NaniRx Therapeutics, a venture-backed drugmaker that is using proprietary technology to develop treatments for breast cancer and autoimmune disorders, has filed a lawsuit against its former ceo, because he allegedly breached his employment agreement after taking important company research data and canceling a potential partnership meeting with Bristol-Myers Squibb, among other things.
David I. Cohen, who was a former co-chair of the National Institutes of Health's HIV vaccine development committee before joining NaniRx as ceo three years ago (bio here), allegedly undermined the start up's research efforts in various ways that NaniRx charges is causing irreparable harm, according to the lawsuit filed in New York Superior Court (read here).
For instance, the lawsuit claims that he horded info on immunogens, which were kept in a locked storage room, and refused to share any info about the company's own research with the NaniRx senior scientist, directors or scientific advisory board. He also refused to disclose info about the creation of polyclonal antibodies supplied by a contractor.
The episodes were cited as reasons for allowing his employment agreement to expire last summer, although he also allegedly failed to properly tend to basic managerial chores. However, Cohen was retained as a consultant last October after both sides called a truce by signing releases. A new ceo was hired about the same time. Yet, NaniRx then charges Cohen then committed other transgressions.
He allegedly sent a supplier certain NaniRx materials for purifying a drug used in clinical trials and supposedly struck a side agreement as well, but NaniRx has yet to learn what was shipped. And last December, two days before a scheduled meeting with Bristol-Myers to purportedly discuss a co-development or licensing deal, Cohen "unilaterally cancelled the meeting," costing NaniRx the opportunity to strike an agreement, the lawsuit claims.
After ending their arrangement and being forced to have the locks drilled off its storage facility, NaniRx allegedly learned "that critical items were missing. A crucial scientific notebook, which verified certain experiments, was missing from the locked storage facility. This scientific notebook contained the 'jewels' of the company and without this notebook the company would be missing independent validation of its research efforts, which are critical to the marketing, selling, and patenting of the immunogens, antibodies, and potential drugs."
What was else missing? None of the previously prepared materials, including unused immunogens, remained in the secure chest freezer. NaniRx later discovered that one of Cohen's computer towers was missing, and this was "significant because NaniRx employees stored all of their scientific data locally on their hard drives, not on a remote server."
And NaniRx also charged that Cohen poisoned a relationship with the drugmaker's principal investigator at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, who co-signed protocols for animal testing, by allegedly saying NaniRx was bankrupt. We left a message for Cohen and will update you if and when he replies.