Queen’s settles court case with Ph.D student alleging misappropriation of neuroscience research

University was not served with the statement of claim

The statement of claim revolved around academic integrity and the use of research data.
Photo: 
Dr. Mark Lindsay, a chiropractor and Queen’s PhD student filed, a lawsuit against Queen’s University; Dr. Douglas Cook, chair of the Queen’s Division of Neurosurgery; Performance Phenomics Holding Corp.; and Voxel AI Inc., which was intended to be a re-branding.
 
A now settled statement of claim issued in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice Jan. 31, 2021 commenced the lawsuit. It alleged Queen’s was involved in misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of Queen’s Senate Policy on Integrity in Research. 
 
Similar allegations were made against Cook—while the statement of claim alleged Voxel AI was involved in unlawful misappropriation and use of his PhD research, thesis, cohort, and intellectual property.
 
Lindsay claimed punitive damages of $1 million, and aggravated damages of $300,000 against all defendants except Queen’s so long as the University honours the terms of the PhD degree and designates Dr. Leslie MacKenzie the sole PhD supervisor for Lindsay. 
 
The University responded to a request for comment from The Journal, where they explained court records only show one side of the dispute. The claims made within the statement of claim remain untested in a court of law. 
 
The Journal reached out to Cook and Voxel AI Inc for comments. No comments were received in time for publication.
 
“The university is aware of the statement of claim filed with the court, which represents only the plaintiff’s perspective. Had the university been required to file a defence, it would, and does, deny the allegations in the claim,” the University said in a statement to The Journal.
 
“The university didn’t file a statement of defence because it was never served with the claim.”
 
According to the statement of claim obtained by The Journal, Lindsay was a sought-after chiropractor and soft tissues rehabilitation specialist focusing on athletes. 
 
Lindsay claimed he had been practicing for 33 years treating many patients from elite athletic backgrounds such as the NHL, NBA, and MLB. Lindsay’s practice includes many Olympic and World Champion athletes—additionally including high level tennis and golf players. 
 
Lindsay works with many top surgeons and athletic teams in North America where he plays a role in designing and implementing post-surgical treatment protocols, according to the pleading. 
 
Around Jan. 8, 2016, Lindsay and the University met to discuss their  mutual interest in having Lindsay complete his PhD at Queen’s. Before this meeting, MacKenzie was allegedly encouraging Lindsay to start a PhD at Queen’s because of the “prestige and credibility” he would bring to the programme. 
 
“Queen’s knew that Dr. Lindsay would bring elite athletes to the University as part of his research cohort, thereby adding enormous prestige and credibility to the program as first recognized by Dr. MacKenzie,” the statement of claim read.
 
Though Lindsay’s research would involve both anatomy and neuroscience, it was proposed the PhD be in neuroscience with MacKenzie and Cook acting as co-supervisors. Later in the claim, Lindsay alleged MacKenzie was being sidelined. 
 
Based on the statement of claim, Lindsay selected Queen’s because of the University’s commitment to respect intellectual property rights of PhD students and supervisors. 
 
Lindsay’s admission to the School of Graduate Studies was formally confirmed around March 31, 2016—at which time Lindsay accepted the admissions offer.
 
The research Lindsay was conducting aimed to determine if manual medicine techniques showed changes in the architecture, orientation, and inflammatory characterization of connective tissue. His study involved using advanced imaging technologies and cadavers in a clinical environment. 
 
The goal of Lindsay’s research was to quantify the role of manual medicine and treatment of the fascia of the head and neck to improve athletic performance. 
 
Lindsay gathered a cohort of 48 athletes to assess in his study. These came from existing patients and relationships. The statement of claim said the group of athletes placed their “trust, confidence, and loyalty” with Lindsay.
 
He pleaded the results of the study were not to be used for financial gain or profit or for data to be transferred outside of the Queen’s research project to third parties. 
 
In the statement of claim, Lindsay alleges he read  the Performance Phenomics investors presentation dated Aug. 9, 2017. The presentation allegedly detailed images and wording from his PhD research. 
 
“Dr. Lindsay was deeply disturbed. Performance Phenomics and Dr. Cook were inappropriately using Dr. Lindsay’s PhD research and cohort for a purpose other than what was agreed to and intended,” the statement of claim said. 
 
Around Dec. 5, 2017, Lindsay received a copy of the Performance Phenomics’ paper on MRI methods and outcomes. This paper was authored by Cook, and two other academics. 
 
“Upon reading the paper, Dr. Lindsay was shocked. This paper was a clear, unauthorized misappropriation of Dr. Lindsay’s research, cohort and Ph.D. thesis,” the statement of claim said. 
 
“Lindsay was later informed that this paper was not published in a medical journal, but rather was being used by Performance Phenomics to raise money. This was an egregious violation of the rules of academic integrity,” the statement of claim said.
 
Lindsay plead that he confronted Cook in a “measured” way, where Lindsay questioned Cook over not having any of the research attributed to him. 
 
In late 2017, Cook advised Lindsay he wanted to take Lindsay’s study from Queen’s to Humber River Hospital, where Dr. Anthony Mascia was working with Lindsay to conduct imaging on athletes.
 
Lindsay reminded Cook he was his supervisor, and the research was for his PhD thesis. 
 
“Lindsay found this discussion very unsettling and felt that Dr. Cook had a serious conflict of interest,” the statement of claim said.
 
Shortly before March of 2018, a TSN reporter contacted Cook for an interview with him and Lindsay about the research. Lindsay allegedly advised Cook the interview had to be declined. 
 
Lindsay learned Cook had proceeded with the TSN interview—with final publication. In the statement of claim, Lindsay alleged the story misappropriated Lindsay’s research, and passed it off as Cook’s own.
 
“This resulted in exactly what Dr. Lindsay was afraid of: namely, alarm and anxiety on the part of the athletes, who had placed their trust in Dr. Lindsay. This was both embarrassing and humiliating for Dr. Lindsay,” the statement of claim said.
 
According to the statement of claim, Lindsay spoke to the Director of the Centre of Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s—informing him that none of his patients in the cohort for his PhD thesis would’ve agreed to participate in the study had Lindsay not been involved. 
 
“Dr. Lindsay’s livelihood was dependent on maintaining the trust and confidence of his patients. The reputational interests that Dr. Lindsay had to protect were significant,” the statement of claim said.
 
Lindsay pleaded in court filings he was unaware of this agreement. 
 
The statement of claim alleged Lindsay was given access through a hard drive to the requested data which had been provided by Queen’s to Performance Phenomics, which took some time to open. The statement of claim alleged once the hard drive opened, not all of the requested data was turned over.
 
Lindsay alleged later in the suit the data from his research was published in NeuroImage by Cook and another researcher who was working on his PhD in Cook’s laboratory. 
 
The statement of claim alleged that Performance Phenomics, Cook, and others filed Canadian, U.S., European, and Australian patent applications. Allegedly, without Lindsay’s knowledge.
 
The statement of claim made mention of capital raised by Performance Phenomics. According to Phenomics’ tax returns, the company applied for federal credits using information from Lindsay’s PhD research.
 
Allegedly, through these same credits, payments were made to multiple researchers, including Cook.
 
“We're pleased that the case has been settled. We're in the process of implementing the minutes of settlements. They're basically all implemented and satisfied. We're confident the remaining items will also be resolved and implemented,” Timothy Danson, lawyer for Mark Lindsay, said in an interview with The Journal.
 
“[Lindsay] is very excited he is able to work with such outstanding professors, particularly professor MacKenzie who is his PhD supervisor [...] Dr. Lindsay is one of the top sports medicine rehabilitation doctors in the world, he’s excited about furthering his own education.”
 
The University confirmed an out of court, non-monetary settlement had taken place. 
 
“All parties are bound by a confidentiality clause about the settlement. The University considers this matter to be at an end.”

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