NEW YORK – Quest Diagnostics confirmed it has been cleared in US District Court for the Central District of California Western Division of misappropriating trade secrets from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in developing a serological test for irritable bowel syndrome.
A jury last week determined that Quest did not steal trade secrets from Cedars-Sinai or breach its contract with the hospital when it developed an IBS test similar to one developed by Cedars-Sinai researchers.
Both tests are based on research led by Cedars-Sinai researcher Mark Pimentel, who published a 2015 Plos One study finding that anti-cytolethal distending toxin B (CdtB) and anti-vinculin antibodies could help diagnose IBS in patients who developed the condition following an infection. Pimentel's work was significant in that it provided evidence of a linkage between IBS and microbial infection.
Pimental and co-authors including his Cedars-Sinai colleague Ali Rezaie founded a company, Gemelli Biotech, to commercialize the markers, licensing them from Cedars-Sinai and selling an IBS test using them called IBS-smart. Cedars-Sinai also licensed the markers to Commonwealth Diagnostics International, which offers a version of the test under the name IBSChek.
Quest measures these markers as part of its competing IBSDetex test, which it likewise offers as an aid in diagnosing post-infection IBS.
In July of 2017, Cedars-Sinai filed a complaint alleging that in developing and selling the IBSDetex test Quest had misappropriated trade secrets, breached a contract between the two parties, infringed patents underlying the test, and violated California business code. Cedars-Sinai demanded a jury trial and requested the court force Quest to stop offering IBSDetex and compensate the hospital for damages and attorneys' fees.
In its complaint, Cedars-Sinai alleged that after Quest expressed interest in the IBS test the two parties entered a confidentiality agreement. The following year, 2014, the hospital sent Quest confidential information from Pimentel about his IBS test work. Ultimately, however, Quest and Cedar-Sinai were unable to come to terms on a deal for the test. In 2017, Quest launched its IBSDetex test, and Cedars-Sinai filed suit later that year.
Countering the hospital's claims, Quest argued that, in the first place, Cedars-Sinai didn't own the original manuscript containing the research underpinning the test; secondly, that the hospital had failed to prove that key aspects of the manuscript — namely, the commercial source of the CdtB reagent used, the specific blocking step used in the assay, and the clinical study data — were actually trade secrets; and, thirdly, that the hospital had not shown that Quest had, in fact, misappropriated any of these three items.
"We're pleased with the jury's verdict and grateful for their careful consideration of all the evidence," said Denny Moynihan, Quest's senior director, external engagement, said to 360Dx.
Cedars-Sinai did not say whether it planned to appeal the decision but noted that it is currently evaluating all of its legal options.