Metabolic disease outfit accuses Chinese biotech of stealing trade secrets to advance competing drug
NASH is a big indication with plenty of benefits to the first company that can successfully get a working drug on the market. And according to one US biotech, a Chinese company stole trade secrets in order to get a head start.
Viking Therapeutics is suing Chinese biotech Ascletis Pharma in California district court, claiming that Ascletis essentially duped the biotech into divulging its trade secrets to the company and gave Ascletis the opportunity to release its own drug product to directly compete with Viking.
According to the complaint filed on Dec. 29, Viking’s lead candidate, VK2809, is a selective agonist of thyroid hormone receptor beta (THRβ) in Phase II trials and designed to treat metabolic disorders like high cholesterol, NAFLD and NASH. In 2016, Viking claimed that Ascletis requested to meet Viking in San Francisco at the BIO International Convention that year about a potential collaboration on Viking’s candidate, and both companies agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement before moving forward. After signing, Viking said that it shared information about the candidate with Ascletis, but the collaboration did not move forward.
Fast forward to 2019, when Ascletis again approached Viking about a “potential business opportunity regarding VK2809.” The two parties then signed a confidentiality agreement, and Viking shared information about the drug. After reviewing it for almost a month, Ascletis backed out again, Viking said in the court docs. Five months after backing out, Viking says it discovered that Ascletis founder and CEO Jason Wu founded another company called Gannex Pharma, a subsidiary of Ascletis.
Viking then went on to say that in early 2020, Gannex started submitting patent applications in China and in the US that contained Viking trade secrets related to VK2809. Viking found out about what it called the “theft and improper disclosure” of Viking’s trade secrets in 2021 after the patents were published.
Viking said that the company, which has now done several clinical trials for two different drug candidates, “could not have so quickly advanced their development, testing, and commercialization efforts without breaching the CDAs and improperly and intentionally misusing Viking Trade Secrets to Viking’s detriment.”
Ascletis said in a release on Monday that as of its announcement, the company had not yet been served with the complaints — one filed in California, and another filed with the United States International Trade Commission. However, the company added that it believes the accusations “have no merit and will vigorously defend against the Complaints.”
This is the latest from the US biotech since FDA lifted a clinical hold on Viking’s X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) program last year after Viking presented an FDA-requested rodent genotoxicity study.