Court battle between a US university and an Indian professor comes to settlement


A university in the US has decided to settle with a former professor of Indian-origin whom it had accused of stealing a student’s research and selling it to a pharmaceutical company, potentially costing the university millions of dollars.

The settlement between the University of Missouri and Ashim Mitra, who worked in the Kansas City campus, ended after nearly 2 years. The university filed the lawsuit in 2019 alleging that Mitra improperly received $1.5 million after he sold the research without permission, with the potential of receiving millions more in royalties.

The research led to the development of a treatment for dry eye. The university system contended the research and patents belonged to the school, not to Mitra or the student.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

University system officials said in a news release Monday, December 28, that they had resolved all claims against Mitra and acknowledged that no other parties should be considered inventors on the patents or the patent applications.

Mitra’s attorney, Arthur Chaykin, said he could not comment on details of the agreement, but said “we’re pleased with the settlement.”

The university contended sale proceeds and any royalties from the research belonged to the school system because the student, Kishore Cholkar, developed a more effective way to deliver drugs to the eye while working as a graduate research assistant at Missouri-Kansas City.

Mitra resigned from the UMKC School of Pharmacy in 2019 after being accused of forcing foreign graduate students, most of them from India, to perform menial tasks at his home. The students said they agreed to do things such as serve guests at social gatherings because they were concerned, he would strip them of their visas.

Mitra did not acknowledge any wrongdoing when he resigned. When the patent lawsuit was filed, he denied all the allegations.

Court documents indicate that Mitra sold Cholkar’s research to Auven Therapeutics Management, a pharmaceutical development company based in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which resold the invention to Sun Pharmaceutical Industries in India for $40 million, plus royalties.