Bristol-Myers Squibb Sues Former Cancer Executive for Jumping Ship to AstraZeneca PLC
Published: Jun 03, 2015
June 2, 2015
By Alex Keown and Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
NEW YORK – Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb Company filed a lawsuit against a former executive specializing in cancer research, who left for competitor AstraZeneca PLC , charging the executive violated confidentiality and non-compete agreements.
In its lawsuit, BMS said David Berman violated agreements that prevented him from using confidential and trade secret information when he accepted a job at London-based AstraZeneca, which is also developing treatments that use the immune system to fight cancer, Reuters reported. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware, which is where AstraZeneca’s U.S. offices are based.
The company said Berman, who worked on cancer drugs Yervoy and the recently launched Opdivo, broke a non-compete agreement that said he would not leave BMS and work for a rival company for at least 12 months. The company said Berman, who worked in Bristol-Myers immuno-oncology program, notified the company of his decision to leave for AstraZeneca on May 26. The lawsuit says Berman told the Bristol-Myers that he intended to go to work directly for AstraZeneca despite the non-compete clause in his employment contract.
In its lawsuit Bristol-Myers said AstraZeneca is a direct competitor, as both companies are working on “the development of treatments based on the receptor proteins found on T-cells and in particular, the programmed death receptor, commonly referred to as PD-1,” Reuters noted. Bristol-Myers petitioned the court to prevent Berman from working for AstraZeneca for a period of 12 months and to prevent him from using any of Bristol-Myers confidential research.
In the lawsuit, Bristol-Myers said AstraZeneca, in partnership with Celgene Corporation , is directly competing with BMS’ oncology research in attempts to develop a PD-L1 inhibitor, which will compete directly with BMS’ compounds. In April AstraZeneca and Celgene entered into a $450 million agreement to allow the U.S.-based drug firm to develop MEDI4736, AstraZeneca’s immunotherapy treatment for blood cancer.
Immuno-oncology is an expanding field with large and small companies, such as Pfizer Inc. , AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Jounce Therapeutics carving out their niche in that area. Immuno-oncology harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells.
Bristol-Myers was in the headlines this week after presenting immuno-oncology data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s annual meeting in Chicago, that showed the drug combo ipilimumab and nivolumab reduced melanoma tumors by 60 percent. BMY also present data on its CHECKMATE 057 trial, a Phase III study of Opdivo versus chemotherapy in second line non-squamous lung cancer. That study found an estimated survival rate in evaluable patients was 62 percent at 12 months
The company said Berman is aware of BMS research that is not public knowledge including Bristol-Myers “ongoing pipeline strategies, which will not become public for at least another year, given the timelines in drug development and the conduct of clinical trials.” Bristol-Myers said it will be impossible for Berman to perform his duties at AstraZeneca “without, even unknowingly, drawing upon the vast knowledge and experience regarding immuno-oncology that he obtained at BMS.”
According to Berman’s LinkedIn profile, he held the position of vice president and head of the immuno-oncology development team at Bristol-Myers Squibb since 2013. His profile shows he worked at BMS since 2005, when he came on board the pharmaceutical company as the director of oncology discovery medicine. Prior to joining BMS he spent six years as an anatomic pathologist at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb ended a diabetes research partnership last year.