The University of Missouri is accusing a pharmacy professor of stealing and selling a student's research that the school says could become a billion-dollar drug.
The Kansas City Star reports that the university filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday (US time) alleging that Ashim Mitra improperly made US$1.5 million ($2.2m) from selling former graduate student Kishore Cholkar's research.
The lawsuit says Mitra could potentially earn US$10 million more in royalties over the next five years.
Cholkar developed a more effective way to deliver drugs to the eye using nanotechnology.
The lawsuit says the money belongs to the university because Cholkar conducted his research while employed as a graduate research assistant at the Kansas City campus.
Mitra denies the accusations.
Mitra has faced allegations in the past of coercing graduate students from India into performing personal favours, such as cleaning his basement. They hauled equipment and attended tables at his social events, the Kansas City Star reported. They were expected to tend his lawn, look after his dog and water the house plants, sometimes for weeks at a time when he and his wife were away.
One student said when he refused to do Mitra's bidding, "he threatened to kick me out of the university and force me to lose my visa and lose everything. That was his ammo. Either fall in line or you would be thrown out. You didn't want to be in that situation where you have to go back home empty-handed."
The student continued to do what Mitra asked.
According to the Kansas City Star, a student who earned her doctorate at the University of Missouri pharmacy school in 2013, said that students feared the repercussions if they refused Mitra.
"They were so afraid of not graduating," said the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear that Mitra could undermine her career.
"Dr Mitra could have easily affected graduation. Everyone in the department knows how Dr Mitra handles things. If he wants to graduate you, he would. If he wants to give you trouble, he would."