Friday, July 30, 1999

UH asserts
ownership of
cloning patents

The university will defend
itself against a researcher who
claims he has rights to the
cloning techniques

By Harold Morse


The University of Hawaii will contest a lawsuit filed by a member of the mice-cloning team who claims patents on related discoveries belong to him.

Walter Kirimitsu, UH legal counsel, said: "We intend to strongly oppose the lawsuit and assert that the University of Hawaii is the rightful owner of this claimed patent."

Anthony Perry, who was involved in a historic cloning of mice last year, filed a Circuit Court lawsuit Tuesday claiming he is entitled to the intellectual property from techniques he developed to transfer genetic information or DNA from one organism to another.

He demonstrated the transgenesis method by producing green mice from a jellyfish's "green gene."

Perry, a British citizen, contends he has the rights to his work because he came here on a European Molecular Biology Organization fellowship and he wasn't a university employee.

The UH says, however, that it has exclusive patent rights to any discovery or invention developed with use of university equipment, facilities or personnel.

During a news conference yesterday at Bachman Hall, Alan Teramura, UH senior vice president for research, said the university is committed and fully supportive of "Team Yana" research which resulted in cloning mice.

He said the university is moving to expand the program, headed by Ryuzo Yanagimachi, professor of anatomy and reproductive biology.

"We're currently interviewing for several new positions to join the team. This was occurring before this controversy.

"The Legislature and governor have provided us with $4.9 million to build a new building (for the work)."

Groundbreaking is next week, and construction also will begin then, Teramura said.

Yanagimachi, who became internationally known with the mice-cloning announcement, said scientific work in his laboratory "is proceeding strongly, and I want it clearly understood that I am personally and professionally committed to the University of Hawaii."

He said assistant professor Teruhiko Wakayama, team member who was lead investigator for the female and male mouse-cloning work, "has assured me that he remains committed to the university and to our research work."

Teramura said the dispute over intellectual property isn't unique to UH. Several big cases are in process at schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at San Francisco, he said. This is because intellectual property, including patents, has the "potential to generate big dollars," he added.

In a written statement to the media, the administration said UH retains exclusive patent rights and title in and to any invention or discovery that results from research, development or other program funded by the University.

"The university shares royalty income with inventors, with 50 percent going to the inventor and 50 percent to the University."

Earlier, the university said it offered to enter into binding arbitration on the ownership issue, as it had been under discussion for several weeks.

"The offer was rejected and Dr. Perry's suit was filed this week. We remain hopeful that this matter can be resolved."

ProBio America Ltd., created to market and commercialize the "Honolulu Technique" of mice-cloning, has eight patents on the group's research.

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