Blog COVID-19 Research integrity

Bullshitter Mauro Ferrari out as ERC President

Mauro Ferrari was made to resign as ERC president. In his 3 months in office, he published a ridiculously fraudulent paper with Houston colleagues. Now Ferrari announces from his Texas lockdown "trenches" to cure COVID-19.

The Italian nanotechnologist Mauro Ferrari resigned as the president of the European Research Council (ERC) on 7 April 2020, just 3 months into the job. Officially Ferrari quit in protest over COVID-19 policies, where the EU Commission refused to accept his top secret proposal of recruiting top scientists to top projects he designed off the top of his head to solve the global coronavirus disaster. Presumably something with nanotechnology and stem cells, in partnership with Texan fraudsters, which is Ferrari’s speciality in bullshittery.

In reality, Ferrari was sacked, and after many newspaper worldwide took Ferrari’s side, the ERC was forced to issue a statement of their own, basically explaining that their president was an incompetent greedy busybody they had to get rid of before he does more damage. As if they didn’t know it before. I did warn ERC in May 2019 about Ferrari’s close association with Texan research fraudsters, while Sylvie Coyaud reminded of his shameful support of the Italian “stem cell” criminals of Stamina. But back then, ERC thought it was Ferrari’s critics being the vile lying trolls. He took office as ERC president 7 months later as scheduled, on 1 January 2020.

Even now, ERC tried to support that toxic bullshitter. I learned that Ferrari was offered, among other opportunities, an honourable exit into a comfortable job as EU Commission’s special envoy on COVID-19, which is so reassuring. What can European epidemiologists, researchers and especially medical personnel need more right now than orders from some pompous militaristic attention-seeking nano-bullshitter, whose biggest medical achievement was to team up with some Texan fraudsters to sell NIH and the Pentagon a promise of a nanoparticle solution to cancer?

Incidentally, that offer to become a special envoy for something, is reminiscent of what EU Commission did with the former head of EU Directorate General for Research and Innovation, Robert-Jan Smits, who was appointed as as EU envoy for Open Access (OA) transformation. Smits then went on to design the so-called Plan S (advised by the commercial OA publisher Frontiers). There, Smits proved so “successful” that he was (to his own surprise) let go by the EU Commission, off and away into a ceremonial role as president of a Dutch university. A similar EU envoy job was apparently what the EU Commission planned to invent for Ferrari, but the flamboyant Italian chose high drama instead.

Original photo: Texas Medical Center

Officially, EU Commission disagreed with Ferrari’s proposed top-down approach for research funding, for which the European Union bureaucracy is now being shamed by the international media, used to celebrating the visionary scientific genius ideas of individual grand men of science (aka bullshit). This is why I requested Ferrari’s secret proposal to to cure COVID-19 and will update, the EU Commission’s legal department is now checking my request. On 8 April 2020, ERC issued this statement:


“The ERC’s Scientific Council notes with regret the statement made by Mauro Ferrari concerning his resignation on 7 April. We here present the facts of the situation.

On Friday 27 March, all 19 active members of the ERC’s Scientific Council individually and unanimously requested that Mauro Ferrari resign from his position as ERC’s President.

This request was made for four reasons:

  1. During his three-month term in office, Professor Ferrari displayed a complete lack of appreciation for the raison-d’être of the ERC to support excellent frontier science, designed and implemented by the best researchers in Europe. Although voicing his support for this in public pronouncements, the proposals he made to the Scientific Council did not reflect this position. He did not understand the context of the ERC within the EU’s Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020.
  2. Since his appointment, Professor Ferrari displayed a lack of engagement with the ERC, failing to participate in many important meetings, spending extensive time in the USA and failing to defend the ERC’s programme and mission when representing the ERC.
  3. In contrast, Professor Ferrari made several personal initiatives within the Commission, without consulting or tapping into the collective knowledge of the Scientific Council, and instead using his position to promote his own ideas.
  4. Lastly, Professor Ferrari was involved in multiple external enterprises, some academic and some commercial, which took a lot of his time and effort and appeared on several occasions to take precedence over his commitment to ERC. The workload associated with these activities proved to be incompatible with the mandate of President of the Scientific Council.

Professor Ferrari subsequently resigned on 7 April 2020. Therefore, his resignation in fact followed a written unanimous vote of no confidence. In contrast, Professor Ferrari has stated that the reason for his resignation is that the Scientific Council did not support his call for the ERC to fund a special initiative focused on the COVID-19 virus. To address this point specifically, we did not support a special initiative because that is not our remit and the Commission’s Research and Innovation Directorate General, with which we are connected, was already very active in developing new programmes to support this research through the appropriate channels.

[…]

However, the ERC does not make calls for specific topics, since a guiding principle of ERC is that our researchers are free to pursue the goals they define and to decide on what they wish to work. In our view, this is a crucial way to generate the best science.

The Scientific Council wishes to clarify, in case of any doubt, that they absolutely endorse the view that scientific research will provide the best solutions to tackling pandemics, such as COVID-19.

Therefore, we regret Professor Ferrari’s statement, which at best is economical with the truth. […]”


Science Business has another account how apparently nobody at the ERC and the EU Commission ever liked Ferrari. And yet the ERC Scientific Council voted its approval when this strutting spaghetti-western character was appointed by EU bureaucrats, mightily impressed by his bullshit. First-hand sources informed me that Ferrari is a very close friend of Guido Rasi, head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), maybe this also helped?

I have a wild theory why Ferrari’s association with fraudsters was never seen as impediment. As far as I know, ERC never revoked a grant to an active employed scientist, regardless of how big their fraud was to be. A related anecdote: one member of the ERC Scientific Council is Jesper Svejstrup, cancer researcher at The Crick in London. Now, Svejstrup is a former collaborator of the notorious Maria Fousteri, found guilty by research misconduct by her former Dutch employer LUMC Leiden, which requested retraction of 4 of her papers. One was done in the Svejstrup lab, with him as last author. It seems Svejstrup prevented this retraction, which incidentally allowed Fousteri to continue receiving her €2mn ERC grant in full and to the last day, despite EU Commission being notified of the LUMC findings. A bit of a conflict of interest for Svejstrup, never mind his questionable ethics of fostering Fousteri’s fraud. But now he was one of the upstanding Council members heroically demanding Ferrari’s resignation. Applause for Jesper, ladies and gentlemen.

Since data fakery and quack cures was nothing to care much about (at least in pre-COVID-19 times), it is no wonder ERC Scientific Council approved of Ferrari’s appointment and disregarded all concerns about his association with fraudsters. He was even allowed to spend 20% of his work time attending to his business interests, predominately with the US biotech Arrowhead Therapeutics, where Ferrari serves as director since 2010. In December 2019, just before taking office as ERC President, Ferrari set up in London his own private company BrYet, to market his “injectable nanoparticle generator” ML-016 aka iNPG-pDox, a magic cancer drug for which he also advertised at a nano-biotech conference.

Maybe ERC was craving next to Ferrari’s business acumen also his papal blessings, since the devout Catholic was installed in 2017 to the Pontifical Academy for Life in the Vatican (likely for Ferrari’s engagement in support of Stamina‘s church-approved stem cell quackery).

Ferrari is a pompous narcissist who loves military heroism and virile grandstanding while being actually a wussy drama queen. Self-indulging bullshit is however something he can produce in copious amounts. Financial Times published Ferrari’s full resignation letter, which is basically bullshit upon bullshit upon narcissistic self-pity upon more bullshit. Here excerpts:

Please forgive me, but I believe that the priority now is to stop the pandemic. The priority is to save possibly millions of lives. It takes precedence over careers, politics, even the beauty of certain science. Please forgive me, but I believe in science at the service of society, especially when it counts the most. And now it does count the most, since it is only through science that Covid-19, and its successor pandemics, will ever be defeated. […]

I thought that at a time like this, the very best scientists in the world should be provided with resources and opportunities to fight the pandemic, with new drugs, new vaccines, new diagnostic tools, new behavioral dynamic approaches based on science, to replace the oft-improvised intuitions of political leaders.

The proposal was rejected unanimously by the governing body of the ERC, without even considering what shape or form it may take, and to such an extent that my presidency became fully opposed by them, in every respect. The rejection of my motion was based on the notion that the ERC funds “Bottom-Up” research..[…]

Now it is time for me to return to the frontier, to the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19, with real resources and responsibilities, away from offices in Brussels, where my political skills are clearly inadequate, and again at the true service of those who need new medical solutions.

Fear not, even in the COVID-19 lock-down at his home in Texas (i.e., “the frontlines”), Professor Ferrari is surely tinkering in his garage on a nanofabricated COVID-19 cure. And then, when he single-handedly saved the world, we will all have to grovel and apologise to him for saving our lives and make him our king.

Let’s assume for a moment that Ferrari is not just bullshitting in order to get himself one last time into newspapers, let’s assume he really has plans to cure COVID-19 with nanotechnology. Who will he team up with? I can suggest his nanotechnology colleague Thomas Webster of Northeastern University, another narcissistic bullshitter who already announced to cure COVID-19, with ridiculously fraudulent nanotechnology. Failing that, there are some nano-criminals in India doing fake vaccine research.

The perfect candidates are however Ferrari’s Texas partners and clinical researchers Anil Sood and Gabriel Lopez-Beerestein at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and in particular Haifa Shen at Houston Methodist Research Institute, co-inventor of Ferrari’s marketed cancer drug ML-016. All these gentlemen (whom I introduced in my previous article) are capable of bullshitting the highest of authorities and of delivering high-quality research fraud. Which in our general understanding of science, perfectly suffices to cure cancer, and should also work like a charm in curing COVID-19.

In this regard, Elisabeth Bik, Cheshire and others recently flagged a joint paper by Shen and Ferrari, published in Science Advances on 1 April 2020. If it was meant as a joke, it is on the fools at the EU Commission, because at that time Ferrari was ERC president.

Zhenhua Hu, Sara Nizzero , Shreya Goel , Louis E. Hinkle , Xiaoyan Wu , Chao Li , Mauro Ferrari, Haifa Shen Molecular targeting of FATP4 transporter for oral delivery of therapeutic peptide Science Advances (2020) doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aba0145

Reused images. Not a mistake of oversight for sure.

Cloned nanoparticles
“The 1h and 8h set of organs look surprisingly similar, except for the amount of signal captured (shown with green boxes). Could the authors clarify if some of the mice had two sets of major organs, please?”

Ferrari’s stated scientific contribution to that breathtaking fraud orgy is: “reviewed the manuscript“. Which means in best case that he accepted a gift authorship, without contributing any scientific input, a form of research misconduct in itself. The Photoshop study was funded by NIH and the US Department of Defense (DoD). It is unlikely to be retracted, given the US interests and the money at stake and Science‘s peculiar new attitude on literature corrections, but I am always happy to be proven wrong.

Would you like to see more Texan fraud which Ferrari put his name on, again with Shen and some MD Anderson colleagues?

Min Zhou , Jun Zhao , Mei Tian, Shaoli Song, Rui Zhang , Sanjay Gupta, Dongfeng Tan , Haifa Shen , Mauro Ferrari , Chun Li Radio-photothermal therapy mediated by a single compartment nanoplatform depletes tumor initiating cells and reduces lung metastasis in the orthotopic 4T1 breast tumor model Nanoscale (2015) doi: 10.1039/c5nr04587h

“the animal in the control image may be the same animal in the RT/PTT image. Possibly different images of the same animal.”

Together with his Houston Methodist colleague Shen, Ferrari received in 2017 a gigantic $16 million grant from the DoD to cure breast cancer with nanoparticles. To make the joke complete, Ferrari announced that his and Shen’s research will give cancer patients an extra of 24 years of survival:

By having an impact on liver and lung, we could literally save the majority of metastatic patients. Nobody has ever cured metastatic disease, so this is an exciting opportunity

In 2016, Ferrari received $6 million from DoD to design nanotechnology fixes for bone fractures. That grant was shared with his Houston Methodist colleague Ennio Tasciotti. Together they published this paper:

Iman K Yazdi , Matthew B Murphy , Christopher Loo , Xuewu Liu , Mauro Ferrari , Bradley K Weiner , Ennio Tasciotti Cefazolin-loaded mesoporous silicon microparticles show sustained bactericidal effect against Staphylococcus aureus Journal of Tissue Engineering (2014) doi: 10.1177/2041731414536573

Accidental duplications? Really?

The promises were big, which might explain why Ferrari surprisingly resigned as President of the Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2018 to become its Chief Commercialization Officer, of which he resigned again in early 2019 and left Houston Methodistto pursue other opportunities in research, education, entrepreneurship, and service to the underprivileged“.

Whatever did happen to those $22 million Ferrari received from the Pentagon? Did he deliver the promised nanotechnology cures for broken bones and breast cancer? Or maybe the bullshitter Ferrari bullshitted DoD also, something which the Pentagon might not have taken lightly?

Rumours reached me that none of the nanotechnology stuff Ferrari promised his military funders ever reached close to clinical trial stage. Apparently, in 2019 DoD did or planned to do a site visit at Houston Methodist, only that Ferrari had nothing to show for.

In March 2019, things looked grim and Ferrari left his Texas home for a job at University of St Thomas in Minnesota as Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Community Partnerships, whatever that is. Luckily, right after the EU Commission came a-knocking, so Ferrari was appointed ERC President in May 2019 and took office in 2020. Of which he was forced to resign now, after just 3 months.

What next for the man who is much more qualified to play saxophone than be in charge of science?

Now, out of a job but defiant, Ferrari pronounced in La Repubblica:

I follow the motto of the military: you die on the stop“.

In an interview with El Pais, Ferrari martially proclaimed:

Instead of sitting about and waging bureaucratic wars, I have decided to go to the trenches, to the front, to contribute to the fight against this disease.

Pretentious git with a military fetish. Are we supposed to be grateful to our European scientific and bureaucratic elites who recruited Ferrari as ERC president against better knowledge, and then, when his bullshit got too damaging, intended to let this embarrassing Garibaldi-wannabe commandeer EU’s COVID-19 response as a special envoy?

Why don’t we learn from the COVID-19 disaster and stop listening to narcissistic alpha-male bullshitters promising us miracle cures? People are literally dying because of this.


Update 6.05.2020

The EU Commission now answered my FOI inquiry about Ferrari’s proposal on COVID-19 action. I was told that the document, as distributed by Ferrari to ERC Council members on 18 March 2020, is already available online under this link.

The 5 pages contain no strategic plan, but lots of business-speak bullshit. It keeps reiterating the buzzwords of “true breakthrough, blue-sky, investigator-initiated, high-risk high-payoff, frontier research”. In Ferrari’s view,

a solution to the pandemic (and future pandemics of similar nature) can only come from new therapeutic and prophylactic agents, vaccines and drugs, requiring breakthrough discoveries, or completely unprecedented, out-of-box, blue-sky, highly innovative approaches of different types, currently outside of the fields of view of conventional thought.”

Ferrari sees himself as disaster manager:

I am a firm believer in Bottom-Up research; it is truly what attracted me to my current post. However, when the house is on fire, I believe in “all hands on deck””, doing everything possible to save lives, and extinguish the fire.

Hence:

I find that the time urgency of the pandemic crisis (interventional horizon required of 1-2 years)is not compatible with normal idea creation and idea-to-clinic translational pathway (10-20 years). Thus, I believe that a special, focused initiative is required.

And this is the closes Ferrari gets to shaping his war on COVID-19 campaign:

The special Covid-19 initiative would embrace all three scientific domains [life sciences, physics and engineering, social sciences and humanities, -LS] and all approaches, without limitations. New, paradigm-breaking basic research in molecular biology and virology, leading to the identification of new targets and mechanisms-of-action would be a likely rubric for ERC-funded research under this initiative. Other possibly likely approaches would encompass epidemiological models, innovative applications of artificial intelligence, deep learning, quantum computing, behavioral sciences, medical technologies, historical studies all the way to archeological efforts, mathematical frameworks, and diagnostic strategies. In keeping with the blue-sky and Bottom-Up nature of the ERC, however, I suspect, or, rather, firmly believe, that the true winners in this special focused initiative would come from unexpected fields of science –perhaps some that do not even exist just yet.”

Followed by 2 more pages of business-speak bullshit.


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5 comments on “Bullshitter Mauro Ferrari out as ERC President

  1. If I knew my PP posts were going to bedeck the pages of a notorious website like yours, I would have taken greater care to identify all of the crappy image work and used prettier colors. 🙀😸 /s

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