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Eric Rosenthal Reports
Thoughts and observations about issues, trends, and controversies in the cancer community.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Intellectual Property Lawsuits Against Craig Thompson Dropped as Penn and Agios Announce Collaboration

What started with much shock and speculation last winter when the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute (AFCRI) and the University of Pennsylvania filed separate lawsuits of $1 billion and $100 million respectively against Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center President Craig B. Thompson, MD, for allegedly stealing intellectual property when he had worked there, ended with a mysterious whimper at the start of the Labor Day weekend with the announcement that both cases had been dismissed.


A single paragraph press release stated that Penn and AFCRI had entered into a confidential agreement with Thompson and his codefendants Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Celgene Corp. (in the AFCRI lawsuit) that resulted in the “dismissal of both cases in their entirety.”


A second short release said that with the resolution of the litigation, Agios and Penn had announced a new collaboration, “involving new intellectual property focused on the development of diagnostic products to detect the metabolism of certain cancers,” and that “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.”


Short congratulatory quotes lauding the partnership by both Agios CEO David Schenkein, MD, and Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center director Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, rounded out the release that went into no further detail.


Last December AFCRI, a separate organization that has supported Penn’s cancer research, filed its lawsuit claiming that “an unscrupulous doctor, defendant Craig Thompson, MD, however, chose to abscond with the fruits of the Abramson largess generated by his work at the Institute and thereby cheat future generations of the intended benefits of the donation and the Institute’s intellectual property.”


The University of Pennsylvania initially distanced itself from the lawsuit but then filed its own version in February, and it was reported that both lawsuits might be consolidated.


Thompson had responded to the charges at the time in a statement saying Penn’s complaint was without factual or legal merit.


I received the two press releases yesterday from Dan Budwick who handles communications for Agios and who noted in an email that “Agios management will be unable to comment beyond the information contained in these press releases.”


My request for an interview with Penn Medicine senior vice president Susan Phillips yielded an email back saying, “Sorry but we have no further comment.”


And an email to Thompson asking to discuss the matter had not been answered by the time this story was posted.

About the Author

Eric T. Rosenthal
Eric T. Rosenthal has spent more than 40 years in journalism and academic public affairs, more than half of them involved in the cancer community. He has received several journalism awards as Special Correspondent for Oncology Times, and helped organize two national conferences dealing with medicine and the media.