 percent or less of the drug's sales.


Kyoto University performs world's first iPS cell transplant for Parkinson's

The Japan Times

KYOTO – Kyoto University said Friday it has conducted the world's first transplant of induced pluripotent stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease. Nerve cells created from the artificially derived stem cells, known as iPS cells, were transplanted into the brain of a patient in his 50s in October in a treatment researchers hope to develop into a method that can be covered under Japan's health insurance system. "By also cooperating with companies, we want to develop a mass production system that enables us to deliver nerve cells derived from iPS cells to all over the world," said Jun Takahashi, a professor at the university's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application who led the research team, at a news conference. Parkinson's disease reduces dopamine-producing neurons in the brain and results in tremors in the hands and feet and stiffness in the body. While there are treatments to relieve the symptoms, there is currently no cure for the disease.


Nobel laureate Tasuku Honjo calls for a better environment in Japan for life science research

The Japan Times

Nobel laureate and immunologist Tasuku Honjo on Tuesday called for a better environment in Japan for conducting research in the life sciences, saying more efforts are needed by both the private and public sectors in enabling researchers to come up with medical cures for illnesses such as cancer. The Kyoto University professor, who was awarded this year's Nobel Prize in medicine for his studies on cancer therapy that focus on controlling the immune system, told a meeting of ruling lawmakers at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo about difficulties in the process that led to the development of the immunotherapeutic drug Opdivo. He spoke of his partnership with a Japanese pharmaceutical firm that didn't always work, his cooperation with a U.S. company that led to clinical trials for the drug and his recollection that the favorable results of the tests that came out in 2012 were not covered by the Japanese media. "Researchers around the world were surprised by the results because at the time people didn't think immunotherapy was effective in treating cancer," Honjo said. "Most of the patients who took part in the clinical trials were terminal cancer patients and the drug was effective for 20 to 30 percent of those patients. In addition, the effect continued even after administering of the medicine was stopped after half a year," he said.


Japanese professor among 2017 Gairdner medical prize laureates

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – Japanese professor Akira Endo will be one of this year's Canada Gairdner Award laureates for his discovery of statins, an achievement that led to the development of cholesterol-lowering medicines, the award's foundation said Tuesday. Endo, 83, a distinguished professor emeritus at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, discovered statins when he was working as a researcher for pharmaceutical-maker Sankyo Co., the predecessor of Daiichi Sankyo Co. His discovery and development of statins "have transformed the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease," the foundation said in a statement. Previous Japanese winners of the Gairdner prize, awarded for medical discoveries, include 54-year-old Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka, who developed iPS cells, and Satoshi Omura, the 81-year-old Kitasato University professor emeritus who discovered and helped develop therapies to fight tropical infections. Both also won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.