Home BUSINESS News Biotech Co-Founder, Facing Murder-for-Hire Charges, Accused of Fabricating Data

Biotech Co-Founder, Facing Murder-for-Hire Charges, Accused of Fabricating Data

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Biotech Co-Founder, Facing Murder-for-Hire Charges, Accused of Fabricating Data

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Enochian BioSciences Inc.

has sued co-founder

Serhat Gumrukcu

for contractual fraud, alleging that it paid him and his husband $25 million based on scientific data that Mr. Gumrukcu altered and fabricated.

An attorney for Mr. Gumrukcu didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the Enochian lawsuit.

Enochian is seeking restitution of all payments made to Mr. Gumrukcu and his husband,

Anderson Wittekind,

who is named as a co-defendant in the suit, as well as payments made by Enochian to other parties as a result of the alleged fraud.

“Defendants manipulated negative results to reflect positive outcomes from various studies, and even fabricated studies out of whole cloth,” Enochian said in a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday. “Defendants’ conduct amounts to nothing short of brazen fraud, which has caused Enochian substantial harm.”

Mr. Wittekind denies the allegations in Enochian’s complaint and will defend against them in court, said his attorney Megan A. Maitia, a partner at Summa LLP.

Enochian alleged in its complaint that Mr. Gumrukcu repeatedly gave the company falsified and misleading data for mice experiments related to research agreements with companies owned by Messrs. Gumrukcu and Wittekind to develop gene therapies for certain viruses, including hepatitis B and Covid-19.

Mr. Gumrukcu sent the company data from lab experiments showing highly promising results of his drugs in mice, Enochian’s lawsuit said. The data triggered a series of milestone payments totaling $25 million to Messrs. Gumrukcu and Wittekind, who used the funds in part to help purchase an $18 million property in Los Angeles last year, the Enochian suit alleged.

Mr. Wittekind’s attorney said that the purchase was for commercial buildings used to support biotech and medical research. “Enochian’s suggestion that this property was purchased as the culmination of some fraudulent self-enrichment scheme is misleading,” said Ms. Maitia.

Enochian said it submitted the data to the Food and Drug Administration as part of the company’s intent to study the drugs in human trials.

After Mr. Gumrukcu was arrested in May, Enochian conducted an internal review of the data he had submitted to the company and found that he had altered data from experiments conducted by outside scientists and in some cases fabricated experiments that had never been performed, the suit alleges.

Mr. Gumrukcu, for example, gave Enochian data showing his drug reduced hepatitis B DNA levels by 98.6% in mice, but the original experiment data showed only a 25.1% reduction, Enochian said.

Last year, Mr. Gumrukcu presented data to Enochian’s board showing that his gene therapy prevented Covid-19 infection in mice for at least 30 days after treatment, Enochian’s lawsuit said. Enochian later discovered that the experiment hadn’t yet been conducted at the time of Mr. Gumrukcu’s presentation, the Enochian suit said.

When the experiments were finally conducted by a contract research company hired by Mr. Gumrukcu, the results were negative and showed the treatment was ineffective, Enochian said. All but one of the mice died within eight days of being infected with the coronavirus.

“In short, the study had failed and no follow-up challenges to the same (now dead) mice could be done,” Enochian said.

One of Mr. Gumrukcu’s companies received a $10 million payment from Enochian in the days after he learned of the failed study, which he never disclosed to the company, the company’s suit said.

Write to Joseph Walker at joseph.walker@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications
Enochian BioSciences alleged that Serhat Gumrukcu and Anderson Wittekind used payments received from the company to help purchase an $18 million property in Los Angeles last year. An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the property as their home. (Corrected on Oct. 24)

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