Eric Rosenthal Reports

Thoughts and observations about issues, trends, and controversies in the cancer community.

Friday, February 24, 2012

After Reviewing Situation, Penn Decides to File its own Lawsuit Against Craig Thompson

After distancing itself from the $1 billion lawsuit for theft of intellectual property filed by an affiliate in December against Craig B. Thompson, MD, now president and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the University of Pennsylvania reviewed the situation and filed its own lawsuit against its former cancer center director for at least $100 million.


Susan E. Phillips, senior vice president for public affairs for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, told me in January that the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, was “a separate organization developed to fund cancer research and has generously supported science at Penn for the last 15 years.”


“Neither the University nor Penn Medicine is a party to the lawsuit,” she said at the time. “We will, of course, cooperate fully in any fact-finding, and we are hopeful for a fair and expeditious resolution.”


Thompson had served as director of the Abramson Cancer Center as well as the founding scientific director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute before moving to MSKCC.


I spoke with Phillips again after the university filed a separate complaint in federal court in Manhattan this week alleging that Thompson had failed to share intellectual property with Penn as was required, and had published findings of variant cancer cell enzymes in Nature and Cancer Cell while helping Agios Pharmaceuticals, a company he had cofounded, seek patents on those discoveries.


The complaint also named Agios, and Phillips said that after reviewing the situation, Penn considered its options and with the counsel of outside attorneys decided to sue Thompson as well as Agios for breach of fiduciary duties to the university by failing to disclose research and discoveries.


The suit was filed Feb. 22 by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and it is expected that it may be consolidated with the original $1 billion lawsuit filed by David C. Burger on behalf of the Abramson Research Institute.


Thompson responded to the new charges in a statement saying Penn’s complaint was without factual or legal merit and he was disappointed that the lawsuit was filed without any effort to speak with him “or ascertain the true facts before filing a suit that unjustly harms my reputation.”