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Former Ph.D. Student Reaches Settlement with Harvard in Lawsuit over Royalties

By Brandon J. Dixon, Crimson Staff Writer

Former Ph.D. student Mark G. Charest has reached a settlement with Harvard in a 2013 lawsuit that accused the University of not sufficiently paying him for his contributions to the development of a pharmaceutical drug in 2004.

In the lawsuit, Charest alleged that Harvard coerced him into accepting a lower share of investor royalties from the patent of a pharmaceutical drug that he helped develop while working in the laboratory of Chemistry and Chemical Biology professor Andrew G. Myers.

Charest also claimed that he was further cheated by Harvard in 2009 when the University reallocated a portion of the license royalties to a separate patent—of which Charest was not involved—to halve his share of the royalties, among other allegations including alleged breach of contract and fraud. He originally sought an estimated $10 million as compensation.

Charest, and others who worked in Myers’s lab, discovered a technique for creating a new class of synthetic tetracycline antibiotics, an invention that Harvard then patented and licensed to a life sciences company created by Myers and Harvard’s Office of Technology Development. The license is characterized in the Charest’s filings as the company's “most successful license to date,” with the potential to yield over $1 billion in revenue.

In February, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock dismissed five of Charest’s seven charges, including all charges against Myers, though he allowed two others to proceed to a trial, expected to occur late in 2016.

According to Brian O’Reilly, Charest’s legal counsel, the terms of the settlement and the amount are confidential. In late June, O’Reilly filed a stipulation, agreed upon by both parties, to dismiss the case without prejudice.

“In light of my claims and goals in bringing this litigation, I am very pleased to accept terms I view as equitable,” Charest said in a press release.

Harvard spokesperson David J. Cameron echoed that sentiment in an emailed statement.

O’Reilly said that the resolution of the lawsuit might have broader implications for students seeking similar legal action against educational and research institutions.

“I’ve had a number of students and postdocs approach me with issues they’ve had,” O’Reilly said. “I think we’ll see an increasing willingness on the part of students to challenge these power imbalances in their universities.”

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.

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