Nobel laureate Honjo plans ¥15 bil. lawsuit against pharma firm

The Yomiuri Shimbun Tasuku Honjo, a distinguished professor at Kyoto University who helped develop the cancer immunotherapy drug Opdivo, plans to file a ¥15 billion lawsuit against Ono Pharmaceutical Co., which markets the product, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Honjo, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine last year for research that contributed to the development of Opdivo, has been at odds with the drugmaker over patent compensation. Sales of the drug have exceeded ¥1 trillion worldwide.

Honjo plans to file suit at the Osaka District Court, seeking ¥15 billion in rewards for his cooperation in a past lawsuit involving Ono Pharmaceutical and another drugmaker.

“If Ono Pharmaceutical does not issue a satisfactory response by the end of August, we’ll make a final decision on the lawsuit,” a lawyer representing Honjo told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Saturday.

According to the lawyer, Ono Pharmaceutical asked Honjo in 2014 to help with a patent infringement lawsuit against U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. for its sales of a product similar to Opdivo.

Honjo testified during the suit, which resulted in an agreement that Merck would pay royalties to Ono Pharmaceutical and the other drugmaker for use of the patent.

However, Honjo and Ono Pharmaceutical later clashed over compensation for the patent, which Honjo owns, and the drugmaker eventually withdrew its offer on the pay ratio that the company had offered when it sought his cooperation in the lawsuit.

Should Ono decide to contest Honjo in the lawsuit, the professor will consider filing a separate suit against the company seeking an increase in the patent compensation, in addition to the ¥15 billion.

After the announcement that he had won the Nobel Prize, Honjo said that he would donate the money he was to receive from Ono Pharmaceutical to a Kyoto University fund to support young researchers. The company offered to donate up to ¥30 billion to Kyoto University, but Honjo refused the offer, claiming the fair value could reach ¥100 billion.

“At this moment, we have not changed our stance to continue talks [with Honjo] on the premise that we will donate to Kyoto University,” Ono Pharmaceutical said on Saturday.Speech

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