Guardant Health fires back at Illumina suit, claiming retaliation over its role in FTC antitrust investigation
Two months ago, Illumina sued Guardant Health’s two co-founders (and ex-Illumina employees), Helmy Eltoukhy and Amirali Talasaz, alleging the pair stole trade secrets, and used Illumina services and equipment to set up the company. At the time, Guardant hit back — claiming it was retaliation.
“Illumina filed a lawsuit against Guardant to protect its intellectual property rights,” an Illumina spokesperson wrote at the time. “There is no merit to Guardant’s claim that the lawsuit was filed to suppress competition in the market.”
Now Guardant Health has filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Filed on Wednesday, the motion is being heard in the US District Court in Delaware. The 32-page document starts to lay out Guardant’s first argument about the timing of the case and delves headfirst into its own arguments for why the lawsuit from Illumina was an act of retaliation.
Initially, Illumina and Guardant have both been working on developing liquid biopsy screening tests to potentially detect cancer earlier. And on this front, the companies had been in a partnership together — with Illumina supplying sequencing instruments to Guardant, upon which “Guardant’s cancer detection testing technology is built,” according to Guardant.
The biotech further added in its opening motion that this supply partnership had been going on for almost a decade at this point, and according to Illumina’s spokesperson when the lawsuit was first filed, the business relationship will remain uninterrupted.
Fast forward to 2021, Illumina spent $8 billion to acquire Grail, which according to Guardant is its main competitor. And while European and American regulators objected — with the FTC suing to try and stop the deal citing potential antitrust law violations, according to the filing — Illumina completed the deal. And then it was shortly a few months after that deal officially closed that Illumina filed suit against Guardant. And from Guardant’s view, that timing is an issue.
From the filing:
The timing of this lawsuit reveals Illumina’s true motives. Illumina’s lawsuit comes shortly after Guardant cooperated with the FTC in its antitrust investigation of the proposed Illumina-GRAIL transaction, and just two months after two Guardant executives publicly testified against the transaction during the FTC’s administrative trial.
Attorneys for the defendants went on to say that Illumina admits it knew about the alleged “misappropriation of confidential information since at least June 2019,” and said that Guardant’s own public patent applications had been ongoing for longer than that. And according to Guardant, waiting until recently to file the lawsuit makes clear that it is retaliatory.
Further, the attorneys claim that Illumina’s claims of misappropriation are “time-barred” and must be dismissed since the content that Illumina is suing for was issued more than three years before the suit was filed.