Sloan-Kettering Chief, Celgene Sued Over Cancer Research

The head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was accused along with biotechnology company Celgene Corp. of using research he helped develop at another cancer institute to start his own company.

The Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania sued Dr. Craig Thompson in federal court in Manhattan for fraudulent misrepresentation, asking a judge to decide on the ownership of intellectual property rights to the research. The institute seeks damages from Thompson of more than $1 billion, according to the complaint.

Thompson studied cancer metabolism while he was scientific director of the institute, which was created by a $100 million donation from the Abramson family foundation to the university, according to the complaint filed Dec. 13. Without telling the institute, Thompson formed Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc. to exploit the research and got funding from Summit, New Jersey-based Celgene, the institute said.

At Sloan-Kettering, Thompson’s laboratory studies how cells use nutrients and how that affects DNA and cell growth, according to the hospital’s website. Cancer occurs when cells divide and grow out of control. Agios is working to develop drugs with the ability to “starve” cancer cells of the nutrients they need to survive, according to the company’s website.

“The allegations in this lawsuit are unfounded and without merit,” Thompson said today in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute has chosen to go down this path.”

Kathy Lewis, a spokeswoman for Sloan-Kettering, and Jay Mayresh, a lawyer for Celgene, declined to comment on the suit.

‘Chose to Abscond’

Thompson, who became president and chief executive officer of New York-based Sloan-Kettering in 2010, “chose to abscond with the fruits of the Abramson largess generated by his work at the institute and thereby cheat future generations of the intended benefits of the donation and the institute’s intellectual property,” according to the complaint.

Agios was also sued.

“While Agios does not comment on the specifics of pending litigation, the claims asserted in this case are without merit,” a spokesman for Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Agios said in a statement. “There are no allegations of wrongdoing by Agios.”

The lawsuit was reported earlier by the New York Times.

The case is Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute v. Thompson, 11-09108, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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