Former KI rector Dahlman-Wright: stones in a glass house

Former KI rector Dahlman-Wright: stones in a glass house

The irony is rich. Just last month, the Swedish Karolinska Institutet (KI) announced the results of the investigation into papers by their former guest professor Paolo Macchiarini and his right-hand man Philipp Jungebluth. The two were found guilty of research misconduct and their plastic trachea transplant papers were set for retraction, where at least the journal The Lancet finally obliged (read here). Exemplary decision, but there is a snag: next to the ruthless trachea transplanters, other scientists were found guilty of misconduct, among them Karl-Henrik Grinnemo, one of the four original KI whistleblowers without whose brave actions there would have been no Macchiarini scandal. Two more whistleblowers were found “blameworthy” of negligence. Also KI professor Katarina Le Blanc was found guilty of misconduct, incidentally a whistleblower herself who reported severe ethics breaches in a different case of regenerative medicine and human research at KI two years ago. Finally, KI fingered the sacked UCL nanotechnologist Alexander Seifalian for research misconduct, using the very same shaky arguments the London university pulled off in its investigative report in 2017 (read here). The bizarre thing: back then UCL did not allow Seifalian to defend himself or to appeal against the accusations, and KI now did exactly same. He was served a misconduct verdict, but was denied by KI a right to testimony or appeal, which Macchiarini and his gang were granted generously and made ample use of.

The Macchiarini investigation was initiated in 2016 by the interim KI Vice-Chancellor (rector) Karin Dahlman-Wright and was completed this year by the newly installed Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen. The promised irony is that several Dahlman-Wright papers were now scrutinised by the pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis with the result that one wonders if Dahlman-Wright was the right person to supervise a research misconduct investigation. Here comes namely even more irony: that former interim rector and her successor Ottersen previously absolved the notorious KI group leader Helin Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg and her former PhD mentor, the KI professor Boris Zhivotovsky (read here), despite heavy evidence of manipulated data. Nine more professors were under misconduct investigation during Dahlman-Wright’s tenure (read here), and since we heard nothing yet, one can assume that all the duplicated and photoshopped data in their papers was also a misunderstanding which bears no relevance on the quality of their research. The Dahlman-Wright evidence I present below is heavy, but also Ottersen himself might be tainted: he is co-author on an old paper with a likely image duplication. Continue reading “Former KI rector Dahlman-Wright: stones in a glass house”

Latchman and Wohl Foundation: gifts that keep on giving

Latchman and Wohl Foundation: gifts that keep on giving

Imagine being so rich that not you are employed as rector by the university, it is your university whom you give money to, from the inherited charity trust you preside over. If such a precious rector had over 40 of his publications flagged for what definitely looks like grossly manipulated data, it would be simply stupidly irresponsible for the university to actually investigate that. And if they really had to investigate, the only sensible solution is to find the entire blame with someone else.

This is basically the situation of David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck, professor of genetics at UCL and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The scientist who was once again cleared of all suspicions of research misconduct, while his two subordinates took all the blame, for just 7 papers. Past and apparently even future evidence for all other dozens of papers Latchman co-authored was dismissed, which let my regular contributor Smut Clyde present some of it last month. Now Smut offers an extra serving of duplicated graphs of experimental kinetics, in a Latchman coda below.

Latchman is not your pedestrian scientist who does science as a job to earn a living. For the Master of Birkbeck is nephew of the late London property developer and philanthropist Maurice Wohl, who died childless. One can guess who is the likely heir to the immense wealth Maurice Wohl left, and indeed, Latchman is Chair of the over £100 Million-heavy Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, a charity which donates in no small part to healthcare and medical research in UK. Latchman’s own Birkbeck pays him a yearly salary of GBP 400k, one of the highest rector’s salaries in UK, yet the university received from Lathcman’s Wohl Foundation, according to these records between 2013 and 2016, over 5 Million British Pounds: Continue reading “Latchman and Wohl Foundation: gifts that keep on giving”

Another dead scientist framed with manipulated data?

Another dead scientist framed with manipulated data?

On 7 April 2010 the Spanish diabetes researcher Margarita Lorenzo, Professor of Biochemistry at the Complutense University in Madrid, died of metastatic melanoma, aged only 51. Two months after her death, Lorenzo’s colleagues submitted a paper to the journal Diabetes (published by American Diabetes Association), which was accepted for publication 4 weeks later. These colleagues, primarily the corresponding authors Sonia Fernandez-Veledo (now research group leader at IISPV in Tarragona) and Cristina Murga (now deputy director at CBMSO in Madrid), wrote in the paper’s acknowledgements:

“This work is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Margarita Lorenzo, who passed away April 7, 2010, at the age of 51”.

The paper, which studies the mechanisms of obesity and insulin resistance, seems to be full of manipulated western blot data. The only thing which is rather clear: the late Margarita Lorenzo didn’t do it. While she was dying of cancer, her colleagues advanced their careers using her reputation, but their own disreputable Photoshop skills. This shows too many uncanny parallels with another case in diabetology research, where some unscrupulous scientists at Weizmann Institute in Israel urinated on the grave of their dying colleague, by placing manipulated western blots into his last papers. That scientist was Ofer Lider, and he died of cancer (leukaemia) at 49, a similar age as Margarita Lorenzo. Obituaries were written by those responsible for the publishing of rigged research, in both cases.

Continue reading “Another dead scientist framed with manipulated data?”

Gothenburg to sack Sumitran-Holgersson, requests 7 retractions

Gothenburg to sack Sumitran-Holgersson, requests 7 retractions

The travesty around the data faking regenerative medicine enthusiast Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson is finally over. Her Swedish employer University of Gotheburg (GU) announced yesterday to have opened labour law proceedings against her, with the expressed goal of her dismissal as university professor. No appeal is possible anymore, and her loyal GU supporters Elias Eriksson and Kristoffer Hellstrand can now take a rest from nearly 10 years of lobbying, obstructing and bullying everyone involved in the misconduct investigations of their dear colleague. On top, retractions of 7 Sumitran-Holgersson publications were requested by the GU rector.

Sumitran-Holgersson, formerly a Karolinska Institutet researcher, survived a misconduct investigation by the Swedish Research Council from 2009-2011, because her friends achieved a dismissal of all damning evidence of data manipulation on formality grounds; the two investigators themselves ended up threatened with lawsuits. The newly appointed GU professor only had to retract one paper. In early 2016, when the regenerative medicine scandal around Paolo Macchiarini exploded in Sweden, PubPeer evidence of image manipulations was posted en masse (including by certain readers of my site) about Sumitran-Holgersson’s work in the field. That prompted a new misconduct investigation by GU and the Swedish Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN). In spring 2016, Sumitran-Holgersson saw her funding frozen and her paper retracted, which reported an unethical Macchiarini-style trachea transplant, likely responsible for the death of that patient. That work was performed together with GU surgeon Michael Olausson, with whom Sumitran-Holgersson also developed bioengineered blood vessels which they tested on children without proper ethics approvals. For that, both were found guilty of misconduct one year later, in March 2017. Which not only still didn’t cost Sumitran-Holgersson her job as GU professor: her own business Verigraft was right after awarded €2.3 mn by the EU Commission under Horizon 2020, based on her papers tainted with data manipulations and severe ethics breaches. The money was earmarked by excited EU bureaucrats to market and bring that very same blood vessel graft technology into a large clinical trial; in this regard please read the excellent investigation for my site by Sophia Tibblin. Olausson’s own misconduct activities in the area of regenerative medicine and especially trachea transplantation served as his qualification to advice the Swedish State Prosecutor to drop manslaughter charges against Macchiarini in October 2017.

In March 2018, both Sumitran-Holgersson and Olausson were found guilty of misconduct once again, this time it was about data manipulation flagged on PubPeer 2 years before. Retractions of 8 papers was recommended by the CEPN decision, which GU now largely upheld in the rector’s yesterday’s announcement, with the difference that now all co-authors were freed of suspicions of misconduct. Update 7.07.2018: That was because GU’s (now updated) good scientific practice rules of the time did not sanction negligence, of which Michael Olausson and Jan Holgersson (Suchitra’s husband, also professor at GU and Chairman of Verigraft) were found guilty of, but with no disciplinary consequences.

For the indestructible Sumitran-Holgersson though it is now the end of the road. Continue reading “Gothenburg to sack Sumitran-Holgersson, requests 7 retractions”

Karolinska requests retraction of Macchiarini and Jungebluth papers

Karolinska requests retraction of Macchiarini and Jungebluth papers

Today the Swedish Karolinska Institutet (KI) will announce its decision about 6 papers of their former professor and surgeon, Paolo Macchiarini. This article will be updated accordingly. Update 14:00: a decision was published, all 6 papers are to be retracted, 7 scientists found guilty of misconduct.

The background: On 30 October 2017, Swedish Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN) requested that 6 publications by Macchiarini and co-authors, all authored while at KI, are to be retracted, in a press release and a statement I received, in English original. The decision was based on the expert review by Martin Björck, professor of surgery at University of Uppsala, and Detlev Ganten, professor emeritus of pharmacology and former CEO of the Charité university hospital in Berlin, Germany, their report is available here on my site. The two experts found Macchiarini and his former acolyte and right-hand man Philipp Jungebluth guilty of breaching the Nuremberg Code of 1947 and Helsinki declaration, which forbid unethical and dangerous medical research on humans. One of those papers set for retraction is Jungebluth et al Lancet 2011, where a patient from Iceland was tricked to subject himself to a deadly experiment with a never before tested plastic trachea (that issue lead to a major investigation in Iceland and now is even about to be addressed by the Icelandic parliament).

Judging from last week’s email by Jungebluth to KI which I quote below, a call for retraction is expected.

Continue reading “Karolinska requests retraction of Macchiarini and Jungebluth papers”

Attack of the Photoclones: Sharma-Madhuri Prequel

Attack of the Photoclones: Sharma-Madhuri Prequel

Smut Clyde is a natural force I insidiously chose to harvest and unleash upon the worst cheaters of the research community. His previous contribution to my site, about the nanotechnology Photoshoppers Prashant Sharma and Rashmi Madhuri, flushed several promising  academic careers down the toilet, quite deservingly so. Both are under institutional investigation and public ridicule, the list of their retractions grows steadily (presently at 15 retracted papers), with no end in sight (Sharma and Madhuri however try to compensate their losses by publishing new papers in Elsevier, e.g. here & here). Indian scientists even set up a Change petition, asking the Indian Government to deal with the research fraud at the Indian School of Mines (ISM) in Dhanbad.

A former partner of Sharma from Allahabad, Ashutosh Tiwari was exposed by readers of that Smut Clyde article, which awarded that fake professor from Sweden with his own string of my reporting. Tiwari saw his predatory conference and publishing business going down the drain, while the Sharma and Madhuri papers he edited and co-authored for a special Elsevier series were retracted.

Towards Chemistry World Sharma declined to comment beyond observing that he’s ‘just a co-author on some of those papers’“.

Madhuri, before she went silent, declared to an Indian journalist:

“We would like to mention that all our articles are published in very reputed journals, after a very rigorous and transparent review process, adopted by the concerned journals. The referees and editorial board have approved our work and published them.

“Merely by inspecting the images one cannot draw inferences that are outcome of very carefully designed and performed experiments. Therefore, it is very unscientific to comment that the images are morphed or photo-shopped, whereas all the related data and supporting files are still in possession of authors, which can be crosschecked by competent authorities, if required.”

Now, Smut Clyde presents the Prequel to that story, namely the tale of Madhuri’s PhD advisor, Bhim Bali Prasad, professor in the department of chemistry in Banaras Hindu University in India. He is the senior who apparently still make up his data in the traditional artisan way: by pencil. We shall now learn where Madhuri learned her skills. Grab popcorn, and enjoy the show!

Continue reading “Attack of the Photoclones: Sharma-Madhuri Prequel”

Edinburgh breaks silence to announce Stancheva retractions

Edinburgh breaks silence to announce Stancheva retractions

In October 2017, I brought an exclusive story of a mysterious sacking at the University of Edinburgh. The molecular biologist and epigenetics researcher Irina Stancheva was removed from her post as senior lecturer at the Scottish university, in total secret, all online traces of her employment rapidly deleted (even a promo video on Vimeo), her freshly obtained graduate school money redistributed to her faculty colleagues. The journal Nucleic Acid Research (NAR) soon after silently removed Stancheva as its Executive Editor. Still, I was able to gather some information, including leaked emails from Stancheva’s Head of Department David Gray (read here), but mysteriously no other media covered the story. Either heavily funded senior lecturers get sacked in Edinburgh on a weekly basis, or the university holds the newspapers in a vice grip in the Stancheva case. All my attempt at freedom of Information (FOI) were rejected by University of Edinburgh. There is a lot to hide: Stancheva is a third generation Edinburgh elite biologist: academic daughter of Professor of Human Genetics Richard Meehan and academic granddaughter of Meehan’s mentor, Professor of Genetics and Nobel Prize candidate Adrian Bird. Both Edinburg professors are co-authors on Stancheva’s papers flagged on PubPeer.

Now, after 8 months of silence, I received out of the blue an email from the same data protection officer who used to deny telling me the time of the day, with a list of Stancheva papers about to be retracted. The list follows below.

Continue reading “Edinburgh breaks silence to announce Stancheva retractions”