Illumina sues Guardant Health, founders over trade secrets

2 minute read

A building on the campus at the world headquarters of Illumina is shown in San Diego, California, U.S., September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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  • Former Illumina employees founded Guardant
  • Illumina said Guardant used secret info to get cancer-screening patents

(Reuters) - Genomics sequencing company Illumina Inc on Thursday sued cancer-screening company Guardant Health and its two founders in Delaware federal court, accusing them of stealing and profiting from its trade secrets.

The lawsuit said Helmy Eltoukhy and AmirAli Talasaz, who are former Illumina employees, took thousands of confidential documents from Illumina related to its gene-sequencing technology and used company secrets to obtain at least 35 patents.

Illumina asked the court to declare it the rightful owner of several Guardant patents and applications, transfer the trade secrets back to Illumina, and award it an undisclosed amount of money damages.

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Redwood City, California-based Guardant's senior vice president and general counsel John Saia said in a statement Thursday that Guardant believes Illumina sued it in retaliation for "registering concerns" about the antitrust implications of Illumina's acquisition of Grail, which also makes cancer tests, last year.

Saia also said the company will "vigorously defend" against the claims.

Illumina spokesperson Adi Raval said Thursday that there was "no merit to Guardant's claim that the lawsuit was filed to suppress competition" and that the lawsuit would not affect its supply agreement with Guardant.

The lawsuit said Eltoukhy and Talasaz anonymously incorporated Guardant in 2011 while they worked at Illumina. Talasaz left Illumina in 2012, and Illumina said Eltoukhy sent him secret information about improving the accuracy of genetic sequencing that Guardant used to obtain dozens of patents.

Eltoukhy also allegedly took more than 51,000 Illumina emails containing over 1,400 confidential documents when he left the company in early 2013.

The lawsuit said Illumina learned of the misconduct from a patent-infringement case Guardant brought against another company, and that Eltoukhy removed his name from Guardant patent applications and improperly deleted confidential information shortly after the violations were disclosed in that case.

Illumina accused Guardant and its founders of misappropriating its trade secrets under California law and accused the founders of breaking a confidentiality agreement.

The case is Illumina Inc v. Guardant Health Inc, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, No. 1:22-cv-00334.

For Illumina: Christopher Sipes and Jeffrey Davidson of Covington & Burling, Steven Balick of Ashby & Geddes

For Guardant: n/a

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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