Oxford BioMedica has been hit by a patent infringement lawsuit in the USA brought by rival vaccine specialists Bavarian Nordic over three patents relating to the Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) technology.

Bavarian Nordic has filed its suit in the Southern District of California court claiming that the MVA vector system employed in Oxford BioMedica's therapeutic cancer vaccine TroVax infringes three US patents belonging to the Denmark-headquartered company. The latter further claims that the UK firm has commercialised the patented technology “in ways that have yielded large payments from Sanofi-Aventis”, Oxford BioMedica’s partner for TroVax.

Bavarian Nordic’s chief executive Anders Hedegaard said the action “is a necessary step to enforce our intellectual property rights”. He added that the company has built a strong patent portfolio on the MVA technology, “which we seek to utilise to expand and support our business through licensing agreements. However if these cannot be obtained, we will vigorously defend our IP position to prevent infringement."

This argument is cutting no ice with Oxford BioMedica which says that the three patents correspond to Bavarian Nordic's European patent "which is the subject of multiple oppositions, all asserting the invalidity of the claimed technology”. It is “fully prepared to oppose this action vigorously, and will seek all appropriate relief against Bavarian Nordic”.

Senior vice president of commercial development, Peter Nolan, said that throughout Oxford BioMedica’s 11-year history, it has been “diligent to ensure that it has freedom to operate for all its development programmes and is entirely respectful of the intellectual property that has been developed by others”

He added that Bavarian Nordic's claim “is unwarranted and we have a high degree of confidence that this action will prove fruitless” for that firm.