Trovagene ($TROV) figured out that a certain protein found in urine, if mutated, indicates the presence of cancer. And now the discovery has drawn the attention of one of the biggest Big Pharma companies of them all--Novartis ($NVS).
Novartis unit Genoptix has signed a non-exclusive licensing deal to access to use nucleophosmin protein (NPM1) in both research and clinical testing to diagnose acute myelogenous leukemia. Neither side disclosed financial details, other than that the agreement covers various upfront fees and royalty payments over time. Trovagene holds a global license and patents involving the idea that finding NPM1 mutations in urine can indicate cancer or infectious disease.
And the discovery of an NPM1 mutation can be helpful to patients. According to Trovagene, this is an important stroke of good fortune for patients, signifying that they have a much better chance of survival as well as a more robust response to chemotherapy.
Trovagene has been a savvy custodian of its patent, offering non-exclusive sublicenses that enable a number of diagnostics players to use NPM1 to diagnose and follow patients with acute myelogenous leukemia, including Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp and Fairview Health Services, Invivoscribe Technologies. The company also has extended non-exclusive sublicenses to labs in Germany and the Netherlands, and granted co-exclusive licenses to Asuragen and Ipsogen to both make and sell NPM1 mutation kits.
The licensing of human genes for diagnostic purposes will become a hot topic again in 2013. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case involving Myriad Genetics ($MYGN) to determine whether human genes can be patented. The company has patented the use of two genes to diagnose hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.
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