Patents 4 Patients Pilot Still Flying High in Cancer Fight


The Patent and Trademark Office’s pilot program to expedite patent applications for cancer immunotherapy treatments is moving fast.

Review time for the applications is averaging a little more than four months, Gary Nickol, supervisory patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said Aug. 2.

The fast-track program, also known as Patents 4 Patients, was part of the Obama administration’s National Cancer Moonshot initiative to accelerate the fight against cancer. It had been scheduled to end in June but was extended until Dec. 31, 2018, due to continued interest.

So far, more than 111 petitions requesting participation in the pilot program have been filed since the PTO launched the program June 29, 2016, Nickol said. He spoke at the Biotechnology/Chemical/Pharmaceutical Customer Partnership webinar.

Patent applications featuring any method of treating or preventing a malignancy by boosting the immune system are eligible to participate. An applicant will get an answer on patentability within 12 months of its petition for accelerated processing being accepted.

“We are really trying to work to get them out,” Nickol said.

Program applicants include independent inventors, universities, research institutions, hospitals, medical centers, government agencies, and large and small companies, the PTO said.

“As long as you have one claim related to immunotherapy, we’ll take a look at the petition,” Nickol said.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses by using substances either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.

AstraZeneca Plc, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Merck & Co., and Roche Holding AG are among companies in the race to develop immunotherapies for cancer patients.

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