University of Strasbourg. The half-a-millennium-old German-founded alma mater of French science and learning. Where the great plant science cheater Olivier Voinnet did his magic at the CNRS’ Institut de biologie moléculaire des plantes (IBMP) before he got stranded as professor at ETH Zürich in Switzerland. I wrote a lot about Voinnet, and I wrote a lot about his cheating colleagues at IBMP, including its director Laurence Drouard. But it seems, everything at the University of Strasbourg is rotten, not just plant science.
Much of French media and academia, and certainly also the international plant science community now debates a hot conspiracy theory: what if Olivier Voinnet is actually innocent, a visionary genius who fell prey to a conspiracy of fraudulent colleagues and scheming bureaucrats? I discuss here the widespread dishonesty and data manipulation among Voinnet’s co-authors and…
On March 8, an international scientific review board will be evaluating the research at the French CNRS Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes (IBMP) in Strasbourg. This is the place where the former star (and now misconduct-tainted pariah) of plant sciences Olivier Voinnet shot to fame, where his main lab operated since 2002 until he was…
Strasbourg is so parochial that professorships are inherited there along the academic bloodline based on garbage science. IBMP provides a good example. The research director Marie-Edith Chabouté inherited her position from her retired mentor Anne-Catherine Schmitt, for Chaboute’s qualifications see this example of their joint paper:
Natacha Janski , Kinda Masoud , Morgane Batzenschlager , Etienne Herzog, Jean-Luc Evrard, Guy Houlné, Mickael Bourge, Marie-Edith Chabouté, Anne-Catherine Schmitt The GCP3-interacting proteins GIP1 and GIP2 are required for γ-tubulin complex protein localization, spindle integrity, and chromosomal stability The Plant Cell (2012) doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.094904
The co-author Jean-Luc Evrard used to be vice-director of IBMP and he also used to send me nasty messages to discourage me from reporting on the fraud at IBMP. As it happens, Chaboute’s PhD student Alexandre Berr is currently IBMP’s uncommunciative PR person and a designated heir to his mentor’s lab once she retires. Chaboute managed to avoid any journal action on the above Plant Cell paper, fixed another fraudulent study at Frontiers (Batzenschlager et al 2013) with a correction, but another paper got retracted. It was just way too fake:
Laetitia Paganelli , Marie‐Cécile Caillaud , Michaël Quentin , Isabelle Damiani , Benjamin Govetto , Philippe Lecomte , Pavel A. Karpov , Pierre Abad , Marie‐Edith Chabouté , Bruno Favery Three BUB 1 and BUBR 1/ MAD 3‐related spindle assembly checkpoint proteins are required for accurate mitosis in Arabidopsis The New phytologist (2015)doi: 10.1111/nph.13073
Although, to be fair, the fraud was likely committed in Bruno Flavery‘s lab at the University of Côté d’Azur, as the retraction notice mentioned:
So before you run off to the sunny Mediterranean coast and start discussing the fraud in Marseille even, we return to Strasbourg.
Of course also spouses and other relatives get provided for. Meet Monsieur and Madame Egly of the University of Strasbourg, both cancer researchers at the CNRS-INSERM Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC) who have lovely PubPeer records: 15 papers for the Cécile Rochette-Egly, and only 6 (but quality) entries for Jean-Marc Egly. Here an example for the Madame:
Martin Bommer , Arndt Benecke , Hinrich Gronemeyer, Cécile Rochette-Egly TIF2 mediates the synergy between RARalpha 1 activation functions AF-1 and AF-2 The Journal of biological chemistry (2002) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m206001200
The above JBC paper was with Germans, this one with Italians, but just as rigged:
Maurizio Gianní , Anne Tarrade , Elisa Agnese Nigro , Enrico Garattini , Cécile Rochette-Egly The AF-1 and AF-2 domains of RAR gamma 2 and RXR alpha cooperate for triggering the transactivation and the degradation of RAR gamma 2/RXR alpha heterodimers The Journal of biological chemistry (2003) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m304952200
This one isn’t trustworthy either:
Maurizio Giannì , Annie Bauer , Enrico Garattini, Pierre Chambon , Cécile Rochette-Egly Phosphorylation by p38MAPK and recruitment of SUG-1 are required for RA-induced RAR gamma degradation and transactivation The EMBO Journal (2002) doi: 10.1093/emboj/cdf374
Madame Egly mumbled something nonsensical on PubPeer about “did not reimmunoblotted“, and added:
The husband, who is known in Strasbourg for a somewhat violent personality, showed himself however very polite by commenting on PubPeer about this paper:
Emmanuel Compe , Pascal Drané , Camille Laurent , Karin Diderich , Cathy Braun , Jan H. J. Hoeijmakers, Jean-Marc Egly Dysregulation of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor target genes by XPD mutations Molecular and Cellular Biology (2005) doi: 10.1128/mcb.25.14.6065-6076.2005
Monsieur Egly posted some freshly cooked data and informed everyone:
He did same on other PubPeer threads. Of course, no corrections were issued, for neither of Eglys (except once in 2017, for Cassinat et al 2011). In Strasbourg, nobody cares anyway.
As it happens, Monsieur Egly collaborated with the Greek fraudster Maria Fousteri, and together with her very influential former mentor Jesper Svejstrup he made sure their common paper (Anindya et al Molecular Cell 2010) was not retracted despite requests from the investigating Dutch university.
Two and a half years after Maria Fousteri was found guilty of scientific misconduct by her former employer, the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), exactly nothing at all happened. ERC and Molecular Cell ignored LUMC letters from June 2016, while Fouster’s British co-authors interfered to save own papers. Of 4 scheduled retractions, none took place.
Now, meet Jean-Philippe Loeffler, neuroscience professor at the University of Strasbourg and research director at the U692 INSERM institute. Like Egly, Loeffler graduated in Strasbourg and only once temporarily left the university for a postdoc abroad. Loeffler does research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and gives hope to many suffering patients. Apparently, this incurable degenerative disease can be easily treated, just like cancer: with Photoshop!
For example, this PNAS paper was flagged on PubPeer in autumn 2018. It was editorially handled by the above-mentioned Strasbourg professor Pierre Chambon, because back then PNAS didn’t believe in conflicts of interests.
Luc Dupuis, Hugues Oudart , Frédérique Rene , Jose-Luis Gonzalez De Aguilar , Jean-Philippe Loeffler Evidence for defective energy homeostasis in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: benefit of a high-energy diet in a transgenic mouse model Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2004) doi: 10.1073/pnas.0402026101
Luc Dupuis, by now a group leader at the INSERM U1118 institute at the University of Strasbourg, commented in November 2018:
To prove his point Depuis posted enlargements of published figures (extremely low-resolution, and even that unconvincingly), because he wasn’t inclined to share the original data:
OK then. I asked Depuis for the raw data. He just didn’t reply.
Because of course the figures in this paper are manipulated. There was more:
Dupuis went quiet. He also didn’t comment on this paper:
Luc Dupuis , Franck Di Scala , Frédérique Rene, Marc De Tapia , Hugues Oudart , Pierre-François Pradat , Vincent Meininger , Jean-Philippe Loeffler Up‐regulation of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 reveals an early muscular metabolic defect in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis The FASEB Journal (2003) doi: 10.1096/fj.02-1182fje
Neither Loeffler nor Dupuis replied to emails. Silence on PubPeer also:
Franck Di Scala , Luc Dupuis , Christian Gaiddon , Marc De Tapia , Natasa Jokic , Jose-Luis Gonzalez De Aguilar , Jean-Sébastien Raul , Bertrand Ludes , Jean-Philippe Loeffler Tissue specificity and regulation of the N-terminal diversity of reticulon 3 The Biochemical journal (2005) doi: 10.1042/bj20040458
I did exchange some emails with Loeffler’s PhD student Violaine Sée (now professor at the University of Lyon), who promised to investigate. The situation is serious:
Violaine Sée , Jean-Philippe Loeffler Oxidative stress induces neuronal death by recruiting a protease and phosphatase-gated mechanism The Journal of biological chemistry (2001) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m104988200
Another paper, in the same once very ethically-minded journal JBC, again from Loeffler lab:
Corinne Mbebi , Violaine Sée , Luc Mercken , Laurent Pradier , Ulrike Müller , Jean-Philippe Loeffler Amyloid precursor protein family-induced neuronal death is mediated by impairment of the neuroprotective calcium/calmodulin protein kinase IV-dependent signaling pathway The Journal of biological chemistry (2002) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m107948200
Loeffler also collaborated with other interesting Strasbourg researchers: the neuroscience professor Jean-Christophe Cassel, and his former PhD student, current lab co-director (and likely his partner), Anne-Laurence Boutillier. This couple also didn’t reply to my email when I asked for a comment about their joint papers on PubPeer. Here one with Loeffler, the digital gel lane splicing makes the whole figure unreliable:
Olivier Bousiges , Romain Neidl , Monique Majchrzak , Marc-Antoine Muller , Alexandra Barbelivien , Anne Pereira De Vasconcelos , Anne Schneider , Jean-Philippe Loeffler , Jean-Christophe Cassel , Anne-Laurence Boutillier Detection of histone acetylation levels in the dorsal hippocampus reveals early tagging on specific residues of H2B and H4 histones in response to learning PLoS ONE (2013) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057816
Here we have See again as co-author, and it seems AL Boutillier brought her sister Stephanie with her.
Irina Panteleeva , Stéphanie Boutillier , Violaine See, Dave G Spiller, Caroline Rouaux, Geneviève Almouzni, Delphine Bailly, Christèle Maison, Helen C Lai , Jean-Philippe Loeffler , Anne-Laurence Boutillier HP1alpha guides neuronal fate by timing E2F-targeted genes silencing during terminal differentiation The EMBO Journal (2007) doi: 10.1038/sj.emboj.7601789
Another one, similar set of authors:
Irina Panteleeva , Caroline Rouaux , Yves Larmet , Stéphanie Boutillier , Jean-Philippe Loeffler , Anne-Laurence Boutillier HDAC-3 Participates in the Repression ofe2f-Dependent Gene Transcription in Primary Differentiated Neurons Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2004) doi: 10.1196/annals.1329.076
Emmanuelle Trinh , Anne-Laurence Boutillier , Jean-Philippe Loeffler Regulation of the retinoblastoma-dependent Mdm2 and E2F-1 signaling pathways during neuronal apoptosis Molecular and cellular neurosciences (2001) doi: 10.1006/mcne.2000.0928
Much of the evidence you saw was originally posted on PubPeer by the pseudonymous sleuth Clare Francis. It seems they stumbled over Loeffler in 2015 when looking at the papers of a certain cheating US scientist, Carol Prives, professor at the Columbia University. Prives in turn collaborated with the Spanish zombie scientist Susana Gonzalez, another one of Clare Francis’ “customers”:
Recent news brought us yet another retraction of the Spanish zombie scientist Susana Gonzalez, formerly famous for her impactful ERC-funded research into stem cells and ageing. It is her fifth retraction (others here), and meanwhile Gonzalez is not even a zombie scientist anymore. She has no research group in her new Madrid institute, noone in…
As it happens, Prives is the ex-wife of the US scientist Joav Prives, who in turn then betrothed Dafna Bar-Sagi, who in turn recently almost got a new job for the sacked sexual predator and mTOR cheater David Sabatini. Science is a village, and the crooks and their enablers form their own little sub-villages there.
“The Plaintiff is Professor Sabatini […] the self-described powerful senior scientist, who had demanded sex of her when she was a graduate student ending her studies and about to start a fellowship at the Whitehead, in a program Sabatini would direct. […] And it is the man who had made it clear – throughout her…
Anyway, here is Prives’ paper with Loeffler and their fudged figure. The first author is Prives’ former postdoc and now professor in Strasbourg: Christian Gaiddon. He has a PubPeer record while promising to cure cancer (“From the molecule to the patient“).
Christian Gaiddon, Maria Lokshin , Isabelle Gross , Danielle Levasseur , Yoichi Taya , Jean-Philippe Loeffler , Carol Prives Cyclin-dependent kinases phosphorylate p73 at threonine 86 in a cell cycle-dependent manner and negatively regulate p73 The Journal of biological chemistry (2003) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m300251200
From Prives, Clare Francis diversified not only to Loeffler, but to Isabelle Gross, another INSERM researcher in Strasbourg who graduated under the Strasbourg professor Jean-Noël Freund. With science like this, also Gaiddon is involved:
Isabelle Gross, Benoit Lhermitte Claire Domon-Dell, Isabelle Duluc , Elisabeth Martin , Christian Gaiddon, Michele Kedinger , Jean-Noël Freund Phosphorylation of the homeotic tumor suppressor Cdx2 mediates its ubiquitin-dependent proteasome degradation Oncogene (2005) doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208945
There is more Gross stuff on PubPeer. Here for example, a paper by Gaiddon, Gross and Loeffler:
Samir Benosman , Xiangjun Meng , Yannick Von Grabowiecki , Lavinia Palamiuc , Lucian Hritcu , Isabelle Gross , Georg Mellitzer , Yoichi Taya , Jean-Philippe Loeffler , Christian Gaiddon Complex regulation of p73 isoforms after alteration of amyloid precursor polypeptide (APP) function and DNA damage in neurons The Journal of biological chemistry (2011) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m111.261271
Here another one:
S Benosman , I Gross , N Clarke , A G Jochemsen , K Okamoto , J-P Loeffler , C Gaiddon Multiple neurotoxic stresses converge on MDMX proteolysis to cause neuronal apoptosis Cell Death & Differentiation (2007) doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4402216
None of these Loeffler papers is being retracted or even corrected. This is because the networks are working and because the University of Strasbourg protects fraud. Money doesn’t stink. They didn’t even care that Loeffler went to a predatory OMICS conference some years ago.
All that’s asked of the cheaters is to be more careful with their newer papers, i.e. not to get caught on duplicated pictures anymore, and even with such simple task these people occasionally fail. Here, by Mme Egly:
Maurizio Gianni , Mineko Terao , Mami Kurosaki , Gabriela Paroni , Laura Brunelli , Roberta Pastorelli , Adriana Zanetti , Monica Lupi , Andrea Acquavita , Marco Bolis , Maddalena Fratelli , Cecile Rochette-Egly , Enrico Garattini S100A3 a partner protein regulating the stability/activity of RARα and PML-RARα in cellular models of breast/lung cancer and acute myeloid leukemia Oncogene (2019) doi: 10.1038/s41388-018-0599-z
To round up the Strasbourg experience, here a story about Voinnet’s former boss, the IBMP director Laurence Maréchal-Drouard. You may have read it before in Shorts.
She has 18 of problematic papers on PubPeer, even occasional PhD dissertations under her supervision contain manipulated data. Especially the thesis of Thalia Salinas, who not only made it to the position of tenured IBMP researcher, but also as wife of the current adjunct director of IBMP, Philippe Giegé, who will soon succeed Drouard as the new IBMP director. Which is just as good, because Drouard is definitely not happy about her duty of teaching all IBMP PhD students research integrity in special courses (yep, she has to do that).
A 2014 publication from the lab of Laurence Maréchal-Drouard, director of CNRS IBMP institute in Strasbourg, seems to contain evidence of inappropriate data manipulation. Other versions of this problematic figure appear in 2 PhD dissertations supervised by Drouard
When I first started digging into the affair of data manipulations around the former star of plant sciences Olivier Voinnet in early 2015, I was sure to be dealing with a singular case of fraud in French science, which went totally unnoticed for decades. When 2 years later I wrote “a fish stinks from the head down” in my…
When in 2018 CNRS set up a central research integrity office in the wake of the affairs of Voinnet, former CNRS chief biologist Catherine Jessus and former CNRS president Anne Peyroche, I used the opportunity to report Drouard for suspect research misconduct. The head of the new CNRS research integrity office, the physicist Rémy Mosseri, accepted my dossier and opened an investigation.
That was my report on the Drouard case:
Here an example:
Thalia Salinas, Cécile Schaeffer , Laurence Maréchal-Drouard, Anne-Marie Duchêne Sequence dependence of tRNA(Gly) import into tobacco mitochondria Biochimie (2005) doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2005.04.004
Mosseri wrote his own report, and in January 2020 he submitted it to the CNRS President Antoine Petit (the one who planned to deploy secret service technology to find out the identities of the “assholes” commenting on PubPeer).
An update to the ongoing cartoon Stalinism propaganda and purge activities at the EU largest research institution, the French CNRS, in the wake of the affair around manipulated data of CNRS chief biologist Catherine Jessus, according to their press release an innocent “victim” of my “slanderous” and “unscientific” blogging. First of all, a reliable source…
In October 2020, Mosseri told me:
Gosh, what punishment did Petit design for Drouard? Well, for starters, she got a new research grant in 2021.
And on 29 March 2022, on orders from CNRS President Petit personally, Drouard received a promotion from DR1 to DRCE (directeur de recherche de classe exceptionnelle), in the First Echelon no less. She is now officially France’s exceptional scientist, paid the highest salary. And all not despite but because her research papers are fake.
Now you probably think, well, what a rotten place Strasbourg is. I now must admit to have misinformed you. It’s not just Strasbourg which is problematic. It’s all of French academia. With the big cases like Didier Raoult in Marseille and Guido Kromer in Paris, the former French Minister for Research, Frédérique Vidal, and all the smaller cheaters all over the country, most of whom remain somehow protected one way or another. In the end, one cheating hand washes the other, as the Catherine Jessus affair proved.
Charles-Henri Lecellier is about to get promoted to CNRS research director 2nd class. Time to dig up old stories and let the ghosts rise to wash their dirty laundry.
Vive La France.
Note: some of the material was previously published on For Better Science.
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