FSU prevails in clash over new building
A prominent professor sued over the terms of new chemistry building for which he donated millions.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published August 30, 2006
TALLAHASSEE - A professor who earned millions for Florida State University by developing a method to synthesize a lifesaving cancer drug has lost a lawsuit against the school over the construction of a new chemistry building.
The summary judgment Monday ordered Florida State to return $11-million and about $2.5-million in interest that professor Robert Holton and his research foundation had donated for the new facility.
The school violated agreements to put the focus on Holton's specialty, synthetic organic chemistry, and previously offered to return the money. Construction has begun with new plans for a general chemistry building focused on interdisciplinary research.
Circuit Judge Janet Ferris also rejected Holton's claim to control an $18.5-million laboratory account established with money Florida State received from his invention, synthetic Taxol. The university is applying the account toward construction of the $54-million building.
Holton declined comment. His lawyer, Richard Critchlow, said they were exploring options for a possible appeal.
"In our minds, it brings to a resolution the whole issue that's festered for years," said Florida State president T.K. Wetherell. "That's exactly what we wanted to have happen. We're elated and we're moving ahead to complete the chemistry building."
Holton initially sought to force the university to live up to the donation agreements. He later amended the suit to seek return of the contributions with interest and control of the laboratory account.
Wetherell contended that Holton's vision for a world-class center of organic synthetic chemistry, including endowed professorships in that specialty, would cost too much even with his contributions and be too narrow in its focus.
Holton's development of synthetic Taxol has made the drug widely available at reasonable cost. Previously it could be made only from the Pacific yew. Too few of the slow-growing trees could be obtained to make the drug practical.
The invention made Holton a millionaire and earned more than $200-million for Florida State.
One of the new building's five floors will be devoted to Holton's specialty, but that is far less than what he had wanted.
"We're going to work with Dr. Holton to showcase him as one of our stars," Wetherell said.