Appeals court upholds lower court ruling against local company

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2005

ST. PAUL (AP) &045; A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that an Albert Lea company trying to break into the estrogen-replacement market stole trade secrets from pharmaceutical giant Wyeth.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals also found that U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen acted properly when she issued a permanent injunction against Natural Biologics for copying Wyeth’s process for obtaining a hormone replacement drug from the urine of pregnant mares.

That’s a process that no other drug company has ever been able to successfully duplicate. The lower court ruled, and the appeals court agreed, that Natural Biologics founder David Saveraid was only able to mimic the process after extensive consultations with a former Wyeth scientist.

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Saveraid had at least initially denied contacts with the scientist, but &uot;the absence of a credible record of how Natural Biologics developed its extraction process … support the district court’s conclusion that Natural Biologics acquired Wyeth’s trade secrets through improper means,&uot; read the opinion written by 8th Circuit Judge Gerald Heaney.

Natural Biologics’ attorney, Richard Mark, did not immediately return a phone call .

Wyeth manufactures the hormone-replacement drugs Premarin and Prempro.

In her initial ruling, Ericksen had barred Natural Biologics from further use of the extraction process, told it to suspend any research, and ordered it to destroy all the estrogen replacement product it had manufactured. About two dozen workers lost their jobs as a result.