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Trana Discovery, Inc. v. Southern Research Institute

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

February 7, 2019

TRANA DISCOVERY, INC., Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
SOUTHERN RESEARCH INSTITUTE, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: December 11, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina at Raleigh. Terrence W. Boyle, Chief District Judge. (5:13-cv-00848-BO)

         ARGUED:

          Gary K. Shipman, SHIPMAN & WRIGHT, LLP, Wilmington, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          James Conrad Lester, MAYNARD, COOPER & GALE, P.C., Birmingham, Alabama, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          William C. Reiss, SHIPMAN & WRIGHT, LLP, Wilmington, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Thomas W. Thagard III, John C. Neiman, Jr., MAYNARD, COOPER & GALE, P.C., Birmingham, Alabama, for Appellee.

          Before KING, DIAZ, and RICHARDSON, Circuit Judges.

          RICHARDSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff-Appellant Trana Discovery, Inc. has developed a technology that it believes can help find new drugs to treat HIV. It collaborated with Defendant-Appellee Southern Research Institute, a contract research organization, to put its technology to work by testing chemical compounds for signs that they inhibited the reproduction of HIV. When the testing yielded inconsistent results, Trana sued Southern for fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

         In Trana's view, Southern made two actionable misrepresentations in its research reports. First, Southern allegedly failed to identify certain promising compounds as potential HIV treatments. Trana calls these test results "false negatives." Second, Southern falsely identified other compounds as potential treatments when in fact they were not. Trana refers to these latter results as "false positives." After discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for Southern on both theories. We affirm.

         I. A. Background

         Trana was founded in 2000 by scientists with expertise in "transfer RNA" (or "tRNA"), a molecule in the human body. Some viruses, including HIV, use tRNA to reproduce. Trana's scientists developed a proprietary test (in the lingo of biochemists, an "assay") that could quickly identify chemical compounds with the potential to inhibit HIV's reproduction by targeting the virus's use of ...


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