THE WOODLANDS, Tex. (
) -- Investors who have read through
regulatory filings know about the unresolved and worrisome patent conflict involving the company's testosterone-boosting pill Androxal. Less known but more interesting are the events behind this patent fight, including allegations that Repros' CEO stole the idea for Androxal from a New York fertility doctor.
Call the story, "When Harry Met Joe." Except there's no fake orgasm over pastrami sandwiches at Katz's.
Harry is Dr. Harry Fisch, a New York urologist and fertility specialist. For male patients with low testosterone, particularly those who still want to have kids, Fisch has long prescribed clomiphene, a decades-old hormone treatment normally used to boost fertility in women. In men, clomiphene raises testosterone but also preserves sperm count.
In 2001, Fisch filed, and was granted, a U.S. patent covering the use of clomiphene to treat androgen [testosterone] deficiency in men.
Joe is, of course, Joe Podolski, the CEO of Repros. Back in 2001, Repros, then known as Zonagen, had run into trouble following the failure of an erectile dysfunction drug. With his largest shareholders considering a liquidation of the company, Podolski went in search of a new drug development project that might persuade investors to keep the company afloat.
At the same time, Fisch was looking for a company to develop and commercialize the idea of using clomiphene to treat men with "low T" based on his recently awarded U.S. patent. He knew Podolski and was aware of Zonagen's problems, so Fisch called Podolski and proposed a meeting in New York City to discuss a possible business idea. Before delving into the details, Fisch asked Podolski to sign a confidentiality agreement. Podolski agreed, signed the confidentiality agreement and traveled from his home in Texas to New York City to meet Fisch.
Fisch and Podolski met in New York, with Fisch sharing his clomiphene "low T" patent with Podolski and explaining his desire to partner with someone to turn the idea into a business.
In separate interviews, neither Podolski nor Fisch dispute the version of events up to this point in 2001. In particular, Podolski admits to signing Fisch's confidentiality agreement and gaining access to Fisch's patent. But here's where their stories diverge and the conflict begins.