Bristol Myers doubles down in immuno-oncology patent fight with AZ, this time targeting Imjudo

Bristol Myers Squibb has opened a new front in its immuno-oncology patent fight with AstraZeneca.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Delaware federal court, BMS alleged AstraZeneca’s new CTLA-4 inhibitor Imjudo—approved last year alongside AZ’s Imfinzi in liver and lung cancer—treads on a pair of patents linked to BMS' cancer blockbuster Yervoy.

This marks the second time BMS has targeted AZ for potential cancer patent violations in less than a year. Back in March 2022, BMS said AZ’s PD-L1 inhibitor Imfinzi violates eight of its U.S. patents issued between 2017 and 2019. The patents relate to both BMS’ own PD-L1 drug Opdivo as well as the company’s checkpoint inhibitor research.   

As for the new case, an AZ spokesperson told Fierce Pharma the company is “aware of the complaint.”

“AstraZeneca will review the complaint and will respond at the appropriate time,” he said.

BMS did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

In its lawsuit, which was made public Tuesday, BMS claims that AZ is “exploiting BMS’s inventions and willfully infringing BMS’s intellectual property rights by marketing an infringing anti-CTLA-4 antibody product … without having first obtained permission from BMS or a license to BMS’s intellectual property rights.”

Because the two companies are “direct competitors in the field of immunotherapy,” AZ’s alleged infringement has caused BMS “substantial damages, including lost profits,” the New York-based company contends.

Aside from a judgement against AZ, BMS says it’s owed damages to compensate for infringement.

AZ and BMS are major players on the cancer field. For all of 2021, BMS' Yervoy took home a little over $2 billion. Imjudo, for its part, only recently hit the market. The antibody-based drug won its first approval in hepatocellular carcinoma—the most common type of liver cancer—in October. That was followed by a November nod in metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Both approvals are in combination with Imfinzi.

Meanwhile, this isn’t BMS’ first immunotherapy patent litigation rodeo, and the strategy has paid off in the past. In a case involving Merck & Co. where BMS sued on similar grounds, the New Jersey drugmaker ended up paying $625 million plus royalties on its oncology cash cow Keytruda. BMS and its partner Ono Pharmaceutical split the proceeds 75/25.