US firm HDT Bio Corp. has filed a $950 million suit against Pune-based generic drugmaker Emcure in a Washington federal court, accusing the Indian company of stealing trade secrets for a new COVID-19 vaccine.
HDT Bio said the Pune firm had stolen its innovative vaccine technology which it had licensed to Emcure's subsidiary Gennova for manufacture and distribution in India. HDT's lawsuit also said Emcure was planning to go public in India based on the stolen technology.
The US biopharmaceutical company added that its innovative vaccine uses a proprietary delivery platform, Lipid InOrganic Nanoparticle (LION) formulation to deliver immune-stimulating RNA fragments to targeted cells.
It may be mentioned here that HDT Bio had signed an agreement with Gennova Biopharmaceuticals in July 2020 for jointly developing a potential Covid-19 vaccine, using the messenger or mRNA technology.
When contacted, an Emcure spokesperson told TOI that the company “has been wrongly joined as a party”, because “the License Agreement, which is the subject matter of the suit, is between Gennova Biopharmaceuticals and HDT”.
A Gennova spokesperson stated:
"We state that there is no legal merit in the suit. We assert that there is no contravention of breach on any contractual obligations or provisions of law. We shall defend such frivolous litigation vigorously."
In a lawsuit HDT emphasizes the innovative nature of its development:
"Unlike some other vaccines, which must be stored and transported at extremely cold temperatures, a vaccine with LION can be stored in standard refrigerators or even freeze-dried and stored at temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Plaintiff HDT developed a mRNA vaccine against Covid-19 that is safer, cheaper, more portable, and likely more effective than the mRNA vaccines on the market, which are themselves extraordinary feats built on decades of research”.
Emcure and its subsidiary’s theft of HDT’s intellectual property breaches the license agreement and constitutes misappropriation of HDT’s trade secrets, it adds. HDT requested at least $950 million in damages and a court order permanently banning Emcure from using its secrets.
The lawsuit adds to a growing number of recent intellectual-property disputes involving Pfizer, Moderna, and others over the use of mRNA technology in COVID-19 vaccines.