802 F.2d 1367 (Fed. Cir. 1986), 86-531, Hybritech Inc. v. Monoclonal Antibodies, Inc.

Docket NºAppeal No. 86-531.
Citation802 F.2d 1367
Case DateSeptember 19, 1986
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Page 1367

802 F.2d 1367 (Fed. Cir. 1986)

231 U.S.P.Q. 81




Appeal No. 86-531.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

September 19, 1986

Page 1368

Douglas E. Olson, Lyon & Lyon, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellant. With him on brief were James W. Geriak and Bradford J. Duft.

David J. Brezner, Flehr, Hohback, Test, Albritton & Herbert, San Francisco, Cal., for appellee. Barry E. Bretschneider and Herbert I. Cantor, Washington, D.C., of counsel.

Before RICH, DAVIS and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

RICH, Circuit Judge.

This appeal is from the August 28, 1985, decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, 623 F.Supp. 1344, 227 USPQ 215, in favor of defendant Monoclonal Antibodies, Inc. (Monoclonal) holding that all 29 claims of plaintiff's patent No. 4,376,110 entitled "Immunometric Assays Using Monoclonal Antibodies" ('110 patent), issued to Dr. Gary S. David and Howard E. Greene and assigned to Hybritech Incorporated (Hybritech), are invalid as anticipated under 35 U.S.C. Sec. 102(g), for obviousness under Sec. 103, and under Sec. 112 first and second paragraphs. We reverse and remand.


Vertebrates defend themselves against invasion by microorganisms by producing antibodies, proteins which can complex with the invading microorganisms and target them for destruction or removal. In fact, any foreign molecule of sufficient size can act as a stimulus for antibody production. Such foreign molecules, or antigens, bear particular sites or epitopes that represent antibody recognition sites. B cell lymphocytes, the cells that actually produce antibodies, recognize and respond to an epitope on an antigen by reproducing or cloning themselves and then producing antibodies specific to that epitope. Even if the antigen is highly purified, the lymphocytes will produce antibodies specific to different epitopes on the antigen and so produce antibodies with different specificities. Furthermore, because the body is exposed to many different antigens, the blood of a vertebrate will contain antibodies to many different antigenic substances.

Scientists and clinicians have long employed the ability of antibodies to recognize and complex with antigens as a tool to

Page 1369

identify or label particular cells or molecules and to separate them from a mixture. Their source of antibodies has been primarily the serum separated from the blood of a vertebrate immunized or exposed to the antigen. Serum, however, contains a mixture of antibodies directed to numerous antigens and to any number of epitopes on a particular antigen. Because such a mixture of antibodies arises from many different clones of lymphocytes, it is called "polyclonal."

Recent technological advances have made it possible to isolate and cultivate a single clone of lymphocytes to obtain a virtually unlimited supply of antibodies specific to one particular epitope. These antibodies, known as "monoclonal antibodies" because they arise from a single clone of lymphocytes, are produced by a relatively new technology known as the hybridoma. Hybridomas are produced by fusing a particular cancer cell, the myeloma cell, with spleen cells from a mouse that has been injected or immunized with the antigen. These fusions are isolated by transferring them to a growth fluid that kills off the unfused cancer cells, the unfused spleen cells dying off by themselves. The fused hybrid spleen and myeloma cells, called hybridomas, produce antibodies to the antigen initially injected into the mouse. The growth fluid containing the hybridomas is then diluted and put into individual test tubes or wells so that there is only one hybridoma per tube or well. Each hybridoma then reproduces itself and these identical hybridomas each produce identical monoclonal antibodies having the same affinity and specificity. In this way, a virtually unlimited supply of identical antibodies is created, directed to only one epitope on an antigen rather than, as with polyclonal antibodies, to many different epitopes on many different antigens.

In addition to the specificity of antibodies to particular epitopes discussed above, antibodies also have a characteristic "sensitivity," the ability to detect and react to antigens. Sensitivity is expressed in terms of "affinity:" the greater an antibody's ability to bind with a particular antigen, the greater the antibody's affinity. The strength of that antibody-antigen bond is in part dependent upon the antibody's "affinity constant," expressed in liters per mole, for the antigen.

Immunoassays, the subject matter of the '110 patent, are diagnostic methods for determining the presence or amount of antigen in body fluids such as blood or urine by employing the ability of an antibody to recognize and bind to an antigen. Generally, the extent to which the antibody binds to the antigen to be quantitated is an indication of the amount of antigen present in the fluid. Labelling the antibody or, in some cases, the antigen, with either a radioactive substance, I 125, or an enzyme makes possible the detection of the antibody-antigen complex. In an extreme case, where the fluid sample contains a very low level of the antigen, binding might not occur unless the antibodies selected or "screened" for the procedure are highly sensitive.

In the case of a "competitive" immunoassay, a labelled antigen reagent is bound to a limited and known quantity of antibody reagent. After that reaction reaches equilibrium, the antigen to be detected is added to the mixture and competes with the labelled antigen for the limited number of antibody binding sites. The amount of labelled antigen reagent displaced, if any, in this second reaction indicates the quantity of the antigen to be detected present in the fluid sample. All of the antigen attached to the antibody will be labelled antigen if there is no antigen in the test fluid sample. The advantage of this method is that only a small amount of antibody is needed, its drawback, generally, that the system must reach equilibrium, and thus produces results slowly.

In the case of a "sandwich" assay, otherwise known as an immunometric assay, the latter being a term coined by Dr. Lawton Miles in 1971, a quantity of unlabelled antibody reagent is bound to a solid support surface such as the inside wall of a test tube containing a complex of the fluid sample

Page 1370

containing the antigen to be detected and a labelled antibody reagent. The result is an insoluble three part complex referred to as a sandwich having antibody bread and antigen filling. This figure is illustrative of the sandwich concept:


The advantage of the sandwich assay is that it is fast and simple, its drawback that enormous quantities of antibodies are needed.


Hybritech, started in 1978 and joined thereafter by coinventors Green and Dr. David, has, since 1979, been in the business of developing diagnostic kits employing monoclonal antibodies that detect numerous antigens and thus a broad range of conditions such as pregnancy, cancer, growth hormone deficiency, or hepatitis. Examples of antigens include influenza viruses, immunoglobulin E (IgE) which indicates allergic reaction, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which indicates pregnancy, and prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) which indicates prostate cancer, to name a few. Dr. Adams, a business-experienced scientist, joined the company in May 1980 as head of research and development. The '110 patent, application for which was filed August 4, 1980, issued March 8, 1983, with claims defining a variety of sandwich assays using monoclonal antibodies. Claim 19, apparently the broadest of the twenty-nine in the patent, is directed generally to a sandwich assay and reads (emphasis ours):

19. In an immunometric assay to determine the presence or concentration of an antigenic substance in a sample of a fluid comprising forming a ternary complex of a first labelled antibody, said antigenic substance, and a second antibody said second antibody being bound to a solid carrier insoluble in said fluid wherein the presence of the antigenic substance in the samples is determined by measuring either the amount of labelled antibody bound to the solid carrier or the amount of unreacted labelled antibody, the improvement comprising employing monoclonal antibodies having an affinity for the antigenic substance of at least about 10 8 liters/mole for each of said labelled antibody and said antibody bound to a solid carrier.

Claim 1, directed particularly to a reverse sandwich assay, explained infra, reads:

1. A process for the determination of the presence of [sic, or] concentration of an antigenic substance in a fluid comprising the steps:

(a) contacting a sample of the fluid with a measured amount of a soluble first monoclonal antibody to the antigenic substance in order to form a soluble complex of the antibody and antigenic substance present in said sample, said first monoclonal antibody being labelled;

(b) contacting the soluble complex with a second monoclonal antibody to the antigenic substance, said second monoclonal antibody being bound to a solid carrier, said solid carrier being

Page 1371

insoluble in said fluid, in order to form an insoluble complex of said first monoclonal antibody, said antigenic substance and said second monoclonal antibody bound to said solid carrier;

(c) separating said solid carrier from the fluid sample and unreacted labelled antibody;

(d) measuring either the amount of labelled antibody associated with the solid carrier or the amount of unreacted labelled antibody; and

(e) relating the amount of labelled antibody measured with the amount...

To continue reading

Request your trial