UC-San Diego Sues USC Over|$100 Million Alzheimer’s Grant

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – A noted Alzheimer researcher conspired with USC to take data and funding from a $100 million grant for a research facility at UC-San Diego, the Regents of the University of California claim in court.
     The regents, on behalf of UCSD, sued the University of Southern California, Alzheimer specialist Paul Aisen, and eight of his colleagues formerly employed by UCSD, on July 2 in Superior Court.
     The regents claim that UCSD discovered that Aisen – a former professor of neurology and medicine, and director of its Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) – has conspired with USC since April to join USC and “create a brand new ‘Institute’ in San Diego by hiring away the necessary UCSD employees who serve the ADCS.”
     Aisen and USC schemed “to supplant UCSD as the contracting party in connection with research contracts and other agreements related the ADCS, including the lease for the office space that houses the UCSD/ADCS staff,” according to the complaint.
     The value of the grant funding, from federal and private sources, “is in excess of $100 million,” the complaint states.
     The research facility has been managed by UCSD since 1991 under an agreement with the National Institute of Aging. It tests new Alzheimer’s drugs and coordinates clinical trials.
     The regents claim that USC agreed to pay Aisen – director at ADCS since 2007 – $500,000 per year through 2020 if he obtained “extramural research funding,” thus giving him “a strong personal financial incentive to interfere with the Regents’ contractual relationships with UCSD’s research sponsors.
     USC agreed to provide a loan of up to $8 million for creation of the new San Diego institute, the regents say.
     “In May 2015, after entering into the conspiracy with USC, defendant Aisen, using the authority of his position as director of the ADCS, summoned all ADCS employees to a meeting and told them that he would likely be moving to USC, that the ADCS grants would move with him, and falsely advised that none of the employees working on behalf of ADCS would have jobs at UCSD,” the complaint states. “Aisen told the ADCS staff that USC would offer all of them jobs if they left UCSD. This conduct by defendant Aisen created fear and unrest and concern among UCSD’s employees and disrupted their relationships with the Regents.”
     Aisen and eight colleagues resigned, and a few days later USC announced that Aisen would be director of a new USC-sponsored institute in San Diego.
     “This attempt to move a long-established research program without authorization to a private institution goes against the fundamental mission of the University of California – to provide excellence in teaching, research and public service,” UCSD said in a statement.
     “These acts, among others, are egregious breaches of academic, medical and legal standards of conduct, and are against the best interests of the University, our employees and our partners.”
     USC said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the lawsuit. It said researchers move from institution to institution regularly, and it welcomes Aisen to USC.
     “We are surprised and disappointed that the University of California, San Diego, elected to sue its departing faculty member and his team, as well as USC, rather than manage this transition collaboratively, as is the well-accepted custom and practice in academia,” USC said in a statement.
     The regents want data and property returned to UCSD, and damages for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of loyalty, and interference with contract, interference with prospective economic relations, conversion, computer crimes and conspiracy.
     It is represented by J. Daniel Sharp with Crowell & Moring in San Francisco.
     Individual defendants include Jeremy Pizzola, Deborah Tobias, Gustavo Jimenez-Maggiora, Phuoc Hong, Hong Mei Qiu, Stefania Bruschi, Jia-Sing So, and Mayya Nessirio.
     Attached to the 18-page lawsuit are 69 pages of documents about the collaboration agreements and grants, with dollar amounts blacked out.

%d bloggers like this: