Seattle vaccine company HDT Bio is seeking nearly $1 billion in a new lawsuit alleging that an India-based drugmaker stole HDT’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine technology.
The complaint, filed Monday in federal court in Seattle, asks for at least $950 million in damages from Emcure Pharmaceuticals, and an order banning its use of HDT’s technology. Emcure, based in Pune, India, violated laws against the theft of trade secrets, the lawsuit claims.
It also alleges that Emcure is using the trade secrets to support its filing for an initial public offering.
“Emcure posed as a good-faith partner and fellow crusader in HDT’s global health mission. In reality, however, Emcure viewed HDT’s philanthropic orientation as an opportunity to seize HDT’s secrets and the fruit of decades of its scientists’ labor,” said HDT in the suit.
HDT Bio collaborates with biopharma partners internationally to manufacture, test and distribute its vaccines for a range of conditions, and received a $8.2 million contract from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and $6 million in private financing to develop its COVID-19 shot. The 3-year old startup aims to produce vaccines at affordable prices with partners in historically underserved countries.
The suit alleges that Emcure failed to uphold its agreement to provide HDT Bio with clinical trial data, impeding HDT’s progress on the vaccine and causing a potential $100 million deal with another partner to fall through.
According the complaint, HDT Bio had licensed its technology to Emcure subsidiary Gennova Biopharmaceuticals and closely worked with the company to ensure proper manufacture of the vaccine, leading to phase 1 and 2/3 clinical trials in India.
But by last fall Emcure was not sharing efficacy and safety information on the vaccine with HDT and had sought two patents in India on HDT’s technology, according to the suit. Last year Emcure also filed for an IPO, stating that it was developing an “indigenous” mRNA platform for COVID-19 and other vaccines.
“The License Agreement, which is the subject matter of the suit, is between Gennova and HDT. Emcure Pharma has no connection whatsoever with the matter,” said an Emcure spokesperson. “Emcure has been legally advised that no suit lies against it; and it has been wrongly joined as a party. The company is initiating steps to have the claims dismissed.”
“We build business partnerships around the globe to ensure that our technologies reach those who need them most,” HDT Bio said in a statement to GeekWire. “Our complaint against Emcure speaks for itself.”
Early-stage clinical trials of HDT Bio’s COVID-19 vaccine are ongoing with industry partners in Brazil and South Korea. The vaccine has two modules, a self-replicating RNA component and a lipid-based coat and is designed to be stable in standard refrigerators.
Emcure and Gennova have “no track record of developing original products,” said HDT in the suit. “Emcure’s Cinderella story is a fairy tale spun to lure investors to a generics maker whose prior attempt to go public failed for lack of interest.”