Regents at the University of California, acting on behalf of UC San Diego's Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study unit (ADCS), have filed a lawsuit accusing the University of Southern California and a former UCSD researcher of attempting to poach employees and lucrative funds from a $100 million research grant.
According to a Courthouse News Service report, Alzheimer’s specialist Paul Aisen and USC conspired to "supplant UCSD as the contracting party in connection with research contracts and other agreements related to the ADCS, including the lease for the office space that houses the UCSD/ADCS staff," which has been managed since 1991 by UCSD.
While still on UCSD's payroll, regents say, Aisen agreed to a deal in which USC would pay him $500,000 per year through 2020 if he obtained "extramural research funding" like that which was being received at UCSD. He was also allegedly promised $8 million to set up a research institute under USC's name in San Diego.
"In May 2015, after entering into the conspiracy with USC, defendant Aisen, using the authority of his position as director of the ADCS, summoned all ADCS employees to a meeting and told them that he would likely be moving to USC, that the ADCS grants would move with him, and falsely advised that none of the employees working on behalf of ADCS would have jobs at UCSD," states a portion of the complaint.
Shortly thereafter, Aisen and eight colleagues resigned. USC then announced the creation of a new San Diego–based Alzheimer's institute with Aisen at the helm.
The Los Angeles–based private institution, for its part, argues that researchers are free to move from one university to another, and that such occurrences are common in academia.
"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," says a portion of a USC release cited by Courthouse News.
UC San Diego is seeking the return of allegedly pilfered data and property, as well as damages resulting from "breach of fiduciary duty, breach of loyalty, and interference with contract, interference with prospective economic relations, conversion, computer crimes and conspiracy."