MorphoSys takes Genmab, J&J to court over CD38 antibody patent

MorphoSys (ETR:MOR) has initiated legal action against Genmab (CPH:GEN) and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen Biotech. The case relates to Darzalex, Genmab and Janssen's multiple myeloma drug that MorphoSys claims infringes on its patent covering antibodies with certain features that bind to CD38.

MorphoSys CEO Simon Moroney

Darzalex and MOR202, a rival drug in development at MorphoSys, both target CD38. Genmab and Janssen have pipped MorphoSys to market, picking up an FDA approval as a fourth-line treatment for multiple myeloma last year. The approval prompted MorphoSys' lawyers to swing into action, filing a case in Delaware that claims the production, use and sale of Darzalex in the U.S. are infringements of one of its patents. The U.S. patent, which MorphoSys filed for in 2005, relates to CD38 antibodies with particular functional features. 

What happens next depends in part on Genmab and Janssen. In the wake of the filing of the lawsuit, Janssen said it would consult with Genmab to decide on the appropriate course of action. Precedent suggests a multiyear legal battle is one possibility, although whether such a set-to will lead to an outcome that meaningfully affects any of the participants is questionable. Last month, Merck ($MRK) won a hepatitis C patent dispute over Gilead ($GILD), but the $200 million in damages the latter was ordered to pay is small beer in the context of the sales of Sovaldi and Harvoni.

The CD38 market is just getting started but is tipped to grow into an important business for Genmab. Days before MorphoSys filed its case, European regulatory body CHMP issued a positive opinion on the use of Darzalex in relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma, moving Genmab a step closer to bringing the drug to market in the region. MorphoSys, in contrast, is still moving MOR202 through a Phase I/IIa trial, a task it has tackled solo since Celgene ($CELG) walked away from its claim on the drug. Celgene's decision was seen by some as a reaction to MOR202's position in the CD38 race.

- read MorphoSys' statement
- here's Genmab's response
- check out the CHMP news