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PROMEGA CORP. CHALLENGES KEY PATENT HELD BY HOFFMANN-LA ROCHE

 MADISON, Wis., April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Promega Corporation today announced that it filed papers in U.S. District Court in New Jersey late yesterday afternoon charging that Swiss-owned Hoffmann-La Roche does not hold a valid patent for a revolutionary enzyme used by bioscience researchers around the world.
 The patent involved, U.S. No. 4,889,818, issued Dec. 26, 1989, was originally granted to Cetus Corp., Emeryville, Calif., for Taq DNA polymerase. The patent was purchased by Hoffmann-La Roche in 1991.
 One of several uses of this enzyme is in a process called Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, for which Hoffmann-La Roche also holds a patent purchased from Cetus.
 The PCR technique for gene amplification is widely used in government, university and private industry molecular biology research.
 The monopoly of such an enzyme by any one company such as Hoffmann- La Roche has severe implications for scientists worldwide through implicit price control. "A finding of patent invalidity will result in a supply of reasonably priced enzyme in critical areas such as cancer and AIDS research," said William A. Linton, president of Promega Corp.
 Promega received a license to manufacture and sell Taq polymerase in 1990.
 "We have suspected for some time that the validity of the Taq patent awarded to Cetus was questionable," explained Randall Dimond, Ph.D., chief technology officer for Promega. "We had before us previously published materials and also the materials in the patent filing," said Dimond. Recent experiments yielded conclusive results.
 Many researchers have expressed concern over the tightening control Hoffmann-La Roche has over the products used in the PCR process. "They (Hoffmann-La Roche) have a patent on the enzyme, which I find really amazing. This is a natural product from a natural organism. It has not been created by genetic engineering," said Thomas Brock, professor emeritus of bacteriology, in a statement released by the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 23, 1993. In 1966, Brock discovered the bacterium from which the Taq enzyme was derived.
 On Monday, Promega served subpoenas on six individuals and a corporation involved in the 1989 patent filing, seeking information that has not been forthcoming from Hoffmann-La Roche. Promega has been involved in civil litigation with Hoffmann-La Roche since October 1992. This litigation is unrelated to another AIDS-related patent investigation of Hoffmann-La Roche's alpha-interferon product being conducted by the Patent and Trademark Office in Washington.
 The PCR technique for gene amplification has taken the scientific community by storm since its discovery in the mid-1980s. It permits researchers to significantly reduce the time and costs required to conduct experiments that require gene amplification, such as cancer and AIDS research.
 Promega Corp. is a privately held biotechnology company based in Madison. Founded in 1980, it is a world leader in applying biochemistry and molecular biology for development of novel, high-value products.
 -0- 4/15/93
 /CONTACT: Ken Walker of Promega Corp., 608-277-2532; or Mayer Becker, 608-277-2532, or Bob Benjamin, 312-565-1200, both of Hill & Knowlton, for Promega/


CO: Promega Corporation; Hoffman-La Roche ST: Wisconsin IN: MTC SU:

CK -- NY071 -- 6265 04/15/93 12:40 EDT
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Date:Apr 15, 1993
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