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The University of Rochester’s costly legal battle to reap billions of dollars in royalties from a new class of “super aspirin” appeared to be over Monday, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear its claims. Without explanation, the high court denied the school’s request for a review of lower court rulings that dismissed its patent infringement claims against the makers of painkillers known as cox-2 inhibitors. The school has spent more than $10 million to defend the lab work of Dr. Donald Young, a professor of medicine and biochemistry who in 1990 earned a 17-year patent for pinpointing a new cyclo-oxygenase enzyme that causes inflammation. Pharmaceutical companies later developed lucrative cox-2 inhibitor drugs and the school, which claimed Young’s work was the foundation for the drugs, hoped to recoup royalties and fees ranging from $3 billion to $30 billion. In March 2003, however, a federal judge in Rochester, N.Y., decided that Young’s discovery “did not blossom into a full-fledged complete invention.” An appeals court in Washington that specializes in patent disputes upheld the ruling in February. Expressing disappointment, the University of Rochester’s outgoing president, Thomas H. Jackson, said he’s “not anticipating any further legal steps at this time.” Cox-2 inhibitor drugs include Pfizer Inc.’s Celebrex and Merck & Co.’s Vioxx. Merck voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market earlier this year after new data found the arthritis drug doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. As a result, other drugs in the category have also come under scrutiny. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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