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British government, U.K. firm seek $67 million from 3M in lawsuit

The British government joins a lawsuit against 3M over how it managed a technology it acquired from a company partially owned by a U.K. Ministry of Defense subsidiary.

The British government has gotten involved in a lawsuit against 3M over how it managed a technology it acquired from a company partially owned by a U.K. Ministry of Defense subsidiary.

Four years ago, 3M bought a potential breakthrough device from Acolyte, a U.K. company owned by the Porton Group and a subsidiary of the U.K. Ministry of Defense named Ploughshare Innovations. The device called BacLite used a special fluorescent light to detect the antibiotic-resistant superbug called the MRSA.

The Porton Group had achieved 95 percent successful in detecting MRSA in European clinical trials, but when 3M performed the trials, they were only 50 percent effective. The attorneys for the Porton Group alleged in mid May that 3M botched the trial by keeping the bacteria below body temperature. They added that the reason 3M sabotaged the trial was because it was developing a more expensive molecular test to detect MRSA internally called the Simplexa and wanted it to be the first to reach the market.

The Porton Group and Ploughshare Innovations are seeking $67 million in damages from 3M in a lawsuit that begins this week in England.

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A former U.K. defense minister and member of Parliament for West Bromwich East, Tom Watson, called for transparency.

“This is clearly a matter of public interest, both in terms of public health and also in terms of the potential earnings lost to the U.K. taxpayer from sales of this product,” Watson said in a statement released by the Porton Group.

Late Monday, 3M responded that BacLite technology was not commercially viable, which led the company to abandon efforts to sell it in 2008.

“The profit motives of the Porton Group and its publicity campaign will have no bearing on our client’s position in the current litigation,” said William A. Brewer III, partner at Bickel & Brewer and counsel for 3M, in a statement.