A leading center for Alzheimer’s research that received more than $100 million annually in corporate and federal research grants was “poached” overnight by a competing school. The lead researcher and all key staff resigned en masse, locked out the school from 15-plus years of its data, and moved to brand new facilities, all part of a carefully thought-out plan. Litigation started immediately as did media coverage and concern from key institutional research partners concerned about the future of their programs. BMCG was hired by outside counsel to support the leadership team in assessing risks, developing messaging, and guiding institutional strategy in the long- and short-term.

Actions / Recommendations:

  • Developed reputational risk assessment to guide overall strategy for institution, addressing third-party stakeholders re ethical implications as well as staff concerned about viability of remaining program
  • Developed communications plan, including core messaging, proactive outreach, third-party supporters, aligned with aggressive legal strategy to protect the university’s rights
  • Served as “crisis coordinator” for three-plus months to ensure action items completed, strategic issues resolved and effective coordination between main campus, medical center and system-wide office of the president.


There were no additional defections after the shock departure, and while some research grants did move with the well-known principal investigator, the majority remained. The center was viewed as sufficiently viable that it was able to recruit a new leader—a high priority for leadership—and the research center continues. The school won a significant settlement.