A longtime pharmacy professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, an Indian-origin professor Ashim Mitra, already infamous for being accused ‘slave labour’, i.e. exploiting his students as servants and compelling them to do his personal work. He reportedly made his students tend his lawn, look after his dog and water the house plants, sometimes for weeks at a time when he and his wife were away
The University has now alleged that he stole and sold a graduate student’s ”groundbreaking” drug formulation for $1.5 million, and that could gain as much as $10 million more in royalties. The university has claimed ownership over the invention of a new treatment for dry eye that Mitra sold to a drug company.
The lawsuit seeks to designate the student, whose research Mitra allegedly stole, Kishore Cholkar, as the rightful inventor to the patent based on his research from 2010. Cholkar currently works at a California-based pharmaceutical company.
Mitra has denied the allegations. In January, Mitra had resigned during proceedings to consider his dismissal.
The drug at the centre of the storm, Cequa, which uses nanotechnology to make it a more effective treatment than traditional eyedrops, received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2018.
The university has also accused Mitra’s wife, Ranjana Mitra, of helping him in his plot. Ranjana Mira was employed by the university as a research associate at the time.