Like a marriage descending into divorce, the relationship between researcher and institution can turn to enmity when patent and licensing disagreements become intractable. Fortunately, truly serious battles are relatively infrequent. More commonly, the reaction is anger and dissatisfaction over how a university or research hospital handles the commercialization of a scientist's discovery. But in serious battles against well-funded employers, the odds are clearly against the individual. When push comes to shove, reputations can be sullied, careers can end, and even bankruptcy can result.

In 1985, Galen D. Knight, a biochemist working in the research laboratory of Terence J. Scallen at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, deduced an organic compound that the scientists believed had incredible promise in stimulating the immune system and destroying cancer cells. Subsequent experiments demonstrated 80-100% survival rates in mice with aggressive melanoma and myeloma and with minimal toxicity. The excited researchers dubbed the...

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