Quest faces next Ravgen DNA testing patent trial after $272 mln Labcorp verdict

Miko Kapidzic, a specialist for extra-embryonic stem cells, works at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California San Francisco in San Francisco March 10, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
  • Ravgen developed technology for testing 'cell-free' fetal DNA
  • Has accused several genetic-test makers of infringement

(Reuters) - Biotech company Ravgen Inc obtained a $272 million patent verdict against Laboratory Corporation of America on Friday, winning over jurors in Waco, Texas in the first trial to be held in a string of Ravgen lawsuits against major diagnostics companies.

The jury found that Labcorp's tests infringe a Ravgen patent related to prenatal testing for genetic disorders using fetal DNA found in the mother's bloodstream and awarded Ravgen the full amount of damages it had sought, according to a spokesperson for its law firm Desmarais LLP.

The verdict for Columbia, Maryland-based Ravgen comes less than three weeks before the company is scheduled to take a related case against Quest Diagnostics to trial in California.

That trial, which concerns Secaucus, N.J.-based Quest's QNatal Advanced tests, is scheduled to begin Oct. 11 in Los Angeles federal court. Quest and its attorneys, including William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday on the Labcorp verdict or the upcoming trial.

A spokesperson for Burlington, N.C.-based Labcorp said Monday that the company was disappointed with the verdict and reviewing its appeal options. The company also said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board agreed to hear its challenges to the validity of Ravgen's patents, with decisions expected in November and December.

Ravgen said in its 2020 lawsuit against Labcorp that it pioneered technology for less invasive, more accurate tests using the "cell-free" DNA. It accused Labcorp's MaterniT and informaSeq prenatal tests of violating its patent rights.

Ravgen attorney John Desmarais of Desmarais LLP in an email called the LabCorp verdict a "critical step in Ravgen receiving credit for its significant contribution to genetic testing technology."

Ravgen has sued several other companies for patent infringement over their genetic tests besides Quest and LabCorp, including illumina, Natera and Roche's Ariosa Diagnostics. The accused tests have included prenatal tests as well as cancer-screening tests. Those cases are on hold until related PTAB challenges are resolved.

Desmarais said Ravgen is asking for royalty damages from Quest at the same rate - $100 per test - that it requested and received from the Texas jury in the Labcorp case.

The Labcorp case is Ravgen Inc v. Laboratory Corp of America Holdings, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, No. 6:20-cv-00969.

For Ravgen: John Desmarais of Desmarais LLP

For Labcorp: Edward Poplawski and Olivia Kim of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

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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