Prominent genomics researcher J. Craig Venter has been accused of stealing trade secrets by the Human Longevity Institute (HLI), a company he founded in 2013 and left this past May.
Venter is famous for his work in biotech, including sequencing the human genome. He founded the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in 2006 and the for-profit HLI. Though HLI is accusing Venter of sharing proprietary company information, the institute has sued the J. Craig Venter Institute, not the man himself.
Venter left HLI earlier this year, claiming to have retired, though the company claims he was fired. According to the lawsuit, Venter left with his company computer and “immediately began using” it to set up an HLI competitor that would benefit from trade secrets. The lawsuit also alleges that Venter protected an HLI employee who should have been fired, illegally tried to poach HLI employees, and benefitted from a “one-sided” employment contract.
HLI is supposed to build a database of genetic data to develop drugs, but it also offers expensive DNA analysis and testing, drawing suspicion from doctors who doubt all this information is meaningful for patients. “I think there is absolutely no evidence that any of those tests have any benefit for healthy people,” Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco and the editor-in-chief of JAMA Internal Medicine, told Stat.
Meanwhile, JCVI’s attorney Steven M. Strauss told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the lawsuit is “baseless, without merit, and contain numerous factual errors.”
We have reached out to HLI and JCVI for comment and will update if they respond.