By Mark Terry
Novartis has filed a federal lawsuit against Alisha Alaimo, formerly vice president and head, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Business Unit, reported the Boston Business Journal. Alaimo joined Biogen in October 2017 as senior vice president and head, U.S. Organization. The lawsuit alleges that Alaimo stole confidential files using a flash drive before joining Biogen.
The lawsuit was filed in the District Court of New Jersey on August 10, 2017 for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duties. The filing states, “After six weeks of concealing from Novartis, and misleading Novartis as to the identify of her new employer, Novartis has learned that Alaimo has accepted a position with a direct, head-to-head competitor of Novartis, Biogen, Inc. — in violation of her Employment Agreement and Employment Offer Letter. In that role, Alaimo will necessarily use the confidential and trade secret information to which she was exposed during her time at Novartis to unfairly compete with Novartis. Alaimo’s conduct constitutes misappropriation of trade secrets, and violates the noncompetition obligation in the Agreement that she signed while working for Novartis.”
The suit goes on to argue that she breached her fiduciary responsibilities to Novartis by attending high-level executive meetings during the period she was actively being recruited by Biogen. It notes that Franchise Heads have significant amounts of confidential and trade secret information, including product testing and specifications, strategic planning initiatives across franchises, field force statistics, financing and marketing decisions and other valuable and proprietary information.
Alaimo was hired and promoted by Novartis to vice president and U.S. Head of the Neuroscience Franchise in 2014. In 2016, she transitioned to vice president and U.S. Head of the Cardiovascular Franchise. She had been with the company since October 200. Prior to that she worked at Johnson & Johnson.
The lawsuit points out that, “Biogen is a head-to-head competitor with Novartis in the neuroscience space. In particular, Biogen’s multiple sclerosis drugs (Tecfidera, Tysabri, Avonex, Plegridy, Zinbryta, and Fampyra) compete directly against Noavrtis’ Gilenya for market share.”
The lawsuit included a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Alaimo, a permanent injunction prohibiting her from using Novartis’ proprietary information and trade secrets, and an award of damages to Novartis, including actual damages and any profits she achieved as a result of her actions.
When she took on her role at Biogen, it was announced that she would lead the sales operations for the company’s multiple sclerosis (MS) franchise and for Spinraza, the company’s new drug for spinal muscular atrophy. She would report directly to Michel Vounatsos,the company’s chief executive officer.
At the time she joined Biogen, Vounatsos said in a statement, “Alisha has a remarkable track record of success within highly competitive therapeutic areas. She joins Biogen at an important time as we work to build upon our MS leadership and define a future focused on bringing forward new therapies for neurologic and neurodegenerative diseases. Her experience developing new markets for breakthrough therapies, commitment to patients and customer focus, and experience driving complex and dynamic organizations make her an ideal leader to help move Biogen forward.”