Prof Dr Govardhan Das is an influential immunology professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and adjunct professor at the Houston Methodist Hospital in USA. He is also very active politically, on behalf of the ruling islamophobic and Hindu-nationalist party BJP, which acts fascist because it likely is, and so is certainly its leader, India’s maître d‘pogrom, Narendra Modi.
Das recently put himself forward as West Bengal’s BJP candidate in the Indian Senate election, but he didn’t win. Never mind, his impressive list of 126 publications makes him indomitable in the field of molecular medicine, and Dr Das of course has a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.
My new pseudonymous contributor “Paul Jones” helps me celebrate this eminent Hindu researcher.
While busy BJP-campaigning one day in May 2021, Professor Das went to Twitter to slam a colleague for crossing the Modi death cult regime, which was so efficiently mass-sacrificing Indian citizens on a quite literal funeral pyre of failed COVID-19 policies. The target of Professor Das’ wrath was the virology professor at the Ashoka University, Shahid Jameel, who suddenly and wordlessly resigned from the national COVID-19 panel just 4 days after his opinion piece in the New York Times appeared, right in the middle of the worst COVID-19 surge in the world due to the variant B.1.617. One committee member hinted that “government pressure” might have been at the root of his decision.
As reaction, Jameel’s scientist colleague Das was tweeting:
“Criticizing GOI [Government of India, -LS]? Hypocrite! his incompetency severely harmed in predicting second wave. He does not have any experience on epidemiology. Neither anything to do with virology, other than sequencing few. Integrity? co-authored paper retracted, papers in pubpeer.
Prior to his abrupt resignation, Jameel has been constantly protesting the government’s “stubborn resistance to evidence-based policymaking” and demanded “Decision-making based on data“. Instead, the Modi regime went on to host huge election rallies with tens of thousands of people ahead of the polls in West Bengal and Assam and the Kumbh Mela festival, for which nearly 3 million people congregated in Haridwar to celebrate – with little to no safeguards against the novel coronavirus.
The BJP immunologist Das has repeatedly accused Jameel (who happens to be a Muslim) of being a research fraudster. Indeed, one 16-year-old paper with Jameel as penultimate author has been retracted (Jalota et al 2005), Das has been screaming at Jameel on Twitter already in January:
“Can he question himself, why paper been retracted where he is coauthor?“
Worth noting that all of the other 5 authors of that retracted paper are from Pune University, a different affiliation from Jameel’s. Meaning, Jameel’s contribution to that fraudulent paper was most certainly not an experimental one.
What other “papers on pubpeer” are there? Well, just one more (Bhaskar et al 2015), another collaborative paper, and what was flagged there is a non-issue, an actual minor mistake of oversight in figure preparation.
But then Cheshire aka Actinopolyspora Biskrensis had a look at Professor Das’ own papers and posted the findings on PubPeer. Soon after, Das deleted his tweet. But if you think he is questioning himself now, you are wrong.
Photoshop against TB
Let us start with a paper where Dr Das, an expert in airway diseases, tackled tuberculosis (TB).
Shilpa Raghuvanshi, Pawan Sharma, Sarman Singh, Luc Van Kaer, Gobardhan Das Mycobacterium tuberculosis evades host immunity by recruiting mesenchymal stem cells Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2010) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007967107
Cheshire also noted:
“This image also seems to have be re-published (with attribution) as Figure 1 in: Ramesh Chandra Rai, Debapriya Bhattacharya and Gobardhan Das (2012). Stem Cells in Infectious Diseases, Insight and Control of Infectious Disease in Global Scenario, Dr. Roy Priti (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0319-6, InTech, Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/insight-and-control-of-infectious-disease-in-globalscenario/stem-cells-in-infectious-diseases DOI: 10.5772/35130“
Das explained on PubPeer:
“This is an intact and continuous tissue and appearance of such blotch of cells is the inherent nature of the tissue. Whether this has any biological significance is not the focus of the current manuscript. In any case, this figure does not alter the focus and conclusion of the manuscript.“
In an email, Das indicated that he stands by this statement, but chose not to elaborate. Indeed, if the focus and conclusion of the manuscript was that it has been faked in Photoshop, then yes, this figure strongly supports this.
Here an old Das classic, in a fancy journal even:
Jyoti Das, Paul Eynott, Ray Jupp, Alfred Bothwell, Luc Van Kaer, Yufang Shi, Gobardhan Das Natural killer T cells and CD8+ T cells are dispensable for T cell–dependent allergic airway inflammation Nature Medicine (2006) doi: 10.1038/nm1206-1345
I don’t know if T cells are dispensable for allergic airway inflammation, but research integrity apparently is. Certainly for the treatment of tuberculosis:
Md. Aejazur Rahman, Parveen Sobia , Ved Prakash Dwivedi , Aakansha Bhawsar , Dhiraj Kumar Singh , Pawan Sharma , Prashini Moodley , Luc Van Kaer , William R Bishai , Gobardhan Das Mycobacterium tuberculosis TlyA Protein Negatively Regulates T Helper (Th) 1 and Th17 Differentiation and Promotes Tuberculosis Pathogenesis The Journal of biological chemistry (2015) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m115.653600
The two UI flow cytometry plots are indeed extremely similar, it is quite clear they show the same sample. Yet it is unlikely to be an honest error of an accidental duplication: those are not copy-pasted final FACS plots, but very slightly re-gated settings of the same measurement. Hence also the different quadrant numbers. The following paper shows an even more sophisticated approach to flawed cytometry as tuberculosis immunotherapy:
Debapriya Bhattacharya, Ved Prakash Dwivedi, Mamoudou Maiga, Mariama Maiga, Luc Van Kaer, William R. Bishai, Gobardhan Das Small molecule-directed immunotherapy against recurrent infection by Mycobacterium tuberculosis The Journal of biological chemistry (2014) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m114.558098
You may have noticed that many of Das’ papers on PubPeer have a foreign co-author, namely Luc van Kaer, immunology professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, USA. It seems both gentlemen used to work as postdocs in the Yale lab of the immunology giant Charles Janeway, and continued collaborating when they became professors themselves.
It is not clear what exactly van Kaer contributed to those collaborative papers though, he refused to say. It is likely he listed them in his NIH grant applications and reports, but van Kaer sure is not interested to be connected with those papers now, as he explained:
“Since none of the experiments or images in the flagged papers were produced in my lab, I have no comment and recommend you contact the senior/corresponding author to address any concerns.“
Well, here is an infectious disease paper coauthored with Das, but without van Kaer:
Pawan Kumar, Vini John, Soumitra Marathe, Gobardhan Das, Sangeeta Bhaskar Mycobacterium indicus pranii induces dendritic cell activation, survival, and Th1/Th17 polarization potential in a TLR-dependent manner Journal of Leukocyte Biology (2015) doi: 10.1189/jlb.1a0714-361r
I guess the correct control was deemed unnecessary. Let’s have more tuberculosis studies:
Ved Prakash Dwivedi, Debapriya Bhattacharya, Mona Singh, Ashima Bhaskar, Santosh Kumar, Samreen Fatima, Parveen Sobia, Luc Van Kaer, Gobardhan Das Allicin enhances antimicrobial activity of macrophages during Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2019) doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.12.008
The p38 and GAPDH blots look identical. one of the authors, Mona Singh, arrived to PubPeer to explain, even with images of “raw data”. She showed some gel pictures and explained:
“The two bands given for p38 and GAPDH are definitely different and are generated from two different blots probed with anti-p38 and anti-GAPDH respectively.“
Couldn’t she claim instead it was the same blot membrane, stripped and re-probed, to try explaining the similarities? Meh. Anyway, the 3 other panels (P-p38, P-JNK and JNK) look like from 3 other gels. If only they had a fifth gel with some bands somewhere, there wouldn’t have been a duplication. Sloppy, sloppy.
It seems to be a standard practice in the Das lab to make gels without an internal loading control, e.g. see the PubPeer discussion for Fatima et al J Clinical Investigation 2020. It has a very famous co-author.
Prof Dr Anand Ranganathan, a younger colleague of Dr Das, works at the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, this in addition to his tweeting continuously with a following of 444 thousand followers. His group also specializes in tuberculosis (and malaria), with a particular focus on directed evolution and pathogenesis.
Now that why is Ranganathan so influential?
Maybe it’s because the majority of his work is made up of Ayurvedic practices, something Modi’s government and BJP very much approve of, to the point of officially peddling Ayurvedic Coronil quackery. Because Ayurveda, as well as homeopathy and yoga, are all holy ingredients of BJP’s Hindu-Fascism, there is even the AYUSH ministry seeking to convert Indian science and healthcare into a quacking woo circus. There are enough of willing doctors and academics, and research fraud is the only way to prove that Ayurveda works.
In this regard, Dr Ranganathan is exactly the kind of scientist Modi needs. When called upon, he is ready:
Furthermore, he discovered “The BJP IT Cell.”
In addition to being a distinguished professor, Dr Ranganathan also writes fiction novels. Among his works are The Land of the Wilted Rose (Rupa, 2012), For Love and Honour (Bloomsbury, 2015), The Rat Eater (Juggernaut, 2017). He continues to contribute to Indian news debates, on leading national news channels like Times Now and Republic World. Also the right-wing magazine Swarajya publishes his column. It is not unusual to see Dr Ranganathan participating in the prime time debates on these channels to pontificate on anything and everything (including topics unrelated to his expertise).
Thanks to his support for the highest-ranking Hindu nationalist party in India, Dr Ranganathan is read by many centre-right audiences who appreciate his articulation and factual arguments. He may be sometimes a good observer, but overall he is a bigot and an apologist for Hindu supremacy.
Dr Ranganathan’s contributions to national science can be best understood in the context of the Covid-19 Second Wave Massacre in India. Based on the research by the Department of Defence, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) approved on 8 May 2021 the neurotoxic drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) for emergency use. The DCGI-approved drug was first proposed as COVID-19 medicine same Ayurvedic quack shysters Ramdev and Balkrishna of Patanjali scam enterprise who sell Coronil.
Many Ayurveda experts including Dr Ranganathan praised Patanjali’s breakthrough research, made possible by their March 2020 quantum leap, resulting in the saving of countless lives.
Ranganathan has been advertising for the Patanjali scam as if the pandemic was already vanquished with incense, yogic chants and pricey Ayurvedic powders.
A number of times over the past few years, Patanjali products have been exposed as the trash they are. In May 2017, a report from Haridwar’s Ayurvedic and Unani office disclosed that 40 percent of Ayurveda products, including items from Patanjali, had substandard quality, occasionally with toxic contaminants. Misleading advertisements, misbranding and misrepresenting the firm’s products resulted in a fine of Rs 11 lakh for Patanjali in December 2016.
More recently, Dr Ranganathan joined Das and van Kaer in developing a universal vaccine against tuberculosis and other airway diseases. You can guess the technology deployed.
Dhiraj Kumar Singh, Ved Prakash Dwivedi, Shashi Prakash Singh, Anjna Kumari , Saurabh Kumar Sharma , Anand Ranganathan, Luc Van Kaer, Gobardhan Das Luteolin-mediated Kv1.3 K+ channel inhibition augments BCG vaccine efficacy against tuberculosis by promoting central memory T cell responses in mice PLoS Pathogens (2020) doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008887
BCG Vaccine against COVID-19
But rigth then, the pandemic arrived. Dr Das scrambled to reworked this same Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine to prevent coronavirus infections in India. The BCG vaccine seem to protect against disseminated tuberculosis and meningitis in childhood, but it does not offer any protection against adult pulmonary TB, which is why several countries have discontinued its use. In seven to eight out of ten people who receive it, TB meningitis, a severe form of TB, typically doesn’t develop. Still, BCG vaccine has not been as successful in preventing TB that affects the lungs, a type of TB that affects adults most commonly.
Nevertheless, Dr Das decided that this easily available, inexpensive vaccine not only protected children against tuberculosis but also prevented severe COVID-19 infection.
In spring 2020, Das told The Print that he “teamed up for a BCG+ vaccine by expressing Covid-19 proteins into it“, because “there is a worldwide spread which shows a fantastic correlation between BCG immunisation & vulnerability towards Covid-19.” We learned:
“Das’ work links to the discovery by noted Romanian scientist Mihai Netea of “trained immunity”, which says a person’s innate immune system has a memory that “remains in a state of high alert for several months after an infection”, thereby allowing the immune system to respond more quickly to new infections.
Netea’s research also found that it is possible to “train this memory”. In the case of the BCG vaccine, Netea found that switching on the immune system’s memory would mean stimulating immune cells not just against tuberculosis but other infections as well.
Das believes these other infections could potentially include Covid-19. He also pointed out that alongside the BCG vaccine, it was imperative to remember that in India’s case, the population was also constantly subject to several mycobacterial infections which create their own set of antibodies.
“Along with the early lockdown announced by Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, which was a very good measure, the pre-immunity generated by the BCG vaccine plus exposure to other mycobacterial infections means that the Indian population may have a good chance to fight the coronavirus,” Dr Das said.
That was in April 2020. What with Mihai Netea’s BCG paper in Cell, the scientific authority was seemingly on Dr Das’ side, undeterred by the fact that the WHO just attested stated “no evidence that the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus”.
Das was quoted back then:
“Countries like the US, Italy and Spain, which have no mass BCG immunisations have had a much higher toll,” Das said. “Countries like India, Japan and Portugal have, at least so far, been able to deal with this disease much better.”
One year later, India was in the middle of a second wave so disastrous that hospitals run out of oxygen, people were dying in their cars and the streets, and bodies were dumped into rivers because there was no wood to burn them.
But until then, Das was India’s saviour. In July 2020, he issued a paper in a pay-to-publish cell biology (sic!) journal, Sharma et al Cell Death & Disease 2020, where he advocated for COVID-19 prophylaxis with BCG vaccine and… guess what else? Chloroquine.
During his #AskMeAnything session, Professor Das did his best to inform the general public about the benefits of using the BCG vaccine.
In April 2020, India looked safe. A huge phase 3 clincial trial with BCG vaccine against COVID-19 began, with 6000 COVID-19 infected participants, as Dr Ranganathan tweeted.
Well, it was actually meant to be 2175 participants, and the single-arm open-label trial NCT04475302 is still listed as “recruiting”, last update was posted in June 2021. But hey, already in April 2020 the success was predefined, the rest mere formalities. The purpose of Dr Das’s life was never to “want anything if it helps my India“.
CHANGE IS COMING!
Having vanquished the coronavirus, Dr Das turned his attention to other problems plaguing the country. In India, he is always engaged in “highlighting lawlessness, corruption, appeasement, and murder“.
“CHANGE IS COMING”, as Dr Das proclaimed. Indeed, the time has come for a change. Isn’t it a lovely sign for the change that he lost the Senate election?
Politics is time consuming. When contacted to comment on the PubPeer evidence in his papers, Das replied:
“I do appreciate your concern on scientific issues. We have seen comments, and working on it. As you know most of our research facilities are closed because of extended lock down. Right at this moment, we do not have access for laboratories. Students and trainees are out to their respective towns. Furthermore, many of the authors either relocated or retired. I myself relocated to a different place now. Nevertheless, we contacted the journal and requested some time to respond appropriately.“
We shall conclude with a beautiful paper co-authored by this Hindu nationalist professor. It blessed the world with a cure for herpes, and the medicine is Photoshop. Rejoice!
Paromita Bag, Durbadal Ojha, Hemanta Mukherjee, Umesh C. Halder , Supriya Mondal , Aruna Biswas , Ashoke Sharon, Luc Van Kaer , Sekhar Chakrabarty, Gobardhan Das, Debashis Mitra, Debprasad Chattopadhyay A dihydro-pyrido-indole potently inhibits HSV-1 infection by interfering the viral immediate early transcriptional events Antiviral Research (2014) doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2014.02.007
Cheshire: “Images in Figure 5 appears to have some repeated features. Not all areas have been marked.“
Further Pubpeer analysis showed the figure was even faker than first highlighted. In what seems to be the proudly honed tradition of Indian academia, the principal investigator arrived right away to throw their students under the bus.
Debprasad Chattopadhyay, director of the ICMR-National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Belagavi Karnataka, explained:
“The data presented was the RAW DATA, directly from the experiment done by the two students Paromita Bag and Umesh C Halder.“
To be on the safe side, he also denied the falsifications.