Cell Genesys Inc. announced Tuesday that it has filed a lawsuitagainst GenPharm International Inc. claiming that GenPharmmisappropriated its method of creating transgenic mice thatproduce human antibodies.
Cell Genesys specifically charges that GenPharm acquired tradesecret information concerning its "Gene Inactivation Invention"from a scientific consultant to Cell Genesys, Frederick Alt. Thesuit names GenPharm and 10 Does as defendants. The identitiesof the Does have not been determined as of yet, the complaintnotes, but specific names will eventually be added in anamendment to the complaint.
Filed Monday in the California Superior Court in Santa ClaraCounty, the suit states that Cell Genesys "invented a novelmethod to produce a 'transgenic animal' that, when immunizedwith an antigen, produces human antibodies against theantigen, but does not produce its own, endogenous antibodies.Specifically, Cell Genesys conceived that by inactivating only asmall portion of the complex antibody gene needed forproduction of endogenous antibodies, the animal would notproduce its own antibodies even when challenged withantigen."
Cell Genesys said it invented a method to inactivate the "Jregion" of the animal's antibody gene and thereby preventendogenous antibody production. "By breeding mice that carrythe inactivated endogenous antibody gene with mice that carryintroduced genes required for the production of humanantibody, a genetically modified animal that produces humanantibodies, but not its own, is created," the suit states.
The suit notes that in August 1989, Frederick Alt, then aprofessor of genetics at Columbia University, became ascientific consultant to Cell Genesys. In this role, which he heldthrough at least August 1990, he received confidentialinformation concerning Cell Genesys' gene inactivationinvention, the suit says. He also signed a nondisclosureagreement in November 1989, promising to maintain theconfidentiality of all Cell Genesys' proprietary information.
According to Cell Genesys, Alt told the company at a January1990 meeting that he had begun consulting with GeneticsInstitute and between April and June of that year disclosedthat he would be consulting with GenPharm of Mountain View,Calif. The suit alleges that these disclosures occurred beforeGenPharm filed a U.S. patent application embodying the geneinactivation invention on August 29, 1990. Cell Genesys saysGenPharm renamed the invention "functional disruption ofendogenous immunoglobulin loci." Cell Genesys said it filed aU.S. patent on its invention on January 12, 1990.
Cell Genesys (NASDAQ:CEGE) of Foster City, Calif. asks the courtto issue an order preliminarily and permanently enjoining andrestraining GenPharm from using information related to thegene inactivation invention for a period of years "representingthe number of years that it took Cell Genesys to invent" thetechnology.
GenPharm chief executive officer Jonathan MacQuitty saidGenPharm has the scientific lead over Cell Genesys since it isable to make human antibodies in mice and Cell Genesys hasnot done so.
-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor
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