Lab testing performed on dogs is secretly filmed. Now the company is facing a lawsuit.
Charles River Laboratories (CRL) paid $800 million two years ago for MPI Research to increase its business running clinical trials for drug makers and other companies. At the time, Charles River did not know one of the research company’s employees doubled as an undercover agent for the Humane Society of the United States. The agent secretly filmed cruel experiments conducted on dogs kept at the lab and posted them online. Now, Paredox Therapeutics, a small biotech firm that was a Charles River client, has filed a lawsuit accusing the organization of “allowing its confidential trade secrets to be widely disseminated and compromising its business, which focuses on finding a treatment for mesothelioma, a type of cancer.” And as a result of the subsequent YouTube episode, Paredox Therapeutics claimed it was “forced to revamp its operations at a vast cost.”
In Paredox’s lawsuit, the biotech frim alleged, “Charles River failed to properly screen or supervise the rogue employee, who was able to gain unauthorized access to an almost verbatim description of certain highly confidential procedures” in connection with animal studies that were being conducted in an MPI facility in Michigan.
The Humane Society’s video was widely shared with the title “Cruel Tests on Dogs Exposed!” and a caption reading a “Paredox Therapeutics Study” under a picture of a Harvey the beagle in a cage. It showed Harvey and other dogs being “subjected to forced ingestion, suffering painful surgeries, and continuing to be tested and killed.” The video included text indicating there are currently 36 beagles in the facility being poisoned regularly to test a DOW pesticide. At the end, it asks the public to help draw awareness around animal cruelty and help stop this practice. The YouTube footage has more than 200,000 views.
Recently, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was able to convince drug makers to end the use forced swim testing on rodents, which was used to determine the effectiveness of antidepressants. However, most drug makers have argued certain products simply cannot be developed and evaluated for safety without testing. They’ve argued humans might not ever see some lifesaving treatments if they cannot be first trialed. Drug makers also commonly rely on employees and partners to maintain confidentiality, however, and over the last few years, several have reprimanded employees who allegedly stole trade secrets.
This isn’t the first time Charles River has made its way to court. Last May, seven black women have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company, alleging their employer allowed “racial comments in the workplace” and promoted “less-experienced white employees over longtime black employees.” One plaintiff reported that the supervisor told her, “I interviewed another chocolate chip for you, so I won’t have to hear you people’s mouths.” Another reported him saying, “The worst thing I ever did was hiring all you people.”
“There were African-American workers who had been there for years. They were qualified, some of them had higher degrees, and they would be denied raises, or they would get smaller raises than the white workers,” said David Nauheim, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “They would be denied promotions. Then they would see white workers come in and get promoted within a few months and get bigger raises, and they saw this happening over and over again while they were constantly being overlooked.”