Codexis Files Lawsuit Against EnzymeWorks in Biocatalysts Dispute

Codexis, Inc., a developer of biocatalysts for the pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries, has filed a lawsuit against EnzymeWorks and its founder, Junhua “Alex” Tao, for willful patent infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of confidence, and other claims. The suit was filed in the United States District Court, Northern District of California on February 19, 2016.

The Codexis lawsuit alleges that Tao gained access to Codexis' intellectual property when he participated in a Codexis collaboration while he was an employee at a client pharmaceutical company. At that time, Codexis and Tao's employer were working on the joint development of proprietary enzymes for use in the manufacturing of some of the partner's pharmaceutical products. After leaving that company, Tao ultimately founded EnzymeWorks, setting up facilities in China and San Diego. At EnzymeWorks, according to the lawsuit, he began to make exact duplicates of Codexis' patented enzymes and began using Codexis' trade secret biomaterials. Tao then went on to sell these products to Codexis' customers and to other customers at reduced prices, according to the Codexis lawsuit.

“EnzymeWorks and Tao have made and sold identical copies of Codexis' proprietary enzymes and plasmids as a way to shortcut their way into an important and growing market,” said John Nicols, CEO and President of Codexis,” in a company statement “Codexis undertakes litigation rarely and reluctantly, but this form of blatant disrespect for intellectual property harms not only our business and ultimately our shareholders, but also our customers, who, like Codexis, rely on intellectual property rights to protect their businesses and products.” According to the lawsuit, “Tao betrayed the trust Codexis placed in him and built EnzymeWorks upon an infected foundation of trade secret theft and other business torts, the brazen copying of Codexis's engineered enzymes, and the widespread and sweeping willful infringement of numerous Codexis patents.”

In the lawsuit, Codexis identifies 10 separate US patents that the company says willfully are infringed by EnzymeWorks. Codexis says that a number of EnzymeWorks' products are exact molecular copies of Codexis' patent-protected enzymes. “Because these enzymes are typically hundreds of amino acids long, it is statistically impossible that EnzymeWorks coincidentally arrived at these products on its own.,” said Codexis in a statement. Codexis has a portfolio of more than 850 patents and patent applications worldwide.

The lawsuit also identifies the misappropriation of trade secrets related to Codexis' plasmid, which is a proprietary technology that Codexis uses to develop and produce its engineered enzymes. The selection, arrangement, and sequence of the DNA in this plasmid had been a Codexis trade secret, according to the company.

Codexis is seeking an injunction to stop EnzymeWorks' and Tao's infringement and other illegal conduct, enhanced monetary damages, and a full recovery of its attorneys' fees in its lawsuit against Tao and EnzymeWorks.

Source: Codexis

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