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Roche Sues Foresight Diagnostics, Stanford Over Cancer Detection Technology

Note: This story has been updated with comment from Foresight Diagnostics. 

NEW YORK – Roche has sued cancer detection startup Foresight Diagnostics and Stanford University for allegedly stealing trade secrets related to cancer detection and genetic sequencing technology.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California and alleged that Foresight founders and Stanford professors Maximilian Diehn and Ash Alizadeh secretly created Foresight while working as Roche consultants with noncompete contracts and confidentiality agreements and stole Roche technology. Roche in 2015 acquired Diehn and Alizadeh's company Capp Medical, including its CAPP-Seq technology for analyzing circulating tumor DNA in a patient's blood to detect cancer. Roche uses the technology in its Avenio next-generation sequencing-based cancer detection tests, according to the complaint.

Roche alleged that Diehn, Alizadeh, and another Stanford professor, David Kurtz, misused the technology Roche acquired to raise more than $70 million in funding for Foresight. Stanford has filed more than a dozen patent applications disclosing technical data belonging to Roche, the company alleged.

Roche said that the defendants didn't notify Roche that they were founding a company that would develop competing noninvasive cancer detection and monitoring technology, called PhasED-Seq.

Roche requested an undisclosed amount of money in damages and asked the court to enjoin the defendants from using or disclosing the trade secrets and to force Stanford and Foresight to relinquish patent applications that allegedly cover Roche's technology.

Roche declined to comment on the litigation. 

Foresight Diagnostics said in a statement that it believes Roche's claims were filed in bad faith and that its accusations are meritless. "Roche has been aware for years that this technology was created at Stanford University, with Stanford resources and under contracts to Stanford," a spokesperson for Foresight said via email. "Stanford properly licensed exclusive rights to Foresight. Now, recognizing the strength of Foresight’s industry-leading technology, Roche has brought litigation as a negotiating tactic to try and force a result to which it is not entitled."

Foresight intends to vigorously defend this litigation, the spokesperson added.

Last week, Foresight Diagnostics settled a patent infringement lawsuit with Personalis covering blood-based cancer detection technology.