Switching jobs is a wrenching experience for anyone. But biotech scientists who move to a competitor face the added strain of a possible suit if they can take their knowledge with them.

The problem is highlighted in a case brought by Genentech, the San Francisco biotechnology company. The suit, filed February 8, accuses five former employees of misappropriating trade secrets relating to TPA, the company’s blockbuster, new drug to dissolve blood clots, and other recombinant proteins after they took jobs with a competitor, Invitron Corp. of St. Louis. The defendants are contesting the charges.

The suit may force industrial research managers to reassess corporate security measures, say scientists and industry observers. It may also cause staff scientists to think hard about the legal implications of a career move.

"People’s understanding of what information is protected in the biotechnology business is confused,” said molecular biologist Leroy Hood of the California Institute...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?