Schneider Shorts of 25 March 2022 – University of Louisville canonizes a fraudster, a Peruvian sexual harasser puts critic on trial, a sacked CEO with a new biotech startup, French COVID quacks being creative, some interesting corrections, and why China’s science is the best in the world.
Table of Discontent
- American Trolling – U Louisville VP demands respect for Ratajczak’s fraud
- Kawas’ new business – sacked cheater entrepreneur with a new biotech
- Sexual harasser sues critic – Castillo Butters wants anthropology peer imprisoned
- French Cryoquackery – cryotherapy entrepreneurs broke laws on human experimenting
- Stem cells for COVID – a bizarre US company on trial
- Tiwari’s Erratum – Scientific Reports trusts scamference fraudster
- China wins science! – Experts prove Chinese publications have the highest quality in the world
- BioFraudCentral – Springer Nature’s BMC journal corrects a paper
News in Tweets
Imagine a biomedical professor in USA whose entire body of work is based on a fake discovery of non-existent “very small embryonic-like” (VSEL) stem cells only he alone claims to be able to see. Who with this stupid bunk bullshitted out of money not only NIH and other public funders, but even the Catholic Church, in USA and in his home country Poland? Whose papers, 28 of them in fact, are full of blatant image forgeries and text plagiarism? Who already in 2013 was publicly exposed as “a fraud”?
How do you think did the University of Louisville, Kentucky, decide on the case of Mariusz Ratajczak? Take a guess.
Elisabeth Bik, who reported the affair on her blog and to the university in 2020, has an update:
“The University of Louisville found there was no research misconduct. The institution followed its established, thorough, and robust process and made no Findings of research misconduct against Dr. Ratajczak associated with any of the allegations, including all the allegations that continue to persist publicly on the internet.
Dr. Ratajczak remains a valued member of the University of Louisville community. He is a productive researcher and conducts his research, collaborations and associated activities with integrity and there is no indication that has been found that indicates otherwise. It is my expectation that the research community, including publishers, funders, colleagues, institutions and scientists, respect the Findings of the University of Louisville’s research integrity processes and Findings in this matter.
Kevin H. Gardner, PhD
Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation”
Kevin, not only don’t we respect you, your findings, your expectations, and your “valued member”, we think your university to be despicable parasites who poison and defraud science, and a danger to all young scientists and students. We raise a finger to you and your stupid letter.
And soon after this awful decision in USA, on 19 February 2022, the Medical University Warsaw (MUW) and University of Zielona Gora professor Ratajczak was awarded by the Polish Minister of Science and Education. Prior to that, Ratajczak was interviewed by MUW proclaiming his phantasy VSEL cells being able to cure old age and all diseases.
My only explanation is that the Catholic Church is still generously sponsoring Ratajczak’s fake “stem cell” science. Ten years ago, the Church invested $1 million into a company featuring Ratajczak. The company changed its name since and dropped VSEL, together with their “inventor”. But not the universities of Louisville and Warsaw.
Kawas’ new business
Remember Leen Kawas? Once America’s smartest biotech entrepreneur, who almost cured Alzheimer’s, then exposed as research cheater, made to resign as CEO of the company Athira Pharma she herself founded to market her fake science, with her PhD thesis and papers under misconduct investigation by the Washington State University?
Kawas, now with lots of spare time on her hands, spent some days prancing around as a champion of women in science, of environment, and why not, research quality, she set up a new business. A biotech investment consulting company, named Propel Bio Partners (propel them where, out into the stratosphere?).
A press release was issued on 18 March 2022:
“Propel, an equity investment firm, which was co-founded by investment veteran, Richard Kayne, and biotech entrepreneur, Leen Kawas, PhD, will target and support companies at various stages across the life science space. The Firm’s goal is to help founders and management teams fulfill the urgent mission to advance human health with disruptive therapies and technologies.
Kayne, founder and co-chair of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, brings significant business experience to Propel. Kawas, co-founder and former CEO of Athira Pharma, is an experienced biotech executive and entrepreneur with significant expertise in drug discovery, operations, clinical trial methodologies, regulatory frameworks and financing.
“I am proud to be partnering with Dr. Leen Kawas in this important new venture,” said Richard Kayne, Propel General Partner. “Leen is a visionary entrepreneur with a unique blend of drive, intelligence and demonstrated business acumen. In six short years, she built a company from the ground up, taking it through the early stages of drug development, through its public offering and into the final stages of developing its potentially game-changing therapy. Under Leen’s leadership, I believe Propel is uniquely positioned to identify excellent opportunities to assist entrepreneurs along the path to success.”
“I am looking forward to providing promising and passionate entrepreneurs the same opportunity that Ric Kayne and others gave to me when I started Athira,” said Dr. Leen Kawas, Propel Managing General Partner.”
Apparently, Kawas became a leader of a kind of religious cult who think she is a genius prophet and a saintly victim of a conspiracy. GeekWire tried to confront those involved with Kawas’ history of research cheating:
“Through a spokesperson, Athira declined to comment in response to GeekWire’s inquiry about Propel Bio.
A representative of Propel Bio said Kawas wasn’t conducting interviews in conjunction with the announcement.
In statements coinciding with the Propel Bio launch, several of those advising the firm or investing in the new fund made it clear that their involvement was an endorsement of Kawas as an entrepreneur, leader and scientist.
Fluke, the Athira board member, was effusive in response to GeekWire’s inquiry about his decision to invest.
“I am investing in Propel for the same reason I invested in Athira: I have the extensive tangible evidence that Leen will lead Propel to identify and fund the most promising medical technology enterprises that will, in turn, deliver astounding improvements in human healthcare — and deliver consistently superior returns to investors,” Fluke said via email.
The involvement of early Athira investors in Propel points to an undercurrent of dissatisfaction about the outcome of Kawas’ tenure as Athira CEO among her supporters, countered by a desire to see Athira reach its potential.”
Well, I presume Kawas is advising her Propel customers to invest into Cassava Sciences? They have a magic Alzheimer’s drug as well, based on science even faker than Kawas’ own, this is indeed apparently possible.
Sexual harasser sues critic
Michael Balter is a MeTooSTEM journalist who exposed many sexual harassers and bullies in academia, especially in anthropology, and he was also sued for his reporting.
Balter previously wrote that the Peruvian archaeologist and former culture minister Luis Jaime Castillo Butters is suing a peer, Marcela Poirier, because she reporting the findings of his sexual harassment and bullying finding to US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), where Castillo Butters is also a member. Balter now brings an update:
“After an investigation, the NAS rescinded Castillo’s membership, the first time an international member has been kicked out of the Academy.
Earlier, the sexual harassment commission of Castillo’s university, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, found the allegations to be supported by the evidence. However, the PUCP has taken no action against him, and he is still teaching there; even worse, the university has threatened to suspend students who protested and demanded that it take action.
The hearing in this case will be heard by the court in Lima, in an online session, on April 8. Marcela faces a possible 30 months in jail and and approximately $50,000 in damages, if the court decides to give Castillo what he is demanding. I will be one of the witnesses, testifying to the findings of my reporting on Castillo, which was based on the accounts of numerous survivors.
Fortunately, support for Marcela is building. The […] statement in her support was just published, signed by more than 100 organizations, feminist groups, and individuals.
Balter is serving as a witness for the accused in this trial. It’s all is too bizarre, because Castillo Butter should be the one facing jail. But I myself know too well how the law works.
French geniuses found a cure for COVID-19 induced loss of smell (anosmia), which is the Whole-Body Cryotherapy (WBC). But three months after publication, the clinical study was retracted, as Elisabeth Bik noticed. FDA has no high views on the efficiency of this method anyway, and instead warns of dangers.
This was the paper, published in an Mary Ann Liebert Inc journal, note its interesting title:
Fabien D. Legrand, Guillaume Polidori, Fabien Beaumont, Bastien Bouchet, Agnes Morin, Stephane Derruau, Esteban Brenet Whole-Body Cryotherapy as an Innovative Treatment for COVID 19-Induced Anosmia-Hyposmia: A Feasibility Study Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine (2022) doi: 10.1089/jicm.2021.0254
“Having secured University ethics clearance, a convenience sample of 32 women (mean age = 38, SD = 13 years) and 13 men (mean age = 42, SD = 16 years) with persistent anosmia or hyposmia after diagnosis of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection (positive reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test) volunteered to be involved and completed informed consent. All patients complained of persistent anosmia-hyposmia that occurred after COVID-19 infection. […]
During WBC sessions, participants were exposed to extremely low temperatures (−60°C to −110°C) in a double Cryoair chamber (MECOTEC, Pforzheim, Germany) for 3 min. They entered a vestibule chamber at −60°C where they stayed for about 30 sec of body adaptation before passing to a cryochamber at −110°C where they had to remain for 2 min ½. All subjects were minimally dressed: bathing suit, socks, clogs, headband, and surgical mask to avoid direct inhalation of cold air. Participants in the two WBC groups received detailed guidance on what actions to take in case of adverse events.
Smelling capacities were assessed at three points (pre-intervention, post-intervention, 1 week follow-up) by using self-reported VAS olfactory assessments (0–100), with “0” = complete less of smell and “100” = normal smelling ability.”
Even if the study was otherwise honest, you cannot test for smelling performance without a proper placebo control, especially with 15 participant trial arms, especially since you cannot have a placebo treatment for WBC.
Maybe it will work better if combined with hyperbaric oxygen, another high-tech quack cure for everything including COVID-19?
Also, for some reason the all-French team of authors from University of Reims retrospectively registered their study “in the Iranian Registry of Clinical Trials (identifier IRCT 20210708051817N1).” In Iran??
The retraction notice from on 16 March 2022 declared:
“The article […] is officially retracted at the request of the authors.
This request came after the paper had undergone full peer review, three rounds of revisions, acceptance, page proofs, and ultimately, online publication.
The Methods section of the published paper states that the study had “secured University ethics clearance…”1 but the authors explained that, “after re-discussion and internal reassessment, it appears clearly that this study required, according to French law, the approval of a specific committee known as the ‘[C]ommittee for the [P]rotection of [P]ersons (CPP)’ and not a simple ethical agreement. For this reason, [we] request, in good faith, that the article be retracted. We apologize for this delay in taking a position, but this study gave rise to a re-discussion with our peers of the methodology which led us to realize our error ‘a posteriori.’”
The authors’ respective institutions have been notified by the publisher.”
The first author Fabien Legrand openly admitted on PubPeer that he and his colleagues were actually forbidden to run this study but decided not to comply:
Thus, the French doctors decided to disregard the French medical laws, and to seek ethics approval from the only authority they accept which is themselves: i.e, “the Ethics Committee of the Société Française de Cryothérapie Corps Entier“. In this regard, Elisabeth Bik noted:
Maybe the Reims quacks were inspired by the similar attitude to medical ethics of Didier Raoult? It seems, there is even more trouble on the horizon for Legrand, because he added:
I wonder if there will be a criminal investigation. Oh wait, this is France.
Stem cells for COVID!
Hurry up before the company Stemology is shut down and dissolved. Seattle Times reports:
“A Seattle stem-cell therapy company was sued by the state attorney general’s office Monday for allegedly falsely marketing its procedures as treatments for COVID-19 and other medical conditions.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson named US Stemology, which runs the Seattle Stem Cell Center in Lower Queen Anne, and company owner Dr. Tami Meraglia in the lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court.
According to the complaint, US Stemology and Meraglia charged 107 patients for giving them “unproven” stem-cell treatments for COVID, diabetes, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other serious medical conditions. Some people were charged up to $10,000 out of pocket for participating in the clinic’s “patient funded research,” the complaint says.”
Dr Tami’s company started claiming to have a cure right when the pandemic started:
“The attorney general’s office began investigating the case at the beginning of the pandemic, when a Washington resident reported the company was making false claims about treating COVID.
One ad, for example, allegedly claimed that a critically ill COVID patient had recovered after receiving stem-cell treatments. In spring 2020, the company also called stem-cell treatment “your personalized ‘vaccine’ against getting sick with COVID-19,” the lawsuit says.
The attorney general’s office sent a cease-and-desist letter to US Stemology in June 2020, according to a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, but later found the company had also been claiming for years it could treat dozens of other conditions, including serious heart, autoimmune and neurological diseases, without reliable scientific evidence.
US Stemology’s treatment included using cells harvested from a patient’s own fat tissue in a procedure similar to liposuction, according to the lawsuit. Then, clinicians would “manufacture a product” from the patient’s cells and inject it into the patient to treat various diseases.”
Well, you laugh, but this same technology is on offer in Germany, right in my neighbourhood even, although so far not yet for COVID-19. But you can get treated for anti-aging, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, paraplegia and erectile dysfunction, and Prof Dr Dr Dr Stehling has not only several assumed degrees more than Dr Tami and all governmental approvals in place!
But if you insist on treating COVID-19, as well as autism by re-injecting fat cells from liposuction, there are Israeli doctors, who also happen to have clinical partners based in Germany!
I am telling you and the Seattle state prosecutor all this so you all understand that Dr Tami’s “stem cell” cures are independently validated by other
quacks genius scientists all over the world!
Surely you remember Ashutosh Tiwari, another research fraudster and entrepreneur, who almost made it to professor at Linköping University (LiU)? Our friend is still organising predatory conferences in Sweden, now in his big house in the tiny village of Ulrika near Linköping.
Also Mikael Syväjärvi, Tiwari’s business partner and another former LiU researcher moved to Ulrika to set up a business there, in Syväjarvi’s case it’s “ICM Research Institute“, which “purpose is to inspire freedom of research as way to achieve novel findings” with nanotechnology. For all we know he lives in Tiwari’s house or at least eats breakfast there.
While LiU was unable to rule on Tiwari’s and Syväjarvi’s scamference activities, it did manage to get rid of both of them. Tiwari and his former LiU mentor Tony Turner were found guilty of research misconduct 3 years ago, the latter was retired without emeritus status by force. These gentlemen just issued a correction in Scientific Reports:
Md. Ashaduzzaman, Swapneel R. Deshpande, N. Arul Murugan, Yogendra Kumar Mishra, Anthony P. F. Turner, Ashutosh Tiwari On/off-switchable LSPR nanoimmunoassay for troponin-T. Scientific Reports (2017) doi: 10.1038/srep44027
The Correction, issued on 3 March 2022, goes:
“This Article contains an error. During assembly of Figure 2 during revision of the manuscript, in the panel 2c(II) the Authors introduced an overlay background which is not part of the original image. For transparency, the original image, as recorded during the experiments, is shown below as Figure 1.
This change does not affect the conclusions of the Article.“
It seems, the “original image is also digitally manipulated. But you see, the journal did not have to retract this forgery because that paper got somehow exempt from investigation, the LiU investigators chose against requesting raw data, read here.
Regrading this 2017 publication, the investigative report stated:
“The complaint concerned an electron micrograph (Fig. 2C(II)) that has unmistakably been modified. The whistleblowers claimed that the image had been manipulated. There is one rectangular area at the top of the image and another rectangular area to the left which evidentially superimpose the original image.
The explanation for the edits, according to Tiwari and Turner, is that the rectangular areas were added for “cosmetic” reasons to make the image comparable in size, proportion and scale to Figs. 2B(I) and 2B(III). The original micrographs dated 28 Sept 2011, 11am-have been independently recovered from the TEM (CM20) file storage and the original image support the explanation given-that is, no significant information is added to or discarded from the original image. As a consequence, the article was taken off the investigation. […]
“Inspection of the original micrograph indicates that the superimposed rectangular areas added in the published article were most likely not added to mislead and do not in themselves affect the results of the article. Even so the investigation group finds the practice of modifying a scientific image without making appropriate comments in the text highly inappropriate and a deviation from good research practice. Even so, the actions do not constitute misconduct in research in the opinion of the investigation group.”
Scientific Reports concurred. No misconduct and conclusions not affected. I bet the editors also believe that the affiliation Tiwari and his partners provided in the Correction, “Institute of Advanced Materials, UCS, Teknikringen 4A, Mjärdevi Science Park, SE-58330, Linköping, Sweden” and “Vinoba Bhave Research Institute, Binda-Dhokri Road, Saidabad, Allahabad, 221508, India” are actual research centres and not Tiwari’s scams which only ever existed as mailboxes.
China wins science!
A genius study was published in a Springer Nature journal.
Caroline S. Wagner, Lin Zhang & Loet Leydesdorff A discussion of measuring the top-1% most-highly cited publications: quality and impact of Chinese papers Scientometrics (2022) doi: 10.1007/s11192-022-04291-z
Physics World explains what the clever authors found, prepare yourself, it’ll be funny:
“The quality of China’s scientific research output exceeded that of the US in 2019. That is according to a new analysis by researchers in the US, which also found that China had already overtaken the European Union in terms of research quality by 2015.
China’s total research output has grown rapidly in recent years, but there has been a widespread belief that the “quality” – judged by the number of citations papers receive – is not as high as other countries. A common measure of a nation’s research quality is the percentage of its papers appearing in the top 1% of the most-cited papers globally. Since citation practices vary widely across disciplines, researchers typically weight the citation data of papers according to their fields, before comparing countries’ scientific output. When comparing field-weighted citation data, the US has a higher percentage of research in the top 1% worldwide than China does.
Although this weighting practice makes sense when comparing papers from different fields, Caroline Wagner of Ohio State University argues that it is not appropriate when comparing the overall research outputs of different countries. Together with Lin Zhang of Wuhan University and Loet Leydesdorff of the University of Amsterdam, Wagner analysed citation data contained in the database Web of Science and used the unweighted data to quantify different countries’ research quality.
They found that 1.67% of papers with Chinese authors were in the top 1% most-cited articles in 2019 compared with 1.62% of papers with US authors.
Wagner believes that China’s rapidly rising scientific impact is due to its large-scale investments in research and development, scientific infrastructure and the mobility of students and scholars. She also points out that government policy has targeted leading areas of research.”
Basically, we cannot afford a papermill gap with China! And don’t forget to buy into a citation ring to boost the quality of your nation’s research!
Oh, and if you wonder how this passed peer review: one of the 3 authors, Lin Zhang, is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Scientometrics.
Springer Nature issued a correction for a very fraudulent cancer research study:
Martin P Barr, Steven G Gray, Kathy Gately, Emily Hams, Padraic G Fallon, Anthony Mitchell Davies, Derek J Richard, Graham P Pidgeon, Kenneth J O’Byrne Vascular endothelial growth factor is an autocrine growth factor, signaling through neuropilin-1 in non-small cell lung cancer Molecular cancer (2015) doi: 10.1186/s12943-015-0310-8
“Since the publication of this work  and in response to a recent query that was brought to our attention in relation to the Western Blot in Figure 1(C) for NP2, protein lysates prepared around the same time as those presented in the manuscript in question, were run by SDS-PAGE under similar experimental conditions and probed using the same primary antibodies to NP1 and NP2 that were used originally.”
“In addition, the identification of an error in the assembly of blots in Figure 4(B) for NP2 and β-actin proteins, excess protein lysates from the original experiments were run by SDS-PAGE under similar experimental conditions and probed using the same NP2 primary antibody. The results obtained were consistent with those reported in the original publication  and do not in any way change the data/conclusions from this particular experimental analysis.”
Basically, the publisher tell you that all these pixel-identical gel sections merely look similar. Who are you going to believe, Springer Nature or your own lying eyes? Of course, the raw data was obviously not requested because it doesn’t exist.
It’s not funny. The responsible last author is Kenneth O’Byrne, clinical oncology professor in Ireland and Australia who “has been involved in more than 200 Clinical Trials in his career including designing investigator-initiated, grant-funded Phase II and III studies.” I fear for the safety of his patients.
News in Tweets
- Welcome to the new Wiley and its new ethics, Corinna! Next time, don’t waste your time.
- Cheshire is apparently being threatened by Chinese papermill fraudsters with a ruler. Leave our fake paper alone, or you will feel this!
- Very detailed analysis by German scientists, but needs an update. Maybe academic oppression in Russia is even worse than in China now. And maybe the state of academic thought in Ukraine is not as bad as in Kazakhstan. Katrin Kinzelbach, Staffan I. Lindberg, Lars Pelke, and Janika Spannagel. 2022. Academic Freedom Index 2022 Update. FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg and V-Dem Institute. DOI: 10.25593/opus4-fau-18612
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It’s all nice and fun until you post a photo of your academic partners with a random, armed guy in the background.
I know I made this comment before but I can’t get over that guy casually holding a rifle on a “science meeting” picture.
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“5. Lacking Integrity
Integrity is among most essential traits of a leader. People should trust that their leader isn’t going to lie to them or cheat them out of money. If you aren’t trustworthy, then no one will follow you.”
Kawas and Trump disproved that lacking integrity is enough to fail in business. Really in the same category.
small correction needed at top: University of Louisville is in Kentucky but is different from University of Kentucky
CS is correct, the title really should be fixed.
Fixed now, thanks for correction to you all and sorry for the delay.
Change to University of Louisville (KY, USA). Although there is, of course, plenty of dysfunction, fraud, and Putinism at the University of Kentucky…notably, the Shi/Zhang affair….
“I think I am down one size after the cleanse”