Settlement Ends Lawsuits Against Prominent Researcher

Two lawsuits filed against the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City have been settled, the parties announced on Friday. Prominent researcher Craig Thompson had faced allegations from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the research arm of its cancer center, The Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, that he concealed his involvement in a biotechnology company and failed to share intellectual property from his discoveries with the university, as required. Thompson had worked at the Abramson institute for 12 years.

The parties have been tight-lipped since the first lawsuit was filed in December. (The second came in February.) It's not clear whether one side came out ahead, as terms of the settlement are hazy. Penn and one of its opponents in the suit, Agios Pharmaceuticals (which Thompson helped found), announced that they had entered into a licensing agreement involving intellectual property of cancer diagnostics.

The lawsuits were unusual both for Thompson's stature and for their sweeping allegations. The Abramson cancer research institute charged that damages were estimated to "exceed $1 billion." In addition to Thompson, the suit named Agios and another company, Celgene Corp., as defendants. Celgene was not a defendant in the second lawsuit filed by Penn, however.

A glimpse of Thompson's position came in April, when his attorney Allan Arffa sought to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the cancer institute (but not the one filed by Penn). In documents filed with the court, Arffa described the cancer institute's assertions as "scattershot and disorganized," and argued that Thompson had disclosed his relevant discoveries to Penn. Arffa also argued that although Thompson directed the cancer research institute, his employer was the University of Pennsylvania, meaning that the Abramson institute's "rights to any intellectual property based on research it funds derive solely from Penn’s rights."

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.