Denied, denied, denied—and a countersuit. That’s the response Regor Therapeutics has offered to Pfizer’s lawsuit claiming two former employees who now run the Chinese biotech committed “treachery” by claiming the Big Pharma’s work as their own.
Last month, the New York pharmaceutical giant accused former employees Min Zhong and Xiayang Qiu of setting up Regor while still working at Pfizer and stealing “the hard work of Pfizer’s scientists and clinicians for their own profit and gain.” Pfizer claims that Regor used information from a confidential presentation on its GLP-1 program for diabetes and obesity as a basis for building the company and securing patents.
Regor’s work in this area has since secured the nascent biotech a deal with Eli Lilly worth $1.5 billion.
The small biotech has now countersued Pfizer, asking the court for a declaration that Qiu and Zhong did not misappropriate any trade secrets or breach their contracts. The company is also asking the court to stipulate that a list of patents for Regor’s technology is in fact owned by the biotech.
The word “denied” appears 151 times in Regor’s response to Pfizer. Regor called Pfizer’s claims “belated and ill-founded” and an effort to “impugn the integrity of Regor’s founders."
Zhong and Qiu resigned from Pfizer 45 months ago and had not heard from their former employer until the lawsuit dropped last month, according to the countersuit.
“Had Pfizer timely alerted counterclaim plaintiffs of their alleged concerns, they could have been addressed in an orderly and commercially reasonable manner,” the new lawsuit said. “Information could have been exchanged, and, where appropriate, QILU Regor could have made certain commitments to allay Pfizer’s concerns, if any were valid, regarding the potential use of Pfizer confidential information.”
The claim continues, saying such conversations are standard in the pharmaceutical industry “where the stakes are high and employee movement among competitors is commonplace.”
Regor admitted that both it and Pfizer are working on a GLP-1 receptor with the potential to treat diabetes and other diseases, but it said this has been a validated target for more than 15 years.
“Rather than embrace such lawful and fair competition for the benefit of hundreds of millions of patients, Pfizer now asserts that QILU Regor’s successes should actually belong to Pfizer, and Pfizer is pursuing a broad range of claims to that effect,” Regor’s complaint reads.
The complaint also took issue with the suggestion that Zhong and Qiu, who oversaw scientists working on the pharmaceutical giant’s GLP-1 agonist compounds, misappropriated trade secrets. Instead, Regor’s work is the result of R&D efforts unrelated to Pfizer’s work, the company contends.
“Pfizer has spun a story that these two scientific managers became disgruntled at not being promoted, and nefariously planned to build a competitive business based on a foundation of stolen trade secrets,” the complaint said.
Instead, frustrated with Pfizer’s shrinking internal research and reliance on buying external therapeutic targets, “Dr. M. Zhong and Dr. Qiu left Pfizer because they felt they could do more good elsewhere," the new suit says.
The Pfizer suit has “cast a cloud” over Regor, which is seeking confirmation that the company will not continue to assert ownership over its discoveries.
Regor lists seven different compounds on its pipeline, including the phase 1 GLP-1R drug RGT-075.