A judge has ruled that control of a landmark project on Alzheimer's disease belongs to the University of California, San Diego — handing the school a major victory in its lawsuit against the University of Southern California.
UC San Diego sued after Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Paul Aisen and other employees defected to USC last month. The lawsuit alleges USC, Aisen and other defendants conspired to illegally transfer the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study to the Los Angeles-based university.
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Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes on Friday did not immediately decide on UC San Diego's request for monetary damages, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/1OFtsU3 ).
"We are pleased with today's decision and believe it indicates the strength of our overall case," Dr. David Brenner, vice chancellor for UC San Diego's health sciences, said in a statement.
Aisen resigned in June from UC San Diego, where he had overseen the study since 2007, to become founding director of an Alzheimer's institute that USC is establishing.
In recent weeks, the two sides have argued about who owns the database for the $100 million nationwide project.
UC San Diego, which has overseen the study for nearly a quarter of a century, said it still retains the government funding — an assertion backed by the National Institutes of Health.
Aisen and USC officials have countered that it's academic tradition for departing faculty members to transfer their research to their new employer. They presented supporting statements from several researchers taking part in the Alzheimer's project.
After Friday's hearing, USC attorney Glenn Dassoff told journalists that USC and Aisen's interest in the study "is real, genuine, and unfortunately was not addressed today. This is not over."
In an email to the Times on Friday night, Aisen wrote: "We all lose here. Science and public health lose when research is torn from the investigators with the passion, knowledge and skill to assure its success."
The judge said she would issue a preliminary injunction early next week that will require USC to surrender custody of the Alzheimer's project.
She told USC not to manipulate data from the study or make any other changes to the database, which involves details of lab research clinical trials from dozens of sites across the country.
As the next step, the two universities and their lawyers will negotiate the choice of a "special master" to supervise the process of USC restoring full control of the database to UC San Diego, according to the newspaper. This phase will involve an independent expert on bioinformatics who can determine whether information in the database has been tampered with.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/