Lawsuit says India's Emcure stole COVID-19 vaccine secrets for IPO

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A researcher holds up an mRNA type vaccine candidate for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Saraburi province, Thailand, June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

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  • HDT Bio accuses Indian drugmaker of stealing RNA tech
  • Emcure allegedly planning to go public based on stolen tech

(Reuters) - Seattle biopharma company HDT Bio Corp has sued Indian generic drugmaker Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd in U.S. court for allegedly stealing RNA-delivery technology to use in its COVID-19 vaccine.

HDT's lawsuit, filed Monday in Seattle federal court, also said Emcure was planning to go public in India based on the stolen technology, and misappropriated trade secrets that HDT licensed to an Emcure subsidiary.

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.

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HDT requested at least $950 million in damages and a court order permanently banning Emcure from using its secrets.

An Emcure spokesperson said Tuesday that the company was not involved with the license. Emcure "has no connection whatsoever with the matter" and is "initiating steps to have the claims dismissed," the spokesperson said.

HDT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

HDT said in the lawsuit that is developing a self-amplyifing RNA (saRNA) vaccine for COVID-19. According to HDT, saRNA improves on existing mRNA vaccine technology by reducing the risk of side effects like myocarditis and allowing for shots to be given with lower dosages and kept in standard refrigerators.

The lawsuit said HDT licensed its technology to Emcure subsidiary Gennova Biopharmaceuticals to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in India. However, Emcure allegedly claimed the technology as its own in late 2021.

HDT said it was filing a separate arbitration action against Gennova in London related to the claims.

Emcure applied for two Indian patents on HDT's technology and filed for an IPO in India that falsely describes its "indigenously developed" vaccine with a "proprietary mRNA platform," the lawsuit said.

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.

The lawsuit said it would be "stunning" if Emcure developed the vaccine on its own, considering it did not have prior experience with RNA vaccines or a record of developing original products.

"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," HDT said.

The case is HDT Bio Corp v. Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd, U.S. District Court for the District of Washington, No. 2:22-cv-00334.

For HDT: Peter Stris of Stris & Maher

For Emcure: n/a

(NOTE: This story has been updated with Emcure's response to the lawsuit.)

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com