Jackson Lab off the hook in Alzheimer's mice lawsuit

When last we left a tale involving transgenic mice, Alzheimer's research and patent rights in April, Jackson Laboratory in Maine had issued an SOS to the U.S. National Institutes of Health to help it fend off litigation by Alzheimer's Institute of America. At last, on Aug. 9, the AIA decided to drop Jackson from a patent-infringement lawsuit. It's a move that NIH Director Francis S. Collins is hailing, in the NIH Feedback blog, as "great news not only for those involved in Alzheimer's disease research, but for the entire biomedical research community."

First, here's more background: The AIA owns the patent on a human DNA sequence used in the mouse models of the "Swedish mutation" of Alzheimer's disease. The mutation was discovered in a Swedish family and causes early-onset Alzheimer's. The AIA had alleged that Jackson, an NIH-funded source of lab mice, infringed on the Swedish mutation patent when the lab distributed 22 strains to researchers. The AIA filed a lawsuit against 6 companies that it says improperly profited from the Swedish mutation by using them to test potential drugs. And the AIA asked that Jackson hand over all the names of scientists who have worked with the mouse models involved in the lawsuit.

Collins writes that the NIH sent a letter to Jackson relieving it of any liability and allowing it to continue distributing the mice to researchers. This, according to Collins, was the impetus for AIA to sit down with Jackson and come up with an agreement. "I am enormously gratified that our work together with the Department of Justice and the Jackson Laboratory helped to uphold this important policy to the benefit of the American people," Collins writes. He does not give us an update on the status of the other parties named in the lawsuit.

- read Collins' statement on Feedback NIH