KU transfers patent of cancer drug; researchers in dark

Karnatak University, Dharwad. The university has transferred the patent rights of a cancer drug developed by Prof B M Swamy and Dr Shashikala Inamdar, of the Department of Biochemistry, to the Mumbai-based Unichem drug company. DH FILE photo

Karnatak University (KU) has come under sharp criticism from intellectuals and scientists for transferring the patent rights of an important cancer drug research to the sponsor company without bringing it to the notice of the original researchers or the Syndicate members.

Scientist couple Prof B M Swamy and Dr Shashikala Inamdar from the Department of Biochemistry at KU were working on Recombinant Lectins, a combination of proteins found in plants, animals and microorganisms that could be used for treating cancer, since 20 years. They had developed it into a drug. This could be used for effectively treating intestinal, breast and uterus cancer.

The drug has got patent protection in India and Europe as well. The Mumbai-based Unichem, a drug company had sponsored the research project.

In 2005, the Unichem had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Karnatak University to work on the project and gave a grant of Rs 13.25 lakh as the first instalment to the KU. IC2 Institute, Texas University (the US) and Liverpool University (England) had given a positive report on the efficacy of the drug.

Based on this report, the Unichem in 2013 gave an additional Rs 38 lakh to continue the research.

The research had attained the status of clinical trials. At this stage, the KU on June 13 has transferred the patent rights to the sponsored company (Unichem). “Unfortunately, this issue has not been brought to the notice of us (researchers),” said Dr B M Swamy.

He said, “As per the Intellectual Property Act, the researcher(s) has a right on the research work they carry. However here, the varsity has not informed me or my wife (co-researcher) about transferring the drug formula along with patent rights.”

“This research was a ‘golden egg-laying hen’. The research has reached the stage of clinical trials. On reaching the manufacturing stage, the varsity would get royalty in crores of rupees. In lieu of transferring the rights, the KU has sought just Rs 2.50 crore from Unichem to set up a shelter for animals used in research,” Dr Swamy regretted.

Prof Swamy further said, the issue was discussed neither in the Academic Council nor in the Syndicate meeting. Hence, there is a need for a detailed probe into the incident, he demanded.

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