Schizophrenia Researcher Accuses Columbia of Theft

BRONX, N.Y. (CN) — Accusing Columbia University and her ex-husband of stealing her life’s work, a renowned psychiatrist asked a judge to back her ownership of a model used to study the genetic risk factor in schizophrenia.

A resident of affluent Fieldston, Maria Karayiorgou filed the suit Thursday in Bronx Supreme Court with attorneys from the Manhattan firm Carmel Milazzo.

She says years before Columbia hired her as a professor in 2006, she had developed a mouse model containing the Human 22q11.2 Micro Deletion — a genetic risk factor in schizophrenia that she discovered in 1995.

Karayiorgou was married at the time to Joseph Gogos, a fellow doctor, and she says he used to “moonlight” at her lab, supporting her research.

That supporting role continued, Karayiorgou says, when she joined Columbia and even after she and Gogos divorced in December 2014.

“Gogos, who was an assistant professor at Columbia at the time, continued acting in a supporting role in connection with Dr. Karayiorgou’s analysis of the Mouse Model and research, and performed research on the Mouse Model in his own laboratory at Columbia with Plaintiff’s approval and under her strict supervision (until 2017),” the complaint states.

She claims she maintained sole and exclusive ownership of the mouse model over the years, but that Columbia and Gogos have since 2016 begun unauthorized analysis and research on her model.

“To this day,” the complaint states, “Columbia and Gogos … began to claim ownership of the mouse model in scientific journals and press releases issued to the public, and, upon information and belief, through applications for funding from National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies. Incredibly, Columbia has also attempted to license the mouse model for its own benefit without the prior knowledge, consent or approval of plaintiff, and upon information and belief, continues to do so. In sum, defendants have attempted to steal plaintiff’s life’s work for their own benefit.”

The parties have not responded to emails seeking comment.

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