Regor gets permission to glimpse Pfizer’s FBI communique in GLP-1 trade secrets dispute

Regor gets permission to glimpse Pfizer’s FBI communique in GLP-1 trade secrets dispute

The trade secrets sparring match between Pfizer and Regor Therapeutics has taken a turn in Regor’s favor—albeit a small one—after a federal judge OK’d the biotech’s bid to get a glimpse of Pfizer’s communications with the feds.

Almost a year to the day after the Big Pharma launched its suit against Regor and two former Pfizer employees who now sit at the head of the biotech—CEO Min Zhong, Ph.D., and Chief Operating Officer Xiayang Qiu, Ph.D.—U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Farrish has ordered Pfizer to fork over 35 emails and text messages with the FBI related to the defendants.

Pfizer is “disappointed in the court’s order,” a company spokesperson said, noting, “we believe the materials at issue are protected by privilege.” The spokesperson reiterated that “[t]his is a discovery dispute and not a ruling on the merits of the case.”

“The company remains confident in its case and believes the full evidentiary record will prove that its trade secrets were misappropriated by the defendants,” she added.

In its original lawsuit, Pfizer accused Zhong and 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 claimed Regor pinched information from a confidential presentation on its GLP-1 program for diabetes and obesity to help build out the biotech and secure patents.

Regor’s work in this area helped the fledgling company nab a deal with Eli Lilly worth $1.5 billion, with Pfizer previously alleging Regor managed to “entice” Lilly into inking the agreement.

Pfizer, for its part, has claimed each of the 35 documents should be kept under lock and key thanks to product doctrine as well as protection under attorney-client privilege in the case of 31 of the communications.

Regor has countered by arguing that even if the documents were “once protected,” Pfizer waived that right by “‘expressly relying on and citing its forensic investigation and related findings … in this litigation,” according to court documents filed late last week.

Farrish largely agreed, and he’s ordered Pfizer to produce the 35 documents in question by Feb. 17.

While Pfizer is certainly an intimidating force to tangle with, this isn’t the first time Regor has gone on the offensive in the companies’ trade secrets imbroglio.

Back in March, Regor countersued Pfizer, asking the court to declare Qiu and Zhong did not misappropriate any trade secrets or breach their contracts.

One issue raised by Zhong and Qiu was the length of time it took Pfizer to file its case.

“Had Pfizer timely alerted counterclaim plaintiffs of their alleged concerns, they could have been addressed in an orderly and commercially reasonable manner,” Regor’s lawsuit reads. “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.”

Big Pharmas have been launching trade secrets suits against former employees at a steady clip in recent years. In February 2022, GSK accused former employee Denise Brooks of trade secrets theft, alleging that she “abruptly” resigned from her post as a GSK quality systems lead—a position that gave her “wide-ranging access” to proprietary company data.

AbbVie previously accused Alvotech of recruiting an employee who made off with confidential documents on Humira’s manufacturing shortly before switching jobs.

And Pfizer, in a separate trade secrets dispute, filed suit against former employee Chun Xiao Li in 2021, accusing the staffer of uploading more than 12,000 files, including “confidential Pfizer documents,” to a personal Google Drive account, as well as personal devices.

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