Ex-professor sues over eye drug

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ATHENS, Ga. --- The University of Georgia Research Foundation collected a record $23.8 million in the past fiscal year in royalties and licensing income from inventions by UGA researchers, President Michael Adams said.

Officials expect to set another record with $10 million from the pharmaceutical firm Allergan.

The money is part of about $70 million Allergan is paying the research foundation over years for the right to make and sell a drug called Restasis, a cure for dry eye, which can lead to blindness.

But the research foundation's payments from the pharmaceutical company would be millions more if UGA officials had not caved in to tougher negotiators from the drug company, according to the former UGA professor who invented the basis for Restasis.

"They've done such a bad job of managing, they lost $200 million," said Renee Kaswan, a former professor in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine's small animal medicine department.

More than 20 years ago, Ms. Kaswan thought of something no one had tried before -- putting the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporin into a solution to treat dogs suffering from dry eye.

One of the first to be treated was mascot Uga IV (1981-90).

"Uga IV was going blind. We saved his sight. He was the fourth dog I ever treated with this product," Ms. Kaswan said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the new drug for human use in 2002. And Allergan began marketing and selling the drug called Restasis.

Allergan expects more than $375 million in Restasis sales this year -- more than $1 billion since sales began five years ago. But Ms. Kaswan and the research foundation are in a legal struggle.

Ms. Kaswan's lawyers say a judge should invalidate the agreement between UGA and Allergan, a deal struck without her knowledge in 2003 that replaced an earlier agreement between the drug company and the university.

If UGA officials had kept to its original deal, the UGA Research Foundation would be getting closer to $300 million, according to an analyst hired by Ms. Kaswan as she fights two lawsuits in Clarke County Superior Court -- one filed by the research foundation against Ms. Kaswan, one filed by her against the foundation.

Under UGA policies, faculty members get 25 percent of the income the foundation receives from their inventions -- unless a different deal is negotiated. Ms. Kaswan deal's gave her 35 percent -- which means she lost close to $80 million when UGA renegotiated.

State Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna, says UGA's apparent loss of $230 million could hurt efforts to draw and keep top scientists to Georgia universities.

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426Hemi
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426Hemi 09/30/08 - 08:07 am
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Musta lost big in the stock market crunch, and needs to supplement retirement.

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