USC Apologizes for Taking Over UCSD’s Alzheimer’s Program
USC Apologizes for Taking Over UCSD’s Alzheimer’s Program

USC Apologizes for Taking Over UCSD’s Alzheimer’s Program

The University of Southern California reaches a settlement with the University of California, San Diego, over snatching staff, data, and funding in 2015.

Jul 3, 2019
Chia-Yi Hou

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The University of Southern California has publicly apologized to the University of California, San Diego, for the way that it took over the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study in 2015, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. At the time, Paul Aisen, other staff members, the program’s data, and contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were transferred to USC in a move that led to a lawsuit, according to the Union-Tribune.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) formed in 1991 by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). In 2015, USC convinced sponsors of ADCS to move their contracts to USC, according to reporting by the Union-Tribune at the time. Aisen, who joined ADCS in 2007 as the director, says UCSD did not give the program the resources that it needed, according to the Union-Tribune. “I believe the science is more important than institutional loyalty,” Aisen told the Los Angeles Times in 2015, adding that USC was more flexible and allowed him to “optimize” his work. The takeover involved agreements between USC and Aisen to “conspire with one another to displace UCSD” from ADCS and “to usurp the beneficial opportunities,” according to court documents

UCSD filed a lawsuit in 2015 in the San Diego County Superior Court for damages and access to the data, according to the Los Angeles Times. The two parties have now reached a settlement, although the terms are not disclosed, according to the Union-Tribune.

In a statement released Tuesday (July 2) apologizing for these events, USC states, “These actions did not align with the standards of ethics and integrity which USC expects of all its faculty, administrators, and staff. USC is committed to, and wants to be known for, ethics, integrity and the pursuit of academic excellence, and it has already implemented sweeping changes to this end.” Aisen says he is glad that the issue has been put to rest so he can continue his work, according to the Union-Tribune.

Universities poach faculty all the time, according to Richard Seligman of Caltech, who spoke to the LA Timesin 2015, but what was alarming about this event was the manner in which USC recruited faculty, claimed data, and took over research funding contracts, says UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla to the LA Timesaround the time the events took place.

“We’re glad there’s been a settlement. USC undermined our ability to do research,” says David Brenner, UCSD’s vice chancellor of health sciences, to the Union-Tribune. “We lose people all of the time. This was about how USC sabotaged our program.”