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'Wrongly joined in lawsuit': Emcure on claims it stole US company's vaccine tech

HDT Bio Corp wants $950 million in damages

pharmaceutical research rep Representational image

Pune-based Emcure Pharmaceuticals has been accused by a US-based company of stealing the latter's mRNA technology to use in developing a Covid vaccine.

HDT Bio Corp, which is based in Seattle, had filed a lawsuit on Monday, seeking “$950 million in damages and a court order permanently banning Emcure from using its secrets”, Reuters reported.

HDT Bio Corp had signed an agreement in 2020 with Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Emcure, to jointly develop a Covid vaccine using mRNA technology.

The lawsuit claimed Emcure misappropriated trade secrets from the venture to use in its own vaccine. HDT Bio Corp claimed Emcure applied for two patents in India using the allegedly stolen technology and filed for an IPO, touting an “indigenously developed” vaccine with a “proprietary mRNA platform”.

Reuters reported “Gennova allegedly terminated its license agreement with HDT at Emcure's request shortly after its CEO told HDT it would not pay royalties on vaccine sales.”

What is the technology in question?

HDT Bio Corp claimed “its innovative vaccine uses a proprietary delivery platform, Lipid InOrganic Nanoparticle (LION) formulation to deliver immune-stimulating RNA fragments to targeted cells”, The Times of India reported.

The HDT Bio Corp lawsuit says “Unlike some other vaccines, which must be stored and transported at extremely cold temperatures (i.e., the infamous 'cold chain'), a vaccine with LION can be stored in standard refrigerators or even freeze-dried and stored at temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. LION thus solves a major barrier to distributing vaccines in developing countries.”

The lawsuit claimed Gennova and Emcure have “no track record of developing original products”. HDT Bio Corp termed Emcure's work on an mRNA vaccine as a “Cinderella story” that is a “fairy tale spun to lure investors to a generics maker whose prior attempt to go public failed for lack of interest”.

Emcure, Gennova respond

Emcure has rejected the claims. A company spokesperson told The Times of India “The License Agreement, which is the subject matter of the suit, is between Gennova Biopharmaceuticals and HDT. Emcure Pharma has no connection whatsoever with the matter. 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.”

A Gennova spokesperson told The Times of India the lawsuit was “frivolous” with “no legal merit”.

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