Tenured positions in academia are very difficult to get. And even then, the workload can be enormous, especially the dreaded excesses of teaching duties: lectures, courses, exams, tutoring, so you end up writing your grants late at night. Step out of the line and you are out on your ear.
Well, for losers like you it is like that. But for star scientists like the Italy-born cancer researcher Pier Paolo Pandolfi, it’s different. Pandolfi was sacked in Harvard (USA) for sexual harassment in May 2019, then sacked again in Padua (Italy) in June 2020 before Pandolfi even started there (because of mine and Michael Balter’s reporting), and still managed to keep his other new job in Nevada.
Yet unbeknownst to anyone, including to the Italian media which got Pandolfi to admit harassment charges and his dismissal in Harvard as protests raged against his recruitment in Genua, that fallen star scientist has been for many years secretly enjoying a job of a full professor at the University of Turin. Not just pro forma: Pandolfi apparently has been drawing a salary as Italian state servant while residing in USA, his only student course is said to be largely taught by stand-ins. The University of Turin sees no reason to change that, they celebrate their professor as a genius who found a COVID-19 cure.
Here is Prof. Pier Paolo Pandolfi De Rinaldis, Professore ordinario (full professor) at the Dipartimento di Biotecnologie Molecolari e Scienze per la Salute, affiliated with SSD: BIO/11 – biologia molecolare, and teaching “Genomics and Epigenomics of Gene Regulation (BIO0143B Pds 306-TB) Master Program in Molecular Biotechnology“. In this capacity as University of Turin faculty, Pandolfi is also member of the Società Italiana di Biofisica e Biologia Molecolare.
Now, “De Rinaldis” is the part of his name Pandolfi hardly uses (although here is one case, and here another). Unlike with other Turin professors, his profile has no photograph. One could almost think that the University of Turin lists the obscure full name to make an uninitiated reader think this must be some other Pier Paolo Pandolfi. Yet it is the same one, and nobody in Italy noticed when the scandal was raging in national media last year, this is how clandestinely a university can operate.
As I was told by a source, Pandolfi “never had an actual research presence in Turin (i.e. a lab) and he only showed up sporadically for conferences or to give one or two lectures as part of his course“. The rest was “taught in large part by his local lackeys“.
Weapons for fight the virus
And just two months ago, the University of Turin celebrated their professor for having found a cure for COVID-19. The press release, titled ““I3C” discovered, the drug that traps the Sars-Cov 2 virus“, declared for Pandolfi’s affiliation “University of Turin – University of Nevada, USA”. The press release went:
“The research team identified a class of enzymes (E3-ubiquitin ligases) necessary for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to exit infected cells and spread to all tissues of the body. These same proteins also perform a similar action for other viruses such as Ebola. Researchers have shown that the levels of these enzymes are elevated in patients’ lungs and other tissues infected with the virus. The study also identified rare genetic alterations in the genes coding for these proteins in a subgroup of patients (about 1300) with severe disease selected from the cohorts of the International Consortia: COVID Human Genetic Effort, French COVID Cohort Study Group, CoV-Contact Cohort, eHealthy Nevada Project. These alterations increase the activity of enzymes and favor the release of the infecting virus.
The team has shown that the activity of these enzymes can be inhibited by a natural compound that is well tolerated by the human body, known as Indol-3 Carbinol (I3C), and therefore potentially usable as antiviral in single form or in combination with other therapies. Compound I3C has been shown to block, in vitro, the exit and multiplication of the virus from infected cells. I3C could be quickly approved as it is already used for other treatments, once efficacy on COVID-19 patients has been demonstrated. “
Somehow the Rome-based lead author Guiseppe Novelli got endowed with an additional Nevada affiliation, likely at the same Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno where Pandolfi found a new employment and even was seen recruiting postdocs (don’t believe Nature, who plagiarised mine and Balter’s work and falsely claimed Pandolfi resigned at the DRI, read here instead). In reality, Pandolfi’s employment runs via a private hospital (Renown Health), but Pandolfi’s “research” happens at DRI, the hospital has no labs for that. Another co-author on that COVID-19 study is Joseph Grzymski, who recruited Pandolfi to DRI and Renown Health. Grzymski runs a genetic testing business called Healthy Nevada Project, to “increase educational attainment and economic output via population health strategies to improve health outcomes“ which sounds like eugenics because it’s probably is.
The Turin press release even cites Pandolfi, as if their professor character was not toxic or embarrassing:
“We have to think long term– states Prof. Pandolfi – The vaccines, although they are very effective, they may no longer be so in the future, because the virus mutates, and therefore you need to have more weapons for fight it. The discovery about I3C is important, and now we have to start clinical studies to demonstrate its potential effectiveness. It will be important to evaluate if I3C can also reduce the very serious clinical complications many patients experience after having passed the acute stage of infection. This will be a serious problem in the years to come, which we will have to manage. We also have to move forward in drug research, to identify additional compounds and effective therapies now for Covid-19, and for other viruses that we will be called to face in the future”.
Clinical trials, why not. The man was sacked for sexual harassment. They still think it doesn’t matter and Pandolfi is a great guy because he does great science, look, a COVID-19 cure! But Pandolfi has 38 papers on PubPeer. Lazy crap like this, this is how safe they all felt:
Conclusions not affected? A Cell paper from Pandolfi’s Harvard lab (Tay et al Cell 2011) was proven to be irreproducible by Wang et al eLife 2020, and there were not even any image manipulations found in it.
But we were talking about the pride University of Turin takes in their Professor Pandolfi and his COVID-19 cure. The discovery was celebrated already a year ago, in Italian media which was tricked to believe Pandolfi was still in Harvard:
It took these geniuses one year and a huge team of collaborators to finally get their paper published in a pay-to-play journal (APC €3,290) where Guido Kroemer (yes, the centre of data fudgery universe) is deputy editor and which Editor-in-Chief Mauro Piacentini is a colleague of the first author Guiseppe Novelli at the University of Rome Tor Vergata.
Giuseppe Novelli, Jing Liu, Michela Biancolella, Tonino Alonzi, Antonio Novelli, J. J. Patten, Dario Cocciadiferro, Emanuele Agolini, Vito Luigi Colona, Barbara Rizzacasa, Rosalinda Giannini, Benedetta Bigio, Delia Goletti, Maria Rosaria Capobianchi, Sandro Grelli , Justin Mann , Trevor D. McKee, Ke Cheng , Fatima Amanat, Florian Krammer, Andrea Guarracino, Gerardo Pepe, Carlo Tomino, Yacine Tandjaoui-Lambiotte, Yurdagul Uzunhan, Sarah Tubiana, Jade Ghosn, Luigi D. Notarangelo, Helen C. Su, Laurent Abel, Aurélie Cobat, Gai Elhanan, Joseph J. Grzymski, Andrea Latini, Sachdev S. Sidhu, Suresh Jain, Robert A. Davey, Jean-Laurent Casanova, Wenyi Wei, Pier Paolo Pandolfi Inhibition of HECT E3 ligases as potential therapy for COVID-19 Cell Death and Disease (2021) doi: 10.1038/s41419-021-03513-1
Nature Group, which publishes this journal, reassures us: “The authors declare no competing interests.” If this is true, then that May 2020 press release by a new biotech start-up Virna Therapeutics, set up by Pandolfi and his co-authors Sachdev Sidhu and Suresh Jain, must be wrong:
“The founders of Virna Therapeutics include Dr. Sachdev Sidhu (Chief Scientific Officer), leader of the discovery and development process, Suresh K. Jain, PhD. (President and Chief Executive Officer), a Boston-based serial biotech entrepreneur with a track record of success in building world-class organizations and teams, and Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD., PhD., FRCP, a famed cancer molecular geneticist and RNA therapy expert.
Virna Therapeutics has a three-pronged strategy to target the COVID-19 virus: (1) neutralizing antibodies that will prevent the virus from entering host cells, (2) CRISPR/Cas13d-based and LNA-based technologies for the treatment and prevention of RNA virus infection and (3) novel protease inhibitors that will prevent replication and release from host cells.”
Whom to believe, Nature or your own eyes?
Oh, and the paper’s first author Novelli is a listed as a scientific advisor of Virna Therapeutics. No conflict of interest, not at all.
Conclusions not affected
Otherwise, an amazing team on that paper. I wonder if the much respected Icahn virologist Florian Krammer noticed who his collaborator was before putting his name on that paper. Pandolfi, as a reminder, has currently 38 papers on PubPeer. His penultimate co-author is his former colleague at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Weniy Wei, who has several papers on PubPeer of his own. This one with a recycled western blot even has Pandolfi as co-author:
Wei’s science must be as reliable as Pandolfi’s. If these two team up to crack SARS-CoV2, consider the coronavirus vanquished. Here a paper from Wei’s lab (Liu et al Nature Cell Biology 2013, without Pandolfi) which was corrected for Figure 3b and 9, then more data irregularities emerged in other figures:
Wei however decided one correction was more than enough. His first author posted some unrelated pictures on PubPeer, claimed these were the original raw data and the case was closed, also for the journal.
And now Pandolfi even gave a lecture in Turin, online because of that pandemic he is currently in the process of solving.
The University of Turin and the Department of Biotechnology organised a seminar, hosted annually in honour of their deceased professor Guido Tarone. Pandolfi featured at these events before, invited by the Turin professor Emilio Hirsch.
On 4 May 2021, associate professor Paolo Ettore Porporato sent out an invitation to this year’s Tarone Day:
given COVID19 restriction, also this year was not possible to organize as usual the “Tarone Day”. Nevertheless, we decided to organize a joint seminar looking forward for a better 2022.
It is my pleasure to invite you to the Double Seminar on the 17 of May:
16:00 Prof. Lewis Cantley “PI 3-Kinase and Cancer Metabolism”
17:00 Prof. PP Pandolfi “Harnessing the PTEN regulatory network for cancer prevention and therapy and for Covid suppression”
You can join the Symposia on the Zoom platform using the following ZOOM link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84918834286?pwd=dDhtV0pIWXNmWEw4cEZsQUViUXd3UT09
Best Regards, Paolo, Miriam and Emilio
Pandolfi, as I was told, was treated as a guest of honour by everyone involved, including the host Hirsch (who signed the invitation) and the department head Fiorella Altruda. “Miriam” is Miriam Martini, Hirsch’s protegee and now group leader at the University of Turin.
The university even invited Lewis C Cantley, a US heavyweight in cancer research from the Weill Cornell Medical School to share the virtual podium with Pandolfi. One could say, Cantley was the opening act before the main feature of Pandolfi. Now, I wrote about suspected data manipulations in Cantley’s own papers before (read here and here), and I hope this eminent scientist with 30 papers on PubPeer will eventually find time to correct the literature. In any case I was happy to see Cantley seemingly distance himself from Pandolfi, as the Weill Cornell researcher wrote to me:
“When I was invited to speak in Torino more than a year and a half ago, I was the sole speaker. I was surprised to see the change.“
No comment from anyone in Turin. They shroud themselves and their martyred Jesus in silence.
Right after I sent this article to the University of Turin, its press office replied:
“Dear Dr. Shneider,
Professor Pandolfi has requested a leave of absence from his position as full professor at our University.We specify, however, that the facts that have personally involved Professor Pandolfi and of which we have had news only through the press do not concern our University. We also specify that we have had no direct news of irregularities regarding the Professor’s activity.We wish you all the best in your work.“
They refuse to say when Pandolfi asked for that “leave of absence”, for how long, and if he will continue drawing his salary as full professor.
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