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Ex-Missouri university professor accused of stealing student's invention, making millions

The suit claims the professor stole university-owned inventions, "sold them to industry" and assisted companies in commercializing them.

A former Missouri university professor is being sued for allegedly stealing a pharmaceutical student's research and then selling the invention for more than $1.5 million.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City filed the lawsuit Tuesday claiming Ashim Mitra, a former pharmacy professor at the school, also has the potential to earn "millions more in future royalties" from the graduate student's invention that he stole and sold.

According to the lawsuit, student Kishore Cholkar began conducting research on a better way to receive drugs to the eye in 2010 while he was working at the university as a graduate research assistant.

The university said it owns the rights to inventions and research done by employees and faculty while they are working for the school.

Mitra allegedly took Cholkar's work and sold it to Auven Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical development company, according to the lawsuit. Auven Therapeutics and Mitra then patented the invention without giving Cholkar credit or getting permission from the university, the lawsuit alleges.

Auven Therapeutics sold the invention to a pharmaceutical conglomerate in India for $40 million, according to the suit.

“All of this occurred without any disclosure to — let alone approval from — the university,” the lawsuit claims.

Mitra issued a statement Wednesday denying he stole his student's work.

“I can unequivocally prove that this invention was conceptualized and produced by myself and the rightful co-creators,” he wrote. “Dr. Kishore Cholkar is an accomplished student of mine who wrote a paper on other aspects of the Cyclosporine formulation after the patent had already been submitted to the FDA for approval. It is clear to see that both him and UMKC are now trying to reap the benefits of the tireless work myself and others have put in to make this a success.”

A spokesman for the university told NBC News that it began investigating Mitra in March 2018. In January, Mitra announced his resignation.

"The lawsuit filed today claims that Mitra stole UMKC-owned inventions, sold them to industry, assisted those companies in patenting and commercializing them, denied credit to a deserving student and reaped a personal financial windfall — all the while concealing his efforts and denying his involvement," the spokesman said. "UMKC looks forward to vigorously pursuing these claims in court.

In addition to Mitra, the suit names his wife, for allegedly being a part of the scheme, and both pharmaceutical companies who are alleged to have purchased the invention.

The university said it wants to have Cholkar’s name assigned to the patent and to regain ownership of the invention.