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Coronavirus Drug Shows Global Hurdles To Patent Protection


Recently, Gilead Sciences Inc. developed a nucleotide analog prodrug, Remdesivir, also known as GS-5734, as a treatment for Ebola virus and other pathogenic infections.[1] It was subsequently found that Remdesivir also inhibits infections by arenaviruses and coronaviruses, such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

Initially, Gilead filed provisional U.S. patent applications in 2015, followed by utility applications the following year, to cover methods of treating coronavirus and arenavirus infections with Remdesivir. These applications were published in 2017. A later-filed continuation application, U.S. Application No. 16/265,016, was allowed on Feb. 6, 2020, with issued claims specifically directed to a method for treating a coronavirus infection in a human with Remdesivir.

COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, which has caused a widespread outbreak in China, infecting more than 10,000 and killing hundreds of people to date. Researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, and the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, or AMMS, who discovered this new virus published their initial findings, including characterization of this new virus, then known as 2019-nCoV, as a betacoronavirus with sensitivity to Remdesivir.[2][3][4]

The reports suggest that the Chinese researchers jointly filed a Patent Cooperation Treaty patent application based on treatment of COVID-19 with Remdesivir, among others.[5] Nevertheless, in view of Gilead’s earlier disclosures and publications, these recent developments raise questions about patentability of the WIV and AMMS applications in the U.S., particularly in view of the admissions made by the inventors of the WIV and AMMS subject matter to publish and obtain intellectual property protection.

Read the full article here (subscription required) as the Intellectual Property group weighs in on the importance of applying IP protection for innovation.