Researcher, U Of Iowa Foundation Headed To Trial

Ann McClure's picture

A University of Iowa researcher will square off against the nonprofit group that manages the school’s intellectual property in a high-stakes trial starting Tuesday over whether he was unfairly denied the chance to make millions off potential treatments he discovered for arthritis.

Medical school professor Donald Macfarlane claims the U of I Research Foundation managed the patents on his discoveries in a way that effectively shut down his research and later cut him out of a lucrative sale of the technology to a major drug company.

His attorney plans to ask jurors to award $25 million in lost income plus an unspecified amount for punitive damages, court records show. That outcome could theoretically cripple the finances of the foundation, which reported $26 million in net assets in its latest tax filing, but one board member said he was confident the group would successfully defend itself.

Macfarlane’s attorney has asked District Judge Denver Dillard to prohibit the foundation from mentioning the verdict’s potential impact on the group or the community. The foundation is a nonprofit that files patents for inventions made at the university, and looks for ways to profit from them by setting up licensing agreements with companies. Some of its revenues go back to the inventors as profit and the university to support research.

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