A female Egyptian cancer researcher at the University of Michigan has filed a lawsuit against Urology Professor Mark Day, claiming discrimination, harrassment, breach of contract and violation of disclosure agreements. She has also sued the University Board of Regents, alleging that the University did not adequately address her repeated complaints about Day.

Layla Fakhr El-Din El-Sawy filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Detroit News reported on Jan. 7. El-Sawy and Egyptian European Pharmaceutical Industry, the company she works for, are seeking more than $6 million in damages.

In the lawsuit, El-Sawy claims Day was “racist,” “misogynistic” and “xenophobic” towards her, as Day allegedly engaged in repeated threats, profanity and claims of superiority because of his status as a white man. El-Sawy also observed that this behavior was not replicated towards their white, American, male colleagues. 

“I am a white guy in the United States and I can do whatever the hell I want and nobody will believe you,” Day allegedly told El-Sawy, according to the lawsuit.

El-Sawy worked with Day from 2012 to 2017 through an agreement between the University and the EEPI, a pharmaceutical firm. After years of research and increased investment from EEPI, the firm seeked a final report on the research to determine if they would move forward with clinical testing, financing and patenting for the anti-cancer drug El-Sawy and Day had been working on. 

Day continuously delayed the report and ultimately produced only a four-page memo with a PowerPoint presentation, according to the lawsuit. This prompted EEPI to dig deeper, and the lawsuit claims EEPI discovered the pre-clinical study had not been conducted to standard. Thus, the results were unusable, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleges Day falsified the results in at least one of the experiments cited in the final report.

“Worse, upon closer examination it became apparent that the results of at least one experiment cited in the ‘final report’ had been falsified, apparently to justify Day’s excessive expenses and to position the experiment’s results as a discovery constituting the intellectual property of Day and/or U-M,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, after their second contract ended, Day revealed confidential information about their research to the publication “Southernmost Flyer” based at the Naval Air Station in Key West, Fla.

After this, the lawsuit claims, EEPI ended their relationship with Day. Day responded with increasingly patronizing and threatening emails to the company, in one instance, texting and calling El-Sawy 30 times in a 7-hour period, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, El-Sawy responded to this by filing an official complaint with the University in October 2017, which resulted in a disciplinary review hearing against El-Sawy herself for not performing her job duties. When she attended her hearing in February 2018 and described Day’s escalated behavior, the University apologized to El-Sawy and told her Day’s behavior would not be tolerated, the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit claims El-Sawy filed three more complaints with the University over the next months when Day’s behavior continued to be unaddressed. In May 2019, El-Sawy received a letter from David Bloom, chair of the U-M Department of Urology. In this letter, Bloom wrote that though there were some minor errors in the research, that the integrity of the work was intact, the lawsuit said. However, according to the lawsuit, evidence was not provided by the University to support the conclusion.

The lawsuit claims Day apologized to El-Sawy in two letters in April and July 2018, in which he committed to working with her to publish their research. Despite this and El-Sawy’s continued commitment to the research, the papers were never completed and El-Sawy ended her relationship with the University in June 2019. Day has not responded to The Daily’s request for comment.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily that the University is continuing to carefully review the complaint. 

Daily Staff Reporter Paige Hodder can be reached at phodder@umich.edu

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