In a bid to end a highly embarrassing episode, the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center ceo and a University of Pennsylvania cancer research institute have settled a lawsuit that involved sensational charges of allegedly unscrupulous behavior and underhanded dealings centered on cutting-edge research. The terms are being kept confidential, but a licensing arrangement has been inked between the UPenn institute and a small drugmaker co-founded by the Sloan-Kettering ceo.
Here is the background: Late last year, the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at UPenn filed a lawsuit against Craig Thompson, who joined its facility as scientific director in 1999 and undertook various research projects. But rather than honor an agreement that any discoveries belonged to the Institute, the lawsuit claimed Thompson chose to “abscond with the fruits of the Abramson largesse,” which at the time purportedly amounted to $110 million. As we wrote previously, his work at the Institute involved developing a cancer metabolism research platform that was designed to examine the role that metabolic changes play in the origins, progression and death of cancer cells, according to the lawsuit. However, Thompson later co-founded Agios Pharmaceuticals, which was focused on researching cancer metabolism to develop new treatments, the suit states.
Thompson allegedly denied that any of the Agios research was intellectual property that belonged to the Institute, according to the lawsuit. But the Institute claimed that he failed to properly disclose that he was an Agios co-founder or director. Meanwhile, Thompson had begun collaborating with a Sloan-Kettering oncologist while on a one-year leave and was then named ceo and president at the cancer center.
The Institute, however, charged the alleged deception only came to light recently and the chain of events purportedly set in motion by Thompson, who was described as an “unscrupulous doctor,” caused an estimated $1 billion in damages. Also named as defendants were Agios and Celgene, which last year developed a collaboration to develop drugs using cancer metabolism research (back story).
Now, though, the lawsuit has been settled (see this), and Agios and UPenn have entered into a licensing agreement involving new intellectual property that will focus on developing diagnostic products to detect the metabolism of certain cancers, according to a statement. "The collaboration could result in significant benefits to cancer patients, as well as financial benefits to Agios, Penn and the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute," the statement says. The settlement also involves Celgene.
“We are pleased to be collaborating with Penn and value the contributions of their scientists to this exciting field,” Agios ceo David Schenkein says in the statement. “We are excited to now focus on the most important task of all – transforming the lives of cancer patients.” Says Chi Van Dang, who heads the Abramson Cancer Center: “We are pleased to be moving forward in a collaborative manner around newly identified intellectual property. We look forward to working with Agios on this project and potentially other unrelated projects in the future.”
There was no comment, however, from Thompson. We have asked him to respond and will update you accordingly.