Bay Area's Trellis Bioscience Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets

Published: Dec 10, 2015

Bay Area's Trellis Bioscience Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets
December 9, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

MENLO PARK, Calif. – The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital filed a lawsuit against Bay Area’s Trellis Bioscience LLC, accusing the company of using the hospital’s technology to develop its own treatments.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus, alleges Trellis BioSciences “gained an unfair head start on heading to market after Children's spent significant time and money developing its technology for hunting vulnerable spots to break down treatment-resistant bacterial ‘slimes’,” The Columbus Business First reported Tuesday night.

According to reports, the technology in question allows therapies to attack bacterial biofilms, a group of organisms where cells stick to one another on the surface. As the cells stick together, they make it more difficult for therapies to target infections. Lauren Bakaletz and Steve Goodman, researchers based at the hospital, developed “an advanced protein-mapping technique” that allows antibodies to find the best ways to penetrate the biofilm, Business First reported. The lawsuit alleges Children’s Hospital approached Trellis, which isolates therapeutic grade antibodies directly from the blood cells of humans, to partner with it on the technology. The lawsuit says Trellis signed a non-disclosure agreement to not use the hospital-developed technology on any other project other than in collaboration with the hospital. Trellis and the hospital met throughout 2013 to discuss the technology and, the hospital showed the company how the mapping technique worked.

Although no deal was struck between Trellis and the hospital, the lawsuit alleges Trellis’s clinical candidate for eliminating bacterial biofilm, TRL1068, is based off the mapping techniques developed by Children’s Hospital. In September, Trellis presented data showing its candidate reduced biofilm associated bacteria by more than 99 percent in mouse models, with the released bacteria regaining susceptibility to antibiotic treatment. Trellis began filing patent applications on its clinical candidate last year.

The lawsuit says before being approached by Children’s Hospital, Trellis “was not, and had never been, in the business of biofilm remediation,” Columbus Business First reported.

After being unable to strike a deal with Trellis, the hospital was able to work with Lattice Biotech, a spinout from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, to use the hospital’s mapping sequence to break down biofilms. Earlier this month, Lattice launched ProclaRx, an early stage company developing anti-biofilm therapies.

The hospital is seeking financial restitution and a shifting of Trellis’ patents to its own research institute. The hospital said Trellis’s use of its trade secrets has caused “loss of goodwill” with the hospital’s research partners, Columbus Business First said.

A Trellis response is due in court within a few weeks, Columbus Business First said. Trellis declined to comment to the news outlet, but said its attorneys are reviewing the complaint.

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