A lawsuit filed by the University of California, San Diego, accuses a prominent Alzheimer's disease researcher of conspiring with eight colleagues to take research data and other assets with them when they moved from UCSD to the University of Southern California.
Scientist Paul Aisen left UCSD last month to head a new Alzheimer's institute founded by USC in San Diego. Eight staffers went with him.
The suit alleges Aisen and USC conspired to take federal funding, data and employees from UCSD, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
Universities commonly recruit or poach faculty from one another, but lawsuits arising from those recruitments are rare, the newspaper said.
The UCSD lawsuit, formally filed by UC regents, accuses USC and the other defendants of going beyond normal recruitment to commit contract interference, computer wrongdoing and civil conspiracy.
UC San Diego said it has been deprived of access to data from the Alzheimer's project because of violations by Aisen and the other defendants and potentially could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and private funding. The University of California is seeking an unspecified amount of money, to be determined through a jury trial.
USC denied wrongdoing and said it simply successfully recruited a prestigious scientist.
"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.
Aisen did not provide a comment about the lawsuit and its allegations, acknowledging in an email only that he had received an interview request.
Aisen is best known for leading the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, or ADCS, a nationwide effort to speed up getting promising Alzheimer's treatments to patients. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, the study has been based at UC San Diego since its creation in 1991.