Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, is scheduled to appear in court in May over Celebrex, a drug Bingham Young University and researcher Dr. Daniel Simmons claim royalties that could amount to millions to a billion dollars, according to a report in Deseret News.

Simmons, a BYU professor, laid much of the groundwork for Celebrex, but BYU and he claim that Pfizer stiffed them on the royalties.

Simmons discovered the COX-2 enzyme and had a research agreement with Monsanto (later bought by Pfizer), according to the suit. Monsanto researchers used the COX-2 enzyme to create the arthritis blockbuster drug. Monsanto and later Pfizer balked on the agreement, so BYU filed a lawsuit in October 2006 that claimed that Pfizer never compensated either the researcher or his host institute, according to the suit.

Simmons and BYU had a contract with Monsanto to develop an aspirin-like drug, which turned out to be Celebrex, BYU spokesman Michael Smart, said in a release after the lawsuit was filed. We believe it [the breach of contract] occurred, in part, when Monsanto took Simmons' findings and technologies, and went on to develop a blockbuster drug without him.

Pfizer gave investors a heads up about the pending litigation in their 2010 financial report that read:

Pfizer and several predecessor and affiliated companies, including Monsanto Company (Monsanto), are defendants in an action brought by Brigham Young University (BYU) and a BYU professor in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah alleging, among other things, breach by Monsanto of a 1991 research agreement with BYU. Plaintiffs claim that research under that agreement led to the discovery of Celebrex and that, as a result, they are entitled to a share of the profits from Celebrex sales. Plaintiffs seek, among other things, compensatory and punitive damages.

The company further gave Deseret News a prepared statement on Friday that read:

Many years ago, Monsanto had a research agreement with BYU and Dr. Simmons, and the company met all of its obligations under the agreement. Years later, BYU and Dr. Simmons made unfounded allegations against Pfizer in an effort to capitalize on the company's commercial success. The lawsuit has no merit.

In response, BYU officials disagreed and gave their own prepared statement that read:

The agreement was to share his discovery with the company and to share in any reasonable royalties that resulted from their collaboration. The company then used Dr. Simmons' work as a road map to develop the blockbuster drug Celebrex.

The trial is expected to start May 29 under Chief Judge Ted Stewart in the United States District Court of the District of Utah. The trial is expected to last six weeks.