OSAKA – Ono Pharmaceutical Co., which sells a cancer treatment based on the discoveries of Nobel laureate in medicine Tasuku Honjo, has decided to offer him a new proposal in an attempt to settle their dispute over the licensing fee for Opdivo, a company source said Saturday.
Ono Pharmaceutical, which started selling Opdivo in 2014, will revise its earlier plan to donate up to ¥30 billion ($276 million) to Kyoto University, where Honjo is a distinguished professor, the source said, adding, “It won’t be good for both sides if the conflict is prolonged. We need to have discussions.”
Honjo said last month that he would decide as early as July on whether to sue the Japanese pharmaceutical company to demand it raise the licensing fee for the drug, which is usually used to treat skin and lung cancer.
The 2018 Nobel laureate has been dissatisfied with the fee under an agreement signed in 2006, arguing his current share of patent income is considerably low and the explanation provided by the company at the time was insufficient.
Ono’s new proposal could raise the amount to be donated to the university, first put on the table in November, but it has no plans to increase the fee, according to the source.
A lawyer for Honjo said they will prepare for two scenarios — a restart of negotiations with Ono and a lawsuit against the company. “We will not file a lawsuit in August and look to see how Ono acts,” the lawyer said.
The discovery of the protein PD-1 by Honjo and his team in 1992 later led to the development of Opdivo, which causes the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Honjo launched negotiations with Ono over a license fee in 2011. He has said the company proposed raising the fee between 2013 and 2014 but it did not completely fulfill that plan and instead came up with the offer in 2018 to give donations.
Honjo has estimated the market for cancer immunotherapy drugs will expand to ¥4.5 trillion in 2024 and he believes he is not receiving fair compensation for the money the Osaka-headquartered company is making from Opdivo.
The scientist has said he is hoping to donate most of his patent revenue to a foundation supporting young researchers at Kyoto University. He has already done so with his Nobel Prize money.