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


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. He is now claiming the compensation rate should be raised and considering filing a separate lawsuit.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Honjo said that he hopes to restore good business-academia collaboration as soon as possible. Still, if the Osaka-based drugmaker fails to come up with a new offer, triggering a lawsuit,

he said he is willing to abide by the court’s ruling.

A public relations official for Ono Pharmaceutical said the company is not considering revising the contract but is planning a donation to his university to settle the dispute.

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