Thursday, October 3, 2013

Steve Dowdy Responds

Following the tragic events that took place surrounding highly regarded oligonucleotide scientist Steve Dowdy from UCSD there has been much speculation and confusion about the ownership of technology related to RNAi Therapeutics companies Traversa Therapeutics and Solstice Biologics.  This Open Letter by Professor Dowdy is published to present his views on the scientific pedigree of the technology behind Solstice Biologics which received significant VC funding earlier this year.  It would be a shame if the incidence were to cause further damage, also to the field of RNAi Therapeutics, by casting doubts on this promising company and delivery approach.  It is not meant as a criticism of Doug Macron at Gene Silencing News.


October 2, 2013

Shame on You Doug Macron!

I'm lying here in pain with a bullet hole that goes in one side of me and out the other having 
been hit by one of 7 bullets fired from a 45 caliber gun by Hans Petersen from a distance of ~8 
feet during his murder attempt on me and my wife, while we and our children were sleeping two
weeks ago. As you know, within hours Petersen committed another brutal attack, shooting the 
brother of his estranged wife, a crime police said was related to Petersen’s marital problems. I 
remain at an undisclosed location with my family, fearful that Hans Petersen will be released on 
bail and come after me and my family again. So with all of this as a backdrop, you have the 
audacity to write an article based entirely on false and unsupportable statements made by this 
thoroughly discredited person that accuses Curt Bradshaw and I of stealing technology from 
Traversa to start Solstice Biologics, and then you attempt to bolster those accusations by 
quoting emails written by Hans Petersen and purportedly given to you by his brother.

If Hans Petersen and Scott Petersen think we stole anything from Traversa, which we 
emphatically did not, then they should have brought this to the court system long ago, and they 
should stop using Facebook and Linkedin postings to make unsubstantiated claims. And Hans 
Peterson should certainly not be using violence against me, my family or anyone else. If they 
think the work at Solstice is derivative of their work, then the Patent Office and the courts are 
where a civilized society takes their disputes, not by trying to kill the other party.

As for your September 26, 2013 article in Gene Silencing News, where you refer to certain 
email exchanges between me and Hans Petersen and paraphrase a portion of one stating that 
“Dowdy also wrote that a significant amount of the research being conducted on the technology 
in his UCSD lab did not belong to Traversa, and indicated that it could be licensed to a company 
other than Traversa should it continue to be publicized by Petersen,” I am not certain what you 
are trying to imply here. The statement you quote fails to include contextual information with 
respect to what Traversa did and did not hold license rights to and what my role as an academic 
researcher involves. Here is the missing contextual information that should have been included 
in your piece and should have been the subject of diligence with respect to follow up questions 
posed to the Petersen’s:


1) Traversa took a license on particular patent applications developed in my UCSD lab during 2006 (SD2006-150 and SD2009-296 concerning certain PTD-DRBD technology and SD2006-
270 concerning certain RNN technology). The UCSD-Traversa License Agreement by its terms 
did not grant Traversa any rights on other work in my lab (or any other lab) at UCSD beyond the 
referenced applications and continuations, divisions, certain CIPs and foreign counterparts. 

2) Traversa did not sponsor any research in my lab at UCSD and therefore Traversa had no 
first-rights of refusal on any of my future work.

3) I am an academic researcher and no License Agreement by UCSD to any commercial 
licensee includes any obligations on my part or the part of any other personnel at UCSD to stop 
doing academic research. Any implication in your article, based upon the email provided you by 
Scott Petersen, that my academic work at UCSD should automatically flow to Traversa is 
ridiculous and in conflict with the Intellectual Property Policies and Conflict of Interest Policies 
that academic researchers function under in all academic institutions I am familiar with.

4) I was party to a Consulting Agreement with Traversa, that agreement contained obligations to
assign intellectual property rights conceived or discovered in the course of me rendering 
consulting services to Traversa; it did not cover work performed at my UCSD lab.

5) Because I was in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds, I was unavailable to confirm 
that I sent the email (scrap of email) you included in your Sept 26 article. I cannot confirm that I 
sent the email without seeing it in its entirety. However, the reference to Petersen “continuing to 
publicize the technology” was a reference to my concern that he not disclose technology with 
respect to which Traversa held no rights and that was being developed in my UCSD lab and 
was at a very early stage of development, thus letting the field know what I was working on.

Mr. Macron, you would be well advised to do some basic diligence on the manner in 
which academic laboratories make inventions available to private companies, because 
the line of arguments that the Petersen brothers are feeding you is just false.

Your September 26, 2013 article in Gene Silencing News, also references a Hans Petersen 
email dated May 2013 that he sent to the legal counsel for the Traversa trustee overseeing the 
company's bankruptcy proceedings. You state that in this email “Petersen alleged, among other 
things, that Dowdy and Traversa CSO Curt Bradshaw declined additional investment in the 
company from Dr. Corey Goodman, a pharmaceutical industry veteran and managing partner of 
venture capital firm VenBio, in order to intentionally drive the firm into bankruptcy.” As Corey 
Goodman of venBio has previously informed you, venBio was never approached by 
anyone seeking an investment in Traversa and we did not meet with Dr. Goodman until 
April 2012, by which time Traversa had already entered bankruptcy. As a point of fact, I 
had never met nor spoken with Dr. Goodman prior to April 2012.


Your September 26, 2013 article in Gene Silencing News, also includes the statement that “As 
part of Traversa's bankruptcy proceedings, intellectual property related to the RNN technology, 
which had been licensed from UCSD, returned to the institution and relicensed to Dowdy and 
Bradshaw for use by the new RNAi drug company they founded, Solstice Biologics.” The 
Traversa Board of Directors elected to return the UCSD SD2006-270 patent application to 
UCSD in November 2011 to avoid having to pay UCSD a $100,000 fee that Traversa was in 
arrears on, as well as a separate fee that would come due to UCSD in February 2012; Traversa 
was at this time focused on its PTD-DRBD program and maintained those patents. The return 
of the UCSD SD2006-270 patent application to UCSD was not part of the Traversa bankruptcy 
proceedings it occurred five months prior to the Traversa bankruptcy filing. When Solstice 
Biologics entered into its license with UCSD in December 2012, the SD2006-270 application 
and 2 additional UCSD patent applications were licensed to Solstice Biologics. To be concise, 
the UCSD SD2006-270 application is not Traversa technology; its UCSD technology that was 
licensed to Traversa and then returned to UCSD.

The technology that UCSD licensed to Solstice Biologics was not licensed until December 2012. 
It was not even shown to venBio until April 2012 because it had taken me and my UCSD lab of 
12+ scientists more than 6 years to resolve the challenges with RNN technology and build a 
self-delivering siRNN prototype; only then did we show it to potential investors. 

The Solstice Biologics investors spent a significant amount of time and money to diligence the 
in-licensed UCSD intellectual property and also in reviewing the patent Scott Petersen patent 
application purchased from the Traversa estate before entering into the license and funding of 
Solstice Biologics. Based on those analyses, the investors funded Solstice Biologics.

Lastly, have you even considered that your two primary sources are (1) someone who is 3
currently in jail for 3 counts of attempted murder and (2) a sibling who provided emails written by 
his brother and who, according to your reports, has made inconsistent claims of ownership to 
certain siRNN technology that he later bought from a third party in bankruptcy?

So will you please stop writing these unsubstantiated pieces where Hans Petersen and 
Scott Petersen show you selective emails and make ridiculous claims about the pedigree 
of the technology that Solstice Biologics licensed from UCSD and call into question my 
character and actions and those of Curt Bradshaw?

I give you permission to publish this as is, unedited, under the title of "Steve Dowdy Responds"

Sincerely,

Steve

Steven F. Dowdy, Ph.D.
Professor
Dept. of Cellular & Molecular Medicine
George Palade Laboratories, Room 231B
UCSD School of Medicine
9500 Gilman Drive, MC-0686
La Jolla, CA 92093-0686

Email: sdowdy@ucsd.edu

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was a horrible development for RNAi and a testament to the struggles people have in this field. I see it first hand from the dozens of ruined careers, lost jobs (no jobs), lack of opportunity, etc. Things may have started improving recently, but there seems to be an inability to re-enter the field once you're out.

I wonder why this field in particular (RNAi) is so fraught with the marginalization of so many people. Here is a tragic case of one individual who snapped and has stained the entire field. It's up to the current participants to help in this situation and give people opportunities in the field who may have run into the same unfortunate circumstances Hans found himself in.

Anonymous said...

No one can say this blog or this field are boring.
G.

victotia zillioux said...

Knowing Hans and working closely with him for several years, I find it difficult to believe that this is all one sided and that the people Hans was angry with are not simply innocent bystanders who were shot by a crazy person.

Many of us have gone through the struggle of divorce and career issues, and understand how difficult it can be even in the best of situations. And this obviously was not the best, which is not a surprise. It would seem that Hans has been dealing with several difficult life changing situations that evidently sent him over the top.

I am not defending the path Hans took or saying that he should not pay for his actions. I am just saying that these kinds of situations are not black and white, articularly when divorce or career and financial issues are involved. And this was both.

Anonymous said...

@ victotia zillioux:

Attempting to murder three people sleeping in their homes is actually pretty one-sided. There are points of contention in any relationship, business or personal. They do not justify shooting.

Anonymous said...

Case 14-90056-LT Filed 04/22/14 Entered 04/22/14 09:27:18
Plaintiff Richard M Kipperman, the Chapter 7 Trustee (“Plaintiff”) for Traversa Therapeutics, Inc. (“Traversa”), alleges as follows:
COMPLAINT FOR:
BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY;
BREACH OF DUTY OF LOYALTY; …

6. Traversa was engaged in the business of researching and developing certain biotechnology intellectual property. In particular, Traversa was engaged in RNAi gene therapy research, which includes at least two technological means for introducing drugs to human cells … Traversa engaged in both DRBD and RNN research, which it dubbed “Tech 1” and “Tech 2” respectively.
7. At a November 28, 2011, meeting of Traversa’s Board of Directors, the Board of Directors voted to cancel its license with UCSD to use its RNN technology, thereby effectively ending its RNN (Tech 2) research program. The Trustee alleges on information and belief that Bradshaw and/or Steven S. Dowdy (“Dowdy”) argued in favor of having the Debtor cancel its license with UCSD. Dowdy was a shareholder of Traversa, and also served on its Scientific Advisory Board.
8. On March 1, 2012, while still employed at Traversa as its Chief Scientific Officer, Bradshaw accepted an invitation to attend a “naming party” which was being thrown by Dowdy. Plaintiff alleges on information and belief that Bradshaw and Dowdy had already by that time formed a venture and/or partnership with the goal of engaging in RNAi research and development. The purpose of the naming party, believed to be held on March 18, 2012, was to arrive at a name for the new venture. At the naming party, the new venture was named Intrada Biologics, later to become Solstice Biologics (“Solstice”). Solstice engages in RNAi research.
9. On March 5, 2012, while still employed at Traversa as its Chief Scientific Officer, Bradshaw emailed Katherine Bowdish at PermeonBio, saying that he was traveling to San Francisco in a few weeks to meet investors. One of those investors was Corey Goodwin of VenBio, who ultimately invested in Solstice. Towards the end of March, 2012, Bradshaw and Dowdy traveled to San Francisco to meet with Mr. Goodwin for the purpose of soliciting venture capital funds for Solstice. Goodwin’s venture capital firm and others ultimately contributed $18 million to Solstice on the strength of this and other presentations and communications by Goodwin and/or Bradshaw.
10. On Friday, March 9, 2012, Traversa ended its operations. The Trustee alleges on information and belief that at no time did Bradshaw inform Traversa’s CEO or its Board of Directors of the funding opportunities and venture capital connections that Bradshaw and Dowdy were pursuing for themselves. Instead, the Trustee alleges on information and belief that Bradshaw sought to take advantage of Traversa’s demise by proposing a buy-out of Traversa’s lease and equipment.
11. Specifically, in a March 13, 2012, email from Traversa’s CEO, Mike Lack, to its Board of Directors, Mr. Lack briefly discussed the so-called “Bradshaw proposal.” The Bradshaw proposal consisted of an offer by Bradshaw to assume Traversa’s real property lease. In exchange, Traversa would assign Bradshaw all of its equipment, and satisfy claims of existing creditors (e.g., by negotiating concessions with them).
12. … Mr. Lack stated in his examination that he recalled Bradshaw wondering if it was “doable” to start a new company and assume the lease.
13. …, Bradshaw purchased some of Traversa’s assets for himself, include a valuable “Mermade” RNA synthesizing unit at a steeply discounted price. Specifically, Bradshaw purchased the Mermade unit for $1,000.00 despite the fact that a competing buyer was willing to purchase it for $8,000.00.

16. On June 20, 2012, Solstice signed a term sheet with VenBio for an $18 million funding commitment for Solstice. Eight days later, on June 28, 2012, Solstice signed a Letter of Intent with UCSD for RNN technology. Bradshaw owns a 15 percent interest in Solstice. Solstice is using the MerMade that Bradshaw purchased.

By Dirk Haussecker. All rights reserved.

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