Eli Lilly Challenges Biogen’s B-Cell Patent in London Lawsuit

Eli Lilly & Co. sued Biogen Idec Inc. in a London court to revoke a European patent on a potential treatment for immune-system diseases.

Biogen’s patent on the use of a class of medicines known as BAFF inhibitors to regulate the activity of a type of white blood cell is “not new” and doesn’t “involve an inventive step,” Eli Lilly said in court papers filed in London in November.

Eli Lilly, whose top-selling schizophrenia drug Zyprexa lost its U.S. patent protection in October, is working to overcome expiring patents by investing in research. The Indianapolis-based drugmaker has new treatments for Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer in final-stage trials.

Biogen, the world’s largest maker of medicines for multiple sclerosis, responded in November saying its BAFF inhibitors patent is valid. Penny Gilbert, a lawyer for the Weston, Massachusetts-based company, didn’t respond to a phone call today requesting comment.

Eli Lilly lost a related patent dispute before the U.K. Supreme Court in November when the court ruled for Rockville, Maryland-based Human Genome Sciences Inc. over another potential treatment for immune diseases. Eli Lilly had argued Human Genome’s list of uses for the neutrokine alpha protein was too vague.

Gregory Kueterman, a spokesman for Eli Lilly, declined to comment on the Biogen litigation because it’s ongoing.