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CDC Reviewing Whether Contract With Chiron Has Inhibited Research on Hepatitis C Treatments

March 2, 2004

CDC is reviewing a 14-year-old government agreement with Emeryville, Calif.-based biotechnology company Chiron that allows the company "so much control" over hepatitis C research that competitors say they have abandoned plans to enter the field, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. Chiron holds a total of 100 hepatitis C-related patents in 20 countries. The patents have created a "virtual commercial monopoly over research" and allowed Chiron to charge other companies prohibitive amounts to access its technology, according to the AP/News. In addition, the company has successfully sued companies for infringements on its patents. "There have been a number of individuals in the scientific community that are involved in the prevention, treatment and research of hepatitis C that have said the agreement is having an impact on the scientists' ability to address hepatitis C," CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner said. The patents under review include one that credits Chiron scientists with the discovery of the hepatitis C virus, even though a CDC scientist largely contributed to the original research. CDC withdrew its claims to the virus in 1990 after Chiron paid the agency $1.9 million and the scientist $337,500. Skinner said he is "not ... sure what recourse the CDC may have" now, according to the AP/News. Chiron officials said that CDC has not notified the company of the review. Chiron spokesperson John Gallagher said that the company has deals with 13 competitors and grants free access to its technology to not-for-profit research scientists (Elias, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/1).

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