Top Alzheimer’s researcher Paul Aisen apologizes for ethics, integrity breach as USC pays $50M to settle poaching lawsuit
Four years ago, Paul Aisen’s abrupt departure from UC San Diego to USC triggered an ugly legal fight between the two universities that centered around tens of millions of dollars in research cash and the extensive industry contacts Aisen had built up over the years as one of the most prominent investigators in Alzheimer’s. And one of the biggest connections was with Eli Lilly, where Aisen played a prominent advisory role in the long running development of solanezumab — which ended in a pivotal flop on 3 separate occasions.
Today, it’s coming to a close — and Aisen is accepting some severe criticism, while the university is on the hook for a $50 million settlement.
As part of the settlement, USC and Aisen issued a formal apology to UCSD, saying the campus flip was not done in line with the university’s standards for ethics and integrity — a harsh rebuke for a clinical investigator of Aisen’s stature.
USC and Dr. Paul Aisen regret that the manner in which Dr. Aisen and members of the ADCS staff left UC San Diego and brought research assets to USC created disruption to UC San Diego. These actions did not align with the standards of ethics and integrity which USC expects of all its faculty, administrators, and staff.
In addition to being a professor at UCSD, Aisen was named director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study back in 2007. The ADCS is a research consortium that plays a key role in undertaking large Alzheimer’s drug studies. Aisen has done considerable work advising Eli Lilly on its late-stage drug solanezumab, at one point reportedly playing a key role in persuading Lilly to take the drug back into Phase III — where it failed.
“I’m very happy to be moving forward,” Aisen told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We have a lot of work to do. We have two major trials (of experimental Alzheimer’s therapies).”
Aisen’s work, though, has been a leader in high-priced failures. No drug has yet to survive the trial process for bending the disease’s progression, and after Biogen’s massive fail on aducanumab, some investigators are going back to the drawing board in a reassessment of the basic theories that Aisen helped birth.
Alzheimer’s, though, remains a lucrative arena for academic researchers like Aisen.
As the Union-Tribune reported at the time the lawsuit was filed, the ADCS has won tens of millions of dollars in support for speeding up the development of Alzheimer’s drug development. And UCSD claimed in its suit that USC was looking to bag the funds when it recruited Aisen and his 8 researchers for a new research institute.
I asked Aisen and Eli Lilly for their reactions to the settlement, but did not hear back immediately.