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Case Synopsis


What do a British particle physicist working in Geneva, Switzerland and an electrical engineer from the Deep South have in common? The answer: a landmark medical innovation that has saved the lives of countless people worldwide.

By combining a computerized axial tomography (CT) scanner with a positron emitting tomography (PET) scanner into one imaging device controlled from a single console, Dr. David Townsend and Dr. Ronald Nutt have enabled oncologists and other doctors to more accurately diagnose cancer in earlier stages and precisely pinpoint the location of even the smallest of tumors.

In 1993, the University of Pittsburgh hired Dr. Townsend away from the University of Geneva to run the physics and instrumentation program at their PET facility. A key part of their interest in Dr. Townsend over other PET specialists was his collaborative relationship with Dr. Nutt. The two had conceived the combined scanner in 1991 and were discussing how their idea could be reduced to practice when the University of Pittsburgh came knocking at Dr. Townsend's door.

After dedicating ten years helping to develop Pitt's PET facility into a state-of-the-art program, Townsend resigned in late 2002 when the University suggested he should abandon Dr. Nutt, his long time collaborator, and begin working with rival firm GE who had signed an agreement with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Then, in early 2004, the University of Pittsburgh filed a lawsuit against the two inventors alleging the University owned the intellectual property and patents on the combined scanner and seeking millions of dollars in damages.

Also of Interest...

You Invented It, So You Own It, Right?

PET/CT May Improve Prognosis in Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Townsend Named Distinguished Clinical Scientist of the Year 2004

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