Abramson Cancer Center Suing Former Director

In December, the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute (AFCRI) filed suit in US federal court against Craig Thompson, its former director, claiming that Thompson concealed his involvement with a for-profit biotechnology company with which he improperly shared “tangible research property and inventions funded in part or in whole by the Institute.” 

The suit seeks $1 billion in damages for fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract with respect to a cancer-metabolism research platform that was the focus of his work at the Institute before he allegedly “absconded with the fruits of the Abramson largess.” It names as co-defendants Agios Pharmaceuticals, the biotech company Thompson co-founded without the knowledge of Abramson officials, and Celgene Corporation, which invested $150 million in Agios for rights to develop drugs resulting from the cancer-metabolism research platform in question.

In February the University of Pennsylvania filed a suit of its own against Thompson, claiming to have suffered at least $100 million in damages. (The AFCRI, while affiliated with the University, is a separate legal entity.)

Thompson’s attorneys, who filed a motion to dismiss the Abramson suit, did not respond to a request for comment. University officials also declined to comment. 

David Burger, the attorney who represents the Abramson Center, said that the judge considering the complaint will have an opportunity to consider consolidating the two lawsuits after ruling on the motions to dismiss. As the Gazette was going to press, that ruling was scheduled to take place in late April or early May. 

When asked about the monetary damages claimed by his suit, Burger said, “There is no specific factual basis for the $1 billion alleged damages. But you don’t even have a marketable product yet, and they’ve already garnered a quarter of a billion dollars in investment.” 

—T.P.

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