a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Technology transfer: Grants and awards


Technology transfer: Ending the patent agreement with Celltech
Aaron Klug Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Antibodies are bringing in a good deal of money and CAT has brought in a fair amount of money, but will bring in a lot more because CAT has developed an antibody called Humira. It's called... as you know, it was made for a German firm, BASF who's going over to biologicals and Knoll, and this antibody is for rheumatoid arthritis. Now there are a lot of antibodies for rheumatoid arthritis. Now, what they do mostly is to stop the pain, but the Humira actually stops the progression of the disease. This was developed purely by CAT together with Greg, Greg was the scientific adviser, and this is a big blockbuster. It will be selling... it sells at the moment about 1.6 billion worth a year. It looks as though the sales next year will be 2 billion. Now that's a blockbuster drug, it isn't as big as some drugs, but it's bigger than almost all of them. But as I said, there's a court case where they refuse to pay the royalties. So after... so from then on, the MRC accepted equity, and we're going to set up companies, but before I set up the... before we set up CAT, I had to be... I had to break the tradition that all our discoveries went to Celltech, particularly in this field. So when I became Director, I had the support of... we were in the position, roughly in this position, CAT hadn't been established yet, and I found that a man at Headquarters was simply assigning any patent we took out to Celltech for no recompense, you see, non-whatever. The idea was this was part of British industry, would help British industry, and we were just backroom boys and shouldn't be involved in any of this. This was the way they looked upon it. In fact, I think... they didn't call us boffins, but that's the attitude they had, you know, we didn't know about the wider world of commerce and exploitation, and the Head of Celltech... so I began to try to get rid of our agreement with Celltech. This took a whole year, and I had the backing of César Milstein, who's Deputy Director, and of course, they'd made some monoclonal antibodies, but I was leaned on by MRC Headquarters, I was really literally leaned on, called in to MRC Headquarters and I resisted. I said, 'Well, I think we'll patent an antibody. We're not going to give them... we'll make the antibody and then we can patent', and things of that sort, and then we can do something with Celltech, trying to find ways of evasion. I was helped by Dai Rees who was the Head of the MRC elect, so he told me, 'Hang in there. When I become Head of the MRC, I'll support you.' So for a whole year... it was quite fun, with César Milstein who got very worried about the difference between winding up our relation with Celltech, and winding down our relationship, so we were... we decided to wind it down and eventually wind it up, and we did. So this was the brakes... this was now the MRC, this is beginnings of modern transfer... technology transfer.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: John Finch Ken Holmes

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

Tags: BASF, Cambridge Antibody Technology, Celltech, MRC, Greg Winter, César Milstein, Dai Rees

Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008