San Diego Business Journal

Biosite, Inc., the county's life science company with the most employees, is under fire from a division of Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant F. Hoffman-La Roche, Ltd.

Roche Diagnostics Corp. is alleging that Biosite is infringing two of its patents. Similarly, Biosite is accusing Roche of infringing three of its patents.

Biosite, which employs about 900 people, announced late last month that the two companies will discuss a potential settlement.

Chief Financial Officer Chris Twomey said the disputed patents all relate to technologies used in medical devices. Biosite is alleging that Roche is infringing on a patent related to measurement of a protein present in the blood when a heart attack occurs. Another patent that Roche claims Biosite is infringing relates to technology capable of separating red blood cells from serum or plasma, Twomey said.

He added that patent disputes are an essential part of guaranteeing a research company reaps maximum benefits from its discoveries.

"There are a lot of diagnostic companies out there, so we try to maintain some proprietary advantage to make ourselves competitive," he said.

Biosite, founded in 1988, markets a 15-minute portable test for congestive heart failure that the company says is used in 50 percent of hospitals nationwide. The test, called Triage BNP, accounted for 68 percent of Biosite's more than $240 million gross product sales in 2004, according to its annual report.

The European Patent Office has granted San Diego's Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. a patent for its insomnia drug, which could begin phase two clinical trials early this year, pending Food and Drug Administration approval, the company recently announced. Arena intends to validate the patent in 31 European jurisdictions, including Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain.

The biotech company has been praised lately by analysts and industry leaders for its obesity drug.

Venetec International, Inc. announced Dec. 19 that it had won its patent lawsuit against another San Diego company, Medical Device Group, Inc.

Venetec had sued the company in federal court in San Diego. Medical Device Group pulled its product from the market as a result of the dispute.

Venetec is a private company started in 1996. The company manufactures catheter securement technology , devices that prevent accidental needle sticks and catheter dislodgements. Catheters are tubular medical devices used to permit injection or withdrawal of fluids, for example, or to keep a passageway open.

- - -

International Recognition: The president and Chief Executive Officer of San Diego's Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center recently was elected by his peers as president of the International Cancer Society of Cancer Gene and Cell Therapy.

Dr. Albert Deisseroth's one-year term will begin in April. Deisseroth came to Sidney Kimmel, a private research institute affiliated with Sharp HealthCare, in 2001. Before that, he was director of the Genetic Therapy Program at the Yale University School of Medicine, as well as the chief of medical oncology and associate director for Clinical Research at the Yale Cancer Center.

- - -

PPH Board Chair Recognized: The California Hospital Association has named Alan Larson, the chairman of the board of directors for Palomar Pomerado Health, one of the top health care trustees in California.

Larson, who is also a doctor in the public health system, received the Leadership in Governance Award last month. It marks the first time a Palomar Pomerado board member has been honored with the award, according to the district. Larson, a gastroenterologist who practices in Poway, has been on the medical staff at Pomerado Hospital since 1983 and was elected to the board of directors in 1998.

- - -

A New Milestone: Local biotech Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has received its first milestone payment for an agreement to jointly develop a cholesterol drug signed in July with AstraZeneca, a London-based pharmaceutical company.

Avanir announced the $5 million payment this month, along with news that a phase I study will begin on the cholesterol drug.

Avanir already markets Abreva, a cold sore medication, with North Carolina-based GlaxoSmithKline.

Contact Katie Weeks with biotech news at kweeks@sdbj.com, or call her at (858) 277-6359.