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A Conversation with Janice Chen, CTO of Mammoth Biosciences

Janice Chen, CTO of Mammoth Biosciences, spoke to Inside Precision Medicine at the recent Hello Tomorrow conference in Paris about her inspirations, challenges…

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Janice Chen is very inspiring. At the age of 30, she has not only completed a PhD. with recent Nobel prize winner Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley, but co-founded Mammoth Biosciences together, where she serves as its CTO.

Janice Chen
CTO, Mammoth Biosciences

Mammoth recently announced it had raised $195 million in financing, bringing its valuation up to more than $1 billion and allowing it to achieve ‘unicorn’ status, an impressive feat considering the young age of the company and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Chen spoke to Inside Precision Medicines’s Senior Editor, Helen Albert, at the recent Hello Tomorrow conference in Paris about her inspirations, challenges she has overcome and her hopes and plans for Mammoth and CRISPR gene editing in the future.

 

Q: What was it like to do a PhD. with Jennifer Doudna?

It was very cool. Jennifer is a really fantastic scientist and mentor. And I think she’s been able to attract some of the best scientists in her lab. So being not just in the forefront of CRISPR technology, but also working alongside some very talented people. As you know, the CRISPR field is very competitive. I think being able to have the opportunity to continue to push the field forward, that was really remarkable. The other great thing about working in Jennifer’s lab is that if you wanted to collaborate with anyone, you could simply send a cold email, and say, ‘Hey, I’m from Jennifer’s lab’, and they would always respond. So, things that I didn’t have expertise in, I could simply ask ‘is there someone else to collaborate with?’

 

Q: It’s very impressive that you went straight from doing that to co-founding a company with her. Can you tell me a little bit about that journey?

Early on in my PhD. Career, we had been working on more traditional Cas9 enzymes, and then I formed a really great collaboration with my lab mate, Lucas Harrington, who’s also a co-founder at Mammoth. We had been working very closely, he was focused on discovering a new enzyme, I was more focused on the mechanism and application of those. We’ve always been just amazed that how much there is to uncover with CRISPR. But I think what really sparked our imagination to start a company was the ability to use CRISPR, for detection or diagnostics. This was a new area for CRISPR, we felt there was just no better time to push this forward. So, with Jennifer’s support we decided to go all in, and we ended up partnering with our colleague from Stanford, Trevor Martin, who’s also the CEO. In the early stages, it’s sort of what you might imagine, we were just figuring things out.

 

Q: It must have been quite a big lead from being a Ph.D  student to suddenly being CTO. How did you manage that?

You just have to accept that there’s so much that you don’t know and you have to constantly learn very quickly. I think part of what was absolutely critical is being able to adapt quickly, be flexible, but also bring in really, really good people. The best way to scale a company is to bring in people who are smarter than you, have done this before, and have much greater expertise in particular areas to help you take these new ideas, and bring them into the company. We also had really fantastic mentors and advisors, not just our investors and our board members, but also scientific advisors, general advisors on the business strategy who really helped us formulate where we could take Mammoth.

 

Q: How did you find the people management side?

It’s a challenge. Organizations are people and people are human. We all have our own aspirations and goals. The really fun part is building a team that is really aligned on a mission, but it also comes with challenges because especially as a new, young manager you’re learning all this in real time. You develop a skill in grad school, and you think ‘this is my expertise, I am in control’, but sometimes when you’re in an organization and managing people, sometimes there’s things outside of your control. There are other factors at play that you have just never experienced. So, it’s been a learning curve. But it’s also been rewarding to work with people that are just so talented and can move things forward.

 

Q: What are you trying to achieve at Mammoth?

When we founded the company, we were focused on diagnostics, because again, this was kind of opening up a new world of molecular detection. There are the incumbent technologies, PCR testing, antigen tests, but really, we felt like there wasn’t a good solution to take really high accurate testing into decentralized environments. And so CRISPR was able to make that possible. But as we’ve been developing the diagnostics piece, we also recognize a core competency of Mammoth was the fact that we had this ability to discover new CRISPR enzymes and that was kind of the heart of how this all came about. So, we said, ‘Okay, well, as part of building Mammoth into a really great company, we needed to leverage this whole discovery piece that can be the engine for new applications.’ Diagnostics is a key focus area. And then as we’ve grown the company, we also been really focused on the therapeutic space. That’s recently been announced as part of our series D, and also with a partnership with Vertex Pharma to actually develop new enzymes [eg. Cas14]. These are extraordinarily exciting for delivery, because of their size.

 

Q: Are we now moving on to the next generation of CRISPR gene editing?

I think for a lot of technology that is developed there’s a period where you’re just trying to understand how does this technology work? How can we use it? Cas9 has been extremely successful, but Cas9 was the first enzyme that the field discovered in development. Our approach is let’s see this funnel of enzymes and pick the best tool for the right job. Depending on the application, you can have different enzymes with different properties. It all comes down to making sure that your solution is not going to create more risk than benefit.

 

Q: What do you think have been the key findings in the field of CRISPR, since CRISPR-Cas9 was first discovered?

First of all, I think the clinical trials and the data that’s coming out from things like treating sickle cell disease in patients, I think that’s been remarkable. That’s really what the field is moving towards. And that’s where all these new systems will help enable the other areas since Cas9, which are new iterations of using CRISPR. Some of the technologies like CRISPRi or CRISPRa, the ability to transiently turn on and off genes, for certain cases is going to be more critical than permanently cutting or editing that locus. And then there’s also new ways of doing editing like base editing and prime editing, different ways you can modify the genome.

 

Q: What are the benefits of the smaller enzymes you have developed compared with cas9?

The smaller enzymes, most critically, are going to help in delivery of the [therapeutic] molecule to specific organs. Right now, there’s two major classes of delivery. Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) and adeno-associated viral vectors (AAVs). LNPs are pretty nonspecific. When you deliver them to a patient, typically they just congregate in the liver. Then you have AAVs. There are different ‘flavors’ of AAVs that can be programmed to target different organs. The way people deliver it is mostly by directly injecting into organs, but it is not really optimal, because it’s pretty invasive. With these smaller enzymes, we’re not limited to just the liver because we fit into AAVs, we can also now tune the AAVs to target the specific organ of interest and maintain the same level of activity as Cas9. When you really shrink down that CRISPR piece, you can add all these different modules on top of that in a vector, and that essentially opens up the opportunity to use it in a therapeutic.

 

Q: Do you think we need a public dialogue about CRISPR-related gene editing and how it can be used to make next generation therapeutics?

I think we’re really in a critical time. Right now, we have the wave of Cas9 based therapeutics that are showing real progress in patients, but I think that will pave the way not just for the technology, but will also give us more knowledge about how this technology actually functions in patients. With new technologies there’s always fear of how anyone’s going to use that. A couple of years ago, we saw that with the gene editing of the Chinese twins. I think that has kind of sparked the reality that there are going to be people that are going to make decisions about how to use this technology for things that are ethically questionable. CRISPR is going to transform the way we think about genetic medicine. That’s going to happen. And so, all of a sudden, that opens up a Pandora’s box. Once we understand different specific targets and can modify that, anything becomes possible… You’re going to need to engage policymakers, you’re going to have to engage people who may one day use the technology, not just as a researcher, but who might also be on the receiving end, and help them get educated and understand what the technology is and what it can do. There are some boundaries that we don’t want to cross. Clearly, people will still make decisions that are quite shocking. But having a dialogue about the topic and expectations, I think we can all do that at a grassroots level.

 

Q: We can’t really talk today without mentioning COVID-19. Maybe you could talk a bit about how it impacted the company and how you responded to it?

I went to a conference in late December and heard government representatives saying there’s this strange virus in China, we were still figuring out what was going to happen, while we were all in DC. And then, I came back to San Francisco and it became clear this was a serious situation. I remember the phone call that I had with Charles Chiu at UCSF. He said, look, this is a growing situation, Charles had some of the first clinical samples from patients infected with COVID. And we said, ‘okay, we need to be able to demonstrate that there’s a different way we can detect, SARS-CoV-2 in samples’, and we felt that our platform was in a really great position to be quickly reconfigured to do that. So, it was just 10 days from designing the assays to getting the reagents and testing samples, and it was just such a whirlwind at the time. This was before the shutdown. People were still in the lab, I remember we said, okay, let’s focus this part of the company on COVID. You know, there’s still the other piece of the company on the therapeutic side, we just have to stay the course. It was it was extremely motivating, I think, for us to be able to help.

 

Q: What achievement are you most proud of since you started this journey?

I would say the first discovery of using CRISPR for detecting DNA was just one of those once in a lifetime moments. As a scientist, there’s nothing more fulfilling than to say we have this hypothesis, we followed up on it, and then we saw this is a really robust method and tool. That was extraordinarily exciting. And the other thing, too, is navigating all the challenges throughout the pandemic, and being part of a team that’s just so committed to taking these technologies forward. I think that’s been a very proud moment, for me, leading up that part of it.

 

Q: If you had to give someone who was in your position a couple of years ago some advice, or tips, what would you say?

I would say don’t be afraid to take risks. That was such an important mindset for me. It’s OK to think big, you’ve got to be outside your comfort zone, that I think that’s the kind of message that I think young entrepreneurs should take home.

 

Helen Albert is Senior Editor at Inside Precision Medicine and a freelance science journalist. Prior to going freelance, she was Editor-in-Chief at Labiotech, an English-language, digital publication based in Berlin focusing on the European biotech industry. Before moving to Germany, she worked at a range of different science and health-focused publications in London. She was Editor of The Biochemist magazine and blog, but also worked as a Senior Reporter at Springer Nature’s medwireNews for a number of years, as well as freelancing for various international publications. She has written for New Scientist, Chemistry World, Biodesigned, The BMJ, Forbes, Science Business, Cosmos magazine, and GEN. Helen has academic degrees in genetics and anthropology, and also spent some time early in her career working at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge before deciding to move into journalism.

The post A Conversation with Janice Chen, CTO of Mammoth Biosciences appeared first on Inside Precision Medicine.

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EY Eyes Comeback for Biopharma M&A

EY noted that the total value of biopharma M&A in 2022 was $88 billion, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021. The $88 billion accounted for most of the…

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A recent trickle of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) announcements in the billion-dollar-and-up range suggests that biopharma may be ready to resume dealmaking this year—although the value and number of deals isn’t expected to return to the highs seen just before the pandemic.

2022 ended with a handful of 10- and 11-figure M&A deals, led by Amgen’s $27.8 billion buyout of Horizon Therapeutics, announced December 13. The dealmaking continued into January with three buyouts announced on the first day of the recent J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference: AstraZeneca agreed to acquire CinCor Pharma for up to $1.8 billion, while Chiesi Farmaceutici agreed to shell out up to $1.48 billion cash for Amryt, and Ipsen Group said it will purchase Albireo Pharma for $952 million-plus.

Biopharmas generated about $88 billion in M&A deals in 2022, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021. The $88 billion accounted for most of the $135 billion in 124 deals in the life sciences. The number of biopharma deals fell 17%, to 75 deals from 90. The other 49 deals totaling $47 million consisted of transactions in “medtech,” which includes diagnostics developers and companies specializing in “virtual health” such as telemedicine. [EY]
EY—the professional services firm originally known as Ernst & Young—recently noted that the total value of biopharma M&A in 2022 was $88 billion, down 15% from $104 billion in 2021 [See Chart]. The $88 billion accounted for most of the $135 billion in 124 deals in the life sciences. That $135 billion figure is less than half the record-high $313 billion recorded in 2019, including $261 billion in 70 biopharma deals.

The number of biopharma deals fell 17% to 75 deals from 90. EY’s numbers include only deals greater than $100 million. The other 49 deals totaling $47 million consisted of transactions in “medtech,” which includes diagnostics developers and companies specializing in “virtual health” such as telemedicine.

We expect this to be a more active year as the sentiment starts to normalize a little bit,” Subin Baral, EY Global Life Sciences Deals Leader, told GEN Edge.

Baral is not alone in foreseeing a comeback for biopharma M&A.

John Newman, PhD, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, predicted last week in a research note that biopharma companies will pursue a growing number of smaller cash deals in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion this year. He said rising interest rates are discouraging companies from taking on larger blockbuster deals that require buyers to take on larger sums of debt.

“We look for narrowing credit spreads and lower interest rates to encourage larger M&A ($50 billion and more) deals. We do not anticipate many $50B+ deals that could move the XBI +5%,” Newman said. (XBI is the SPDR S&P Biotech Electronic Transfer Fund, one of several large ETFs whose fluctuations reflect investor enthusiasm for biopharma stock.)

Newman added: “We continue to expect a biotech swell in 2023 that may become an M&A wave if credit conditions improve.”

Foreseeing larger deals than Newman and Canaccord Genuity is PwC, which in a commentary this month predicted: “Biotech deals in the $5–15 billion range will be prevalent and will require a different set of strategies and market-leading capabilities across the M&A cycle.”

Those capabilities include leadership within a specific therapeutic category, for which companies will have to buy and sell assets: “Prepared management teams that divest businesses that are subscale while doubling down on areas where leadership position and the right to win is tangible, may be positioned to deliver superior returns,” Glenn Hunzinger, PwC’s U.S. Pharma & Life Science Leader, and colleagues asserted.

The Right deals

Rising interest and narrowing credit partially explain the drop-off in deals during 2022, EY’s Baral said. Another reason was sellers adjusting to the drop in deal valuations that resulted from the decline of the markets which started late in 2021.

Subin Baral, EY Global Life Sciences Deals Leader

“It took a little bit longer to realize the reality of the market conditions on the seller side. But on the buyer side, the deals that they were looking at were not just simply a valuation issue. They were looking at the quality of the assets. And you can see that the quality deals—the right deals, as we call them—are still getting done,” Baral said.

The right deals, according to Baral, are those in which buyers have found takeover targets with a strong, credible management team, solid clinical data, and a clear therapeutic focus.

“Rare disease and oncology assets are still dominating the deal making, particularly oncology because your addressable market continues to grow,” Baral said. “Unfortunately, what that means is the patient population is growing too, so there’s this increased unmet need for that portfolio of assets.”

Several of 2022’s largest M&A deals fit into that “right” category, Baral said—including Amgen-Horizon, Pfizer’s $11.6-billion purchase of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals and the $6.7-billion purchase of Arena Pharmaceuticals (completed in March 2022); and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $4.1-billion buyout of Turning Point Therapeutics.

“Quality companies are still getting funded one way or the other. So, while the valuation dropped, people were all expecting a flurry of deals because they are still companies with a shorter runway of cash that will be running to do deals. But that really didn’t happen from a buyer perspective,” Baral said. “The market moved a little bit from what was a seller’s market for a long time, to what we would like to think of as the pendulum swinging towards a buyers’ market.”

Most biopharma M&A deals, he said, will be “bolt-on” acquisitions in which a buyer aims to fill a gap in its clinical pipeline or portfolio of marketed drugs through purchases that account for less than 25% of a buyer’s market capitalization.

Baral noted that a growing number of biopharma buyers are acquiring companies with which they have partnered for several years on drug discovery and/or development collaborations. Pfizer acquired BioHaven six months after agreeing to pay the company up to $1.24 billion to commercialize rimegepant outside the U.S., where the migraine drug is marketed as Nurtec® ODT.

“There were already some kind of relationships there before these deals actually happened. But that also gives an indication that there are some insights to these targets ahead of time for these companies to feel increasingly comfortable, and pay the valuation that they’re paying for them,” Baral said.

$1.4 Trillion available

Baral sees several reasons for increased M&A activity in 2023. First, the 25 biopharma giants analyzed by EY had $1.427 trillion available as of November 30, 2022, for M&A in “firepower”—which EY defines as a company’s capacity to carry out M&A deals based on the strength of its balance sheet, specifically the amount of capital available for M&A deals from sources that include cash and equivalents, existing debt, and market cap.

That firepower is up 11% from 2021, and surpasses the previous record of $1.22 trillion in 2014, the first year that EY measured the available M&A capital of large biopharmas.

Unlike recent years, Baral said, biopharma giants are more likely to deploy that capital on M&A this year to close the “growth gap” expected to occur over the next five years as numerous blockbuster drugs lose patent exclusivity and face new competition from lower-cost generic drugs and biosimilars.

“There is not enough R&D in their pipeline to replenish a lot of their revenue. And this growth gap is coming between 2024 and 2026. So, they don’t have a long runway to watch and stay on the sidelines,” Baral said.

This explains buyers’ interest in replenishing pipelines with new and innovative treatments from smaller biopharmas, he continued. Many smaller biopharmas are open to being acquired because declining valuations and limited cash runways have increased investor pressure on them to exit via M&A. The decline of the capital markets has touched off dramatic slowdowns in two avenues through which biopharmas have gone public in recent years—initial public offerings (IPOs) and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

EY recorded just 17 IPOs being priced in the U.S. and Europe, down 89% from 158 a year earlier. The largest IPO of 2022 was Prime Medicine’s initial offering, which raised $180.3 million in net proceeds for the developer of a “search and replace” gene editing platform.

Another 12 biopharmas agreed to SPAC mergers with blank-check companies, according to EY, with the largest announced transaction (yet to close at deadline) being the planned $899 million merger of cancer drug developer Apollomics with Maxpro Capital Acquisition.

“For the smaller players, the target biotech companies, their alternate source of access to capital pathways such as IPOs and SPACs is shutting down on them. So how would the biotech companies continue to fund themselves? Those with quality assets are still getting funded through venture capital or other forms of capital,” Baral said. “But in general, there is not a lot of appetite for the biotech that is taking that risk.

Figures from EY show a 37% year-to-year decline in the total value of U.S. and European VC deals, to $16.88 billion in 2022 from $26.62 billion in 2021. Late-stage financing rounds accounted for just 31% of last year’s VC deals, down from 34% in 2021 and 58% in 2012. The number of VC deals in the U.S. and Europe fell 18%, to 761 last year from 930 in 2021.

The decline in VC financing helps explain why many smaller biopharmas are operating with cash “runways” of less than 12 months. “Depending on the robustness of their data, their therapeutic area, and their management, there will be a natural attrition. Some of these companies will just have to wind down,” Baral added.

M&A headwinds

Baral also acknowledged some headwinds that are likely to dampen the pace of M&A activity. In addition to rising interest rates and inflation increasing the cost of capital, valuations remain high for the most sought-after drugs, platforms, and other assets—a result of growing and continuing innovation.

Another headwind is growing regulatory scrutiny of the largest deals. Illumina’s $8 billion purchase of cancer blood test developer Grail has faced more than two years of challenges from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and especially the European Commission—while Congress acted last year to begin curbing the price of prescription drugs and insulin through the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

Those headwinds may prompt many companies to place greater strategic priority on collaborations and partnerships instead of M&A, Baral predicted, since they offer buyers early access to newer technologies before deciding whether to invest more capital through a merger or acquisition.

“Early-stage collaboration, early minority-stake investment becomes increasingly important, and it has been a cornerstone for early access to these technologies for the industry for a long, long time, and that is not changing any time soon,” Baral said. “On the other hand, even on the therapeutic area side, early-stage development is still expensive to do in-house for the large biopharma companies because of their cost structure.

“So, it is efficient cost-wise and speed-wise to buy these assets when they reach a certain point, which is probably at Phase II onward, and then you can pull the trigger on acquisitions if needed,” he added.

The post EY Eyes Comeback for Biopharma M&A appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

The International Monetary Fund published its latest World Economic Outlook on Monday,…

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IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast As Inflation Cools

The International Monetary Fund published its latest World Economic Outlook on Monday, painting a slightly less gloomy picture than three and a half months ago, as inflation appears to have peaked in 2022, consumer spending remains robust and the energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been less severe than initially feared.

But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, that’s not to say the outlook is rosy, as the global economy still faces major headwinds.

However, the IMF predicts the slowdown to be less pronounced than previously anticipated.

Global growth is now expected to fall from 3.4 percent in 2022 to 2.9 percent this year, before rebounding to 3.1 percent in 2024.

The 2023 growth projection is up from an October estimate of 2.7 percent, as the IMF sees far fewer countries facing recession this year and does no longer anticipates a global downturn.

Infographic: IMF Upgrades Global Growth Forecast as Inflation Cools | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

One of the reasons behind the cautiously optimistic outlook is the latest downward trend in inflation, which suggests that inflation may have peaked in 2022.

The IMF predicts global inflation to cool to 6.6 percent in 2023 and 4.3 percent in 2024, which is still above pre-pandemic levels of about 3.5 percent, but significantly lower than the 8.8 percent observed in 2022.

“Economic growth proved surprisingly resilient in the third quarter of last year, with strong labor markets, robust household consumption and business investment, and better-than-expected adaptation to the energy crisis in Europe,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the IMF’s chief economist, wrote in a blog post released along with the report.

“Inflation, too, showed improvement, with overall measures now decreasing in most countries—even if core inflation, which excludes more volatile energy and food prices, has yet to peak in many countries.”

The risks to the latest outlook remain tilted to the downside, the IMF notes, as the war in Ukraine could further escalate, inflation continues to require tight monetary policies and China’s recovery from Covid-19 disruptions remains fragile. On the plus side, strong labor markets and solid wage growth could bolster consumer demand, while easing supply chain disruptions could help cool inflation and limit the need for more monetary tightening.

In conclusion, Gourinchas calls for multilateral cooperation to counter “the forces of geoeconomic fragmentation”.

“This time around, the global economic outlook hasn’t worsened,” he writes. “That’s good news, but not enough. The road back to a full recovery, with sustainable growth, stable prices, and progress for all, is only starting.”

However, just because the 'trend' has shifted doesn't mean it's mission accomplished...

That looks an awful lot like Central Bankers' nemesis remains - global stagflation curb stomps the dovish hopes.

Tyler Durden Tue, 01/31/2023 - 14:45

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Nike Escalates Design Battle Against Lululemon

The sportswear giant is accusing lululemon of patent infringement.

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The sportswear giant is accusing lululemon of patent infringement.

The Gucci loafers. The Burberry  (BBRYF) trench coat. When it comes to fashion, having a unique design is everything. This is why brands spend millions both creating and protecting their signature looks and the reason, as in the case of Adidas  (ADDDF) , extricating a brand's design from creators who behave badly is a costly and difficult process.

There is also the constant effort to release new styles without infringing on another group's style. This week, sportswear giant Nike  (NKE) - Get Free Report filed a lawsuit accusing lululemon  (LULU) - Get Free Report of infringing on its patents in the shoe line that the Vancouver-based activewear company launched last spring.

After years of selling exclusively clothing, accessories and the odd yoga mat, lululemon expanded into the world of footwear with a running shoe it dubbed Blissfeel last March. These were soon followed by training shoe and pool slide styles known as Chargefeel, Strongfeel -- all three of the designs (including a Chargefeel Low and a Chargefeel Mid design) have been mentioned in the lawsuit as causing "economic harm and irreparable injury" to Nike.

Nike's History Of Suing Lululemon Over Design

The specific issue lies in the technology used to build the shoes. According to the lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court, certain knitted elements, webbing and tubular structures are too similar to ones that had been used by Nike earlier.

Nike is keeping the amount it hopes to receive from lululemon under wraps but is insisting the company infringed on its patent when releasing a shoe line too similar to its own. Lululemon had previously talked about how its shoe line "far exceeded" its leaders' expectations both in terms of sales and ability to expand.

In a Q1 earnings call, chief executive Calvin McDonald said that the line "definitely had a lot more demand than we anticipated."

Nike has already tried to go after lululemon through the courts once before. In January 2022, it accused the company of infringing on six patents over its at-home Mirror Home Gym. As the world emerged out of the pandemic, lululemon has been billing it as a hybrid model between at-home and in-person classes. 

The lawsuit was also filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan but ultimately fizzled out.

When it comes to the shoe line lawsuit, Lululemon has been telling media outlets that "Nike's claims are unjustified" and the company "look[s] forward to proving [their] case in court."

Lululemon

Some More Examples Of Prominent Design Battles

In the fashion industry, design infringement accusations are common and rarely lead to high-profile rulings. While Nike has gone after the technology itself in both cases, lawsuits more often focus on the style or pattern on a given piece.

Shein, a China-based fast-fashion company that took on longtime leaders like H&M  (HNNMY)  and Fast Retailing  (FRCOF) 's Uniqlo with its bottom-of-the-barrel pricing, has faced numerous allegations from smaller and independent designers over the copying of designs -- in some cases not even from fashion designers but artists painting in local communities.

"They didn't remotely bother trying to change anything," U.K.-based artist Vanessa Bowman told the Guardian after seeing her painting of a local church appear on a sweater on Shein's website. "The things I paint are my garden and my little village: it’s my life. And they’ve just taken my world to China and whacked it on an acrylic jumper."

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