University of Pennsylvania seeks over $1B in alleged IP theft

Science Magazine recently reported on the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and its attempt to recover damages from alleged theft of intellectual property related to cancer research.

The IP assignment administered by the University’s Technology Transfer office and presumably signed by all employee-researchers upon their hire, states:

“All right, title and interest with respect to all technical information, know-how, trade secrets, developments, software, methods, techniques, formulae, data, processes, inventions, discoveries, improvements, and other proprietary ideas and intellectual property (together ‘Intellectual Property’), whether or not patentable or copyrightable, that are conceived, discovered, developed or reduced to practice pursuant to or in the course of Institute Research Programs whose budgets are funded solely by the Institute (‘Institute-Supported Inventions’) will be the sole property of the Institute…”

Dr. Craig B. Thompson became Scientific Director at the Institute in 1999, and, according to the report, later was one of the founders of Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (at the time under another name), a company founded on the research performed at the Institute. Agios has been in the news lately having announced an extension of collaboration with Celgene and, more recently, the successful completion of a $79M series C round of funding.

The Institute claims to have ownership, and further claims Dr. Thompson misrepresented to Agios personnel and financial backers that he owned the IP.  The Institute asserts damages exceed $1B.

IP ownership issues have taken center stage for technology transfer, from the Bayh Dole Act to  Stanford v. Roche to infamous IP thefts. Hank Foley will discuss tech transfer, IP ownership and the novel way Penn State University is looking at it in a much-anticipated webinar on March 21.