According to a lawsuit filed in US federal court, Errant Gene Therapeutics is demanding back rights to an experimental gene therapy for beta thalassemia from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, reported The New York Times.
The lawsuit alleges the institution is "sitting on the therapy" because its president Craig Thompson has ties to a venture capital firm that bankrolled bluebird bio, which has developed a similar gene therapy for the inherited blood disease, as well as for sickle cell anemia, that yielded strong results in early clinical trials.
The main evidence offered by Errant Gene, to which Sloan Kettering had licensed the rights to the gene therapy 10 years ago, is that its relationship with the cancer center began to deteriorate just as Thompson took office in late 2010. Errant Gene relinquished its rights in 2011.
Jeanne D'Agostino, a spokeswoman for Sloan Kettering, said the allegations regarding Thompson were "utterly without foundation," adding that the cancer center has been moving the therapy forward, having treated a few patients in a clinical trial. Sloan Kettering is asking the judge to dismiss the case, saying the 2011 agreement clearly states that Errant Gene irrevocably surrendered its rights.
Andrew Maslow, who was the director of industrial affairs at Sloan Kettering until early 2012, said the cancer center had to wrest back control of the project from Errant Gene founder Patrick Girondi because he lacked the necessary money and expertise.
However, Girondi has supporters, particularly among patient advocacy groups, who wonder why Sloan Kettering has not announced a deal with a different company in the four years since it took back rights to the therapy. BioMarin Pharmaceuticals tried to buy the rights last year, but was turned down, according to the lawsuit.