Harvard PhD sues university for millions; alleges fraud and deceit over antibiotics work

Ed. note: Federal lawsuit filings have "summary" pages that list a specific amount the plaintiff demands. When I looked it up yesterday, the "demand" field read $10 billion (actually, "$10000000000"). This morning, it reads only $9,990,000.

A man who got his PhD at Harvard says the university and the professor he worked with tried to cheat him out of royalties on his work to develop a way to create new antibiotics - and threatened his future when he refused to acquiesce.

Mark Charest is seeking lost royalties and damages.

In his suit, filed Friday in US District Court in Boston, Charest says he was recruited to Harvard for a PhD in organic chemistry in 1999 by Andrew Myers, specifically to help Myers figure out how to synthesize new types of tetracycline. According to the suit, Myers had been unable to crack the problem, but Charest figured out a way to make new variants of the antibiotic, creating the potential for fighting off bacteria that had developed resistance to existing drugs.

Charest alleges that Harvard and Myers then attempted to downplay Charest's contributions and reduce the royalties he would be due from the company Harvard spun out to capitalize on the work. He alleges the university went so far as to file bogus patent applications in an attempt to reduce the monetary value of his work, by assigning royalty amounts to the new applications - which the university then never followed through with.

At one point, Charest charges:

Dr. Myers told Dr. Charest to "tread lightly" and "be careful."

Dr. Myers told Dr. Charest "to think about [his] career."



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    PDF icon Charest complaint0 bytes



    By on

    should be chiseled off every edifice. In its place: Cui bono?

    Typical science problem

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    Notice how Charest went from PhD scientist to consultant and manager, and finally to vulture capitalist. Many years of educational and financial investment in organic chemistry used to make someone not continue research, but go into management and finance. Can't blame a guy for being smart and knowing where the money is. We can blame excessive profit from drugs which makes the business end more rewarding than the science.

    Who's to blame?

    On one hand, a doctoral graduate student is doing what is very much work for hire. He or she gets his research directives from the Principal Investigator, who pays the student for doing the research. The student may and should come up with novel approaches to the problem, but the overall problem to be solved comes from the PI.

    On the other hand, PIs are as a whole lying scum who would sell out a graduate student in a second for a crumpled twenty. The PI would chain the graduate student to the bench and beat them regularly if it hadn't been for that damn Lincoln.

    Reading the complaint

    It appears that the problem was that Harvard had policies in place and looked for every dodge they could not to honor their own policies.

    I can't really blame the plaintiff for his career choices. Harvard seemed hell-bent to teach him the lesson that scientists are patsies and other, richer people profit from their work.

    $10 Billion

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    How did the author arrive at $10 Billion in royalties and damages?

    Had a feeling...

    there may have been three extra zeroes in there.

    Although, from the sounds of things, I'd rather they go for the 10 billion!

    I was a postdoc in a Harvard

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    I was a postdoc in a Harvard lab in the late 90's, doing transplant immunology work for an internationally recognized PI. Most of the grant proposals that got written at this place were complete and utter bullshit but they all got funded because of this guy's rep and connections. The guy also belittled every original idea I had but when I made some progress in a new area for him to submit a bogus proposal he suddenly got real friendly. Next thing you know all my data and figures are going out in a new proposal - with his pet postdoc's name on it instead of mine. Fifteen years later I still haven't heard of a single meaningful discovery from that lab - just endless reams of phony data to support more grant proposals to generate more phony data, pay generous salaries, and international junkets. Needless to say, I left research and went full clinical, never looked back.