Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The USC - UC-San Diego Story Reviewed

The LA Times print edition carried a story yesterday concerning the lawsuit filed by UC-San Diego over a raid by USC on a key faculty member and his group. USC ultimately paid $50 million to settle the suit.* The story goes over the events involved.

USC, which barely had any presence in San Diego five years ago, is becoming a big player in the city’s fabled life sciences industry, led by a controversial scientist who was publicly scolded by the school for ethical lapses.

USC quietly staked out quarters in Sorrento Valley and is managing $370 million in research contracts and clinical trials through its Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute.

The center appears close to getting an additional $146 million in grants to study the inscrutable disease, which would make it among the largest centers of its kind in California.

The institute is shopping for more lab space nearby, and it plans to add 40 people to its workforce of 120.

“It’s not just that we all love living here,” said Dr. Paul Aisen, ATRI’s director and a resident of Solana Beach. “San Diego is the greatest place in the world for neuroscience and Alzheimer’s research.”

UC San Diego scientists privately say they don’t welcome the company. Aisen was director of UCSD’s nationally renowned Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study in 2015 when he abruptly defected to USC and took $90 million in contracts, lots of precious data and numerous employees with him.

He says he made the move because UCSD, one of the nation’s 10 largest research schools, wasn’t providing the program with adequate support — a claim the school denies.

UCSD pushed back with a lawsuit that accused Aisen and USC of illegally commandeering one of the most well-established Alzheimer’s research programs in the country.

The sides traded charges and insults, but the anger trailed off, only to resurface in July when the lawsuit was unexpectedly settled out of court.

In an extraordinarily rare move, USC issued a public apology to UCSD and paid the school $50 million.

“USC and Dr. Paul Aisen regret that the manner in which Dr. Aisen and members of the [Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study] left UC San Diego and brought research assets to USC created disruption to UC San Diego,” USC said in a statement.

“These actions did not align with the standards of ethics and integrity which USC expects of all its faculty, administrators, and staff. USC is committed to, and wants to be known for, ethics, integrity and the pursuit of academic excellence, and it has already implemented sweeping changes to this end.”

UCSD says it has recovered financially and scientifically from the fight. But Dr. David Brenner, the school’s vice chancellor of health sciences, wants to sound off about it. He can’t, though.

Both sides agreed not to relitigate the dispute in public.

“I can’t say anything,” said Brenner, who is known for being loquacious and blunt.

Aisen said he regrets any disruption at UCSD in relation to his move, echoing the USC statement. But he said he maintains a good working relationship with USC.

“I have felt welcome at USC since the day I started here and it continues to this day. I think the way things are going here is testament to the effective relationship between my research team and USC…. I have no plans for retirement. I intend to continue to work as professor at USC and as director of ATRI for many years.”

Aisen’s recruitment by USC was a normal part of academic life, three ethicists said. But the money and prestige involved made it unusually controversial.

“Raiding happens all the time in academia,” said Arthur Caplan, a prominent bioethicist at New York University School of Medicine. “People target faculty members, someone they want, or a particularly strong investigator they think will be bringing in money.”

However, going to court over a recruitment is extremely rare, he said...

Full story at

1 comment:

Eric Rasmusen said...

Doesn't sound like a recruitment lawsuit, but a contract breach lawsuit. If the UCSD professor merely started teaching for USC but kept his grant money and his lab with UCSD for a few years I be there'd be no legal problem.