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UK Court Trial Starts Over 3M's Killing Of MRSA Superbug Test

The development of a rapid method for the detection of MRSA in hospitals has been scrapped, and now the UK government is looking for compensation from 3M. The following is an overview of the unfolding story from PRNewswire:
A company owned by the Ministry of Defence today (Wednesday June 15) will launch a High Court lawsuit against the American giant 3M, claiming that it failed properly to market an innovative MRSA diagnostic invented by the MoD at its Porton Down research laboratories.

The MoD company, Ploughshare Innovations, and its financial partner, private equity firm Porton Capital, are claiming up to £41m from 3M for failing to 'actively and diligently' market their MRSA test, named BacLite. 3M denies liability and is defending the claim.

BacLite was a high-speed test which enabled hospitals to identify MRSA infections within five hours, compared to the more usual 48-hour test procedures. Originally discovered in the nineties at the MoD's Porton Down research establishment in Wiltshire, it was subsequently approved by the UK health authorities and was first marketed to hospitals here in 2005.

Following early sales success in the UK, in 2007 3M bought BacLite and the company which the two partners had formed to market it, Acolyte, for an initial £10.4m. An earn-out clause in the contract meant that the partners could have been entitled to up to an additional £41m depending on BacLite's sales between 2007 and 2009.

Ploughshare and Porton's sales agreement with 3M committed the American group to develop and market BacLite to health authorities and hospitals inEurope, North America, and Australia. However, just over a year later 3M closed the business, following intervention by its chairman, CEO and President, British-born George Buckley.

The High Court lawsuit launched yesterday will accuse 3M of deliberately allowing BacLite to fail commercially by starving it of competent staff and funds. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that 3M mismanaged its application for regulatory approval for BacLite with the US health authorities, and failed to seek similar approval at all in other territories.

Harvey Boulter, CEO of Porton Capital, commented - "The failure of 3M to carry out its contractual obligations and commercialise an already-proven British invention is a disgrace. MRSA is a potentially fatal germ which affects hospital patients across the world. Not only could BacLite have helped reduce patients' exposure to MRSA, but the British taxpayer could and should have benefited financially from the MoD's invention. Instead, they have been left out of pocket by 3M's negligence."

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