Philly Fighting COVID founder Andrei Doroshin files lawsuit against Drexel University over expulsion

The founder of Philly Fighting COVID — the student-run startup whose attempt to distribute some of Philadelphia’s first COVID-19 vaccines ended in national embarrassment for the city — has filed a lawsuit against Drexel University over his expulsion in the wake of the scandal.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court, Andrei Doroshin alleged his former university did not allow him to defend himself before it labelled him a thief, expelled him for misconduct, and “very publicly branded [him] a racist, classist, elitist, leaving his entire future in ruins.”

Doroshin founded Philly Fighting COVID in 2020 to help with the city’s pandemic response, and later secured a $194,234 city contract to run a fleet of testing sites. But Doroshin abruptly abandoned its non-profit testing operations in order to pivot to a for-profit vaccine distribution business in January 2021.

Health officials entrusted Doroshin — then a 22-year-old Drexel graduate student with no prior health-care experience — to distribute some of city’s precious first doses at a mass clinic, only to sever ties after questions emerged about the group’s for-profit intentions and its privacy policy. Doroshin later admitted to taking home unused vaccines to inoculate his friends.

» READ MORE: Philly Fighting COVID CEO agrees to pay $30K to city vaccine services, delete residents’ personal data

The fallout left Doroshin under investigation with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and the FBI.

Meanwhile, after months of signal-boosting Philly Fighting COVID’s initiatives and even planning to assist with its vaccine distribution, Drexel began distancing itself from disgraced startup.

In the lawsuit, Doroshin claimed that the flurry of investigations hindered his ability to defend himself at the university’s disciplinary hearings, and that Drexel denied requests for a delay and later “ignored” exonerating evidence. He was officially expelled in March 2021, before he could earn his master’s degree in the psychology graduate studies program.

The lawsuit against Drexel also names school President John Fry and Norma Bouchard, former dean of the school’s College of Arts and Sciences, as defendants. Doroshin is seeking compensatory damages at trial and to “salvage his reputation” and “restore his emotional and psychological well-being.”

A spokesperson for Drexel said in an email that the university “has not been served with the complaint” and does not comment on litigation.

» READ MORE: City and Philly Fighting COVID coordinated for months before scandal that was blamed on ‘acting in a hurry,’ emails show

While Doroshin was not criminally charged, the Attorney General office announced a settlement in February 2022 that banned him from charity work in Pennsylvania and ordered him to destroy any personal information Philly Fighting COVID had collected from residents who pre-registered for the jab.

Shapiro said Doroshin had “put people’s privacy at risk under the guise of serving as a nonprofit” and order him to pay $30,000 toward COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts in Philadelphia as part of the settlement.

William Rush, a Reading-based attorney representing Doroshin, was not available to answer questions about the lawsuit on Wednesday.

After Philly Fighting COVID’s implosion, Doroshin and his father were reportedly involved in another vaccine distribution outfit that planned to launch clinics in New York and Georgia. A whistleblower alleged to Philadelphia Magazine that the group was engaging in “corner-cutting measures” similar to those that plagued Philly Fighting COVID, and the Georgia health department subsequently cut ties with the group.

On his LinkedIn profile, Doroshin now lists himself as a New York resident and a managing director at the Brooklyn-based Popularis Health, where he oversees “batch medical billing,” “pandemic response software,” and “spinal surgery drill guides.”