A pharmacy professor accused of student “slave labor” secretly sold a student’s research as his own, defrauding the university that employed him of millions, according to allegations in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City claims that Ashim Mitra made $1.5 million improperly from the sale of the student’s work, the Kansas City Star reported, and that Mitra could make $10 million more in royalties over the next five years.
That money rightfully belongs to the university, UMKC says in its suit, because the former student, Kishore Cholkar, developed the work while employed as a research assistant by the university.
The lawsuit alleges Mitra stole and “secretly sold Dr. Cholkar’s research” to a U.S. Virgin Islands-based company called Auven Therapeutics, KCUR reported, which then sold it to India-based Sun Pharmaceutical Industries for $40 million plus royalties.
Both of those companies are also named as defendants in the suit, accused of evading the university to avoid sharing profits. Also named: Mitra’s wife, Ranjana, accused of taking part in the alleged conspiracy.
In August, Sun Pharmaceutical announced approval from Food and Drug Administration to market a dry-eye drug called Cequa, which uses what the university called “ground-breaking” nanotechnology to deliver drugs to the eye.
The lawsuit aims to restore UMKC’s alleged ownership in the drug and to place Cholkar’s name on the patent, according to the Star.
Mitra previously faced scrutiny last fall when the newspaper reported he had pressured Indian graduate students into serving food at his parties, maintaining his lawn and caring for his dog – what one student described as “slave labor.”
Mitra resigned from the University in January, one day before a hearing set to determine his future employment, the Star reported.
In a statement to news outlets, Mitra said he could “unequivocally prove” that he conceived of the invention himself, claiming Cholkar’s work focused on “other aspects of the Cyclosporine formulation” after he had submitted the patent.
“It is clear to see that both him and UMKC are now trying to reap the benefits of the tireless work myself and others have put in to make this a success,” Mitra wrote.
In a statement to KCUR, the university said it “looks forward to vigorously pursuing these claims in court.”
Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner
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