Penn Files a Second Suit Against Noted Cancer Researcher

Craig Thompson, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, yesterday was hit with a second lawsuit alleging that he made an improper business deal to exploit his research on the metabolism of cancer cells.

The University of Pennsylvania filed a complaint in U.S. federal court in Manhattan charging that Thompson—a former Penn employee—failed to share intellectual property from his discoveries with the university as he was required to do. Instead, Penn claims, Thompson published his group's findings of variant cancer cell enzymes in Nature and Cancer Cell while helping a private company seek patents on the discoveries. This repeats some charges of a complaint filed in December, when Thompson was sued by the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute—part of a university linked operation that Thompson formerly directed. It accused him of improperly sharing intellectual property with a company he helped launch, Agios Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Penn and the Abramson center have both included Agios as a defendant.

In its complaint, Penn alleges that Thompson violated the university's patent rules and "breached his fiduciary duty to the university" by "failing to disclose to the university research and discoveries." Instead, it claims, he shared the findings with Agios, which filed for patents, and disclosed his work in international journals, "to the detriment of the university."

Agios, with $150 million in outside backing, hopes to develop new therapies based on this research.

In response, Thompson said, "I believe the allegations of Penn's complaint to be without merit, both factually and legally. I am very disappointed that Penn chose to file its lawsuit without making any effort to speak with me or ascertain the true facts before filing a suit that unjustly harms my reputation." An Agios spokesperson said that Agios "believes it has done nothing wrong … and fully expects to be vindicated."