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”

Cancerous Statistics, by Alla Astakhova

Cancerous Statistics, by Alla Astakhova

Russian officials found an ingenious way to cure cancer and to impress their autocratic president Putin: they simply rig statistics. More people die of cancer than actually officially suffer from it. Elsewhere, dead patients disappear or, according to statistics, live forever. This was reported by the Russian independent health journalist Alla Astakhova on her site, Status Praesens, based on an open letter by the oncologist Vakhtang Merabishvili she published. My site now brings you a translation of a related Astakhova article, which covered last year’s lecture by Merabishvili about the rigged Russian cancer statistics.

And these are truly impressively false. While Europe shows for stage IV cancer sufferers a one-year mortality rate of between 30 and 40 percent (in some countries over 50%), Russia achieved a medical sensation: less than 20% die! Also for stages I and II cancer patients, Russian bureaucrats were able to show excellent health improvements. The current Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova proudly announced to Putin that the early cancer detection rate in Russia is amazing 70%. Yet even the rigged official data shows actually 55% on average (and is higher in more corrupt regions of Russia). In reality, once one does the counting properly, according to international standards, the early cancer detection rate lies between 30 and 35 percent. Same minister Skvortsova recently promised  to raise the life expectancy of Russians to 120, which is impressive given that the current one is around 70. Maybe just for Putin (65), to make sure someone watches over Russia for the next 50 years. It is also a quite convenient excuse for the Russian government to raise the entry into pension age. If you are promised to live till 120, don’t complain if you are told to work till 70 or longer (Russian life expectancy with men is 67).

Russian officials, while promoting their so-called “family values” in a desperate attempt to raise the rapidly declining child births, pretend in their cancer statistics that the population is not ageing at all. Which is convenient, because if you don’t expect an increase of age-related cancers, you do not have to invest in oncology care.

Continue reading “Cancerous Statistics, by Alla Astakhova”

Zauli and University of Ferrara announce libel suit, criminal prosecution against me

Zauli and University of Ferrara announce libel suit, criminal prosecution against me

My report from just a week ago, about the data irregularities in papers from Italian  haematologist and cancer researcher Giorgio Zauli provoked a response of a legal threat, of both criminal and civil prosecution. Zauli is namely rector of the University of Ferrara, and he issued this threat in this official capacity, acting for his Italian university. I was already made aware of Zauli’s threats of suing me from a first-hand source, and my site was indeed accessed by Italian State prosecutor’s office the day after I published my article about Zauli’s flawed cytometry and other problematic data in research papers he mostly co-authored with Ferrara’s Head of Department, Paola Secchiero. This letter from Zauli below, which reached me today per certified mail, is the more bizarre due to the fact the university denied any knowledge of Zauli’s legal threats (see the update here).

In any case, here is the letter, on the headed paper of the University of Ferrara, which even paid the postage. Zauli and his university apparently assume that their research publications and public institutional profiles are personal data, protected by EU privacy regulations. Maybe rector Zauli is confused at to where the Latin-derived word “publications” comes from. It’s from “public” and certainly not from “pubic”, hence definitely not his sphere of personal privacy. Though his publications could profit from some data integrity hygiene. In any case, the Ethics Commission of University of Ferrara will convene on June 1st to decide what to do about the publicly available PubPeer evidence I reported about. The scanned original is here. Please disseminate widely. Continue reading “Zauli and University of Ferrara announce libel suit, criminal prosecution against me”

Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret

Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret

Cardiff University is very proud of its collaboration with manufacturer of Traditional Chinese Medicine Yiling Pharmaceuticals, while the money it brings in is largely a private issue between the two business partners. Unfortunately Cardiff’s surgery and tumour biology professor Wen Jiang, Fellow of Royal Society of Medicine, is at the centre of an affair about data manipulation in his papers, and about criticisms of peddling Yiling’s TCM concoction of ginseng, dried fungus, chicken gizzard and crushed cockroach as a Cardiff University-certified cancer cure, all involuntarily sponsored by the Welsh public and charity Cancer Research Wales. This is why the university threw their own damning internal investigative report out of the window, and had three poorly qualified experts declare Jiang innocent of any data manipulation in his cell biology papers. Cardiff University issued then a press release accusing me personally of having slandered Jiang with false allegations of misconduct.

After having mulled another one of my Freedom of Information (FOI) inquiries for a month, this time a request for the investigative report, Cardiff University declared that their whitewashing opus is secret, because:

“the formal investigation has not upheld the allegations of misconduct and to further distribute this report would be an unnecessary invasion of the privacy of the individual involved”.

Continue reading “Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret”

Flawed cytometry of Rector Giorgio Zauli

Flawed cytometry of Rector Giorgio Zauli

Giorgio Zauli is Italian clinical haematologist and cancer researcher, who used to be director of Burlo Garofolo Pediatric Institute in Trieste, till in 2015 he was appointed Rector of the respected University of Ferrara. In this position he might soon be investigating his own papers, because given the massive evidence uncovered by the pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis and others, Zauli seems to become a second Alfredo Fusco, and given his Rector status, probably just as unshakable. In Italy, science and politics are unhealthily interconnected, as demonstrated by the deadly scandal of Paolo Macchiarini in Florence. In any case, the list of gross irregularities in Zauli’s papers on PubPeer grows daily.

Zauli’s impressive publishing record consists of almost 200 first- and last-author papers in prestigious journals and his h-index bears the impressive size of 57. Some of this academic output, largely co-authored by his close associate and head of his department in Ferrara, Paola Secchiero (h-index 41), was achieved by their rather questionable attitude to data integrity. Of course we have the usual: western blots with duplicated gel lanes and bands re-appearing in several figures and papers, standing in for different experiments and even different patients. This article however will focus on Zauli’s flow cytometry studies, and how such data in his publications apparently got manipulated in a way which is supposed to provide deniability should the authors ever be caught.

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The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin

The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin

On the Iberian peninsula, there seems to be a tradition to give well-connected scientists suspected (or even convinced) of data fudging an award. In Spain, Carlos López-Otín, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo, was given a Mentoring Award from the elite journal Nature, on recommendation from Spanish academia and despite evidence of data irregularities in his papers. This prompted my readers, in particular the famous pseudonymous data integrity sleuth Clare Francis, to comment on on PubPeer and on my site (as “Zebedee”) with additional evidence, which made Lopez-Otin’s scientific credibility look progressively worse and worse, with each new post.

Eventually, an image of a Northern blot (showing expression of mRNAs which code for proteins) was found to appear recurrently across several papers from that Oviedo lab, where the authors pretended it was a newly produced analysis. In reality, it was a “library” loading control reused so the authors could re-run same RNA gel of human tissue lysates over the years and never check ever again what they have actually loaded on their gels. Eventually Lopez-Otin et al even stopped caring what order of samples that original loading control had.

Clare Francis was soon joined on his quest for the Perennial Northern Blot of Oviedo by Elisabeth Bik, famous microbiology blogger and image duplication detective, and my regular contributor (also pseudonymous) Smut Clyde, who now presents you the findings of no less than 23 appearances of that same northern blot in 23 publications from Lopez-Otin’s lab in the guest post below. It is just as convincing as if the Spanish actor Antonio Banderas appeared in 23 different films still dressed in same costume from his 1995 hit Desperado, carrying same guitar case. Incidentally, also Lopez-Otin’s Perennial Northern Blot made its first appearance at around that year.
Continue reading “The Perennial Northern Blot of Lopez-Otin”

Salk Gandalf Tony Hunter gets AACR prize for magic western blots

Salk Gandalf Tony Hunter gets AACR prize for magic western blots

Gandalf the Wizard has been awarded €75k in cash and Pezcoller-AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research, for his magical western blots, where gel bands multiply under his spell to summon a bigger impact factor. Well, maybe not that Gandalf, but the bearded gel wizard Tony Hunter, of prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Studies (where impure womenfolk is not welcome) in San Diego, California, USA. On April 15th, Hunter will be giving a lecture at the annual meeting  of American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Chicago, and then go to beautiful Trento in Italy to pick up his award. All because of those western blots of his, which repetitive enchanted beauty was spotted by the image integrity sleuth Clare Francis and then posted on PubPeer. It was in fact Clare Francis who wrote to me to accuse Tony Hunter of being Gandalf The Wizard.

A breathlessly sycophantic article in San Diego Union Tribune described Hunter as “superstar” of 50 years productivity, congratulated him on his new Nature paper and the cash prize, for which the Salk Gandalf can probably buy himself a new BMW broom stick to whiz about, to and fro. That sum of €75k is actually poppycock compared to the $ half a million Tony the Wizard got from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences as Sjöberg Prize for Cancer Research, but that is probably intended as lab investment into more of his magic western blots. Probably as compensation for 2012, when Thomson Reuters, (past keepers of the sacred Impact Factor) requested for Gandalf The Western Blot Wizard the Nobel Prize.

So now, let us see what dashing sorcery the King of Sweden and AACR thought was so astounding to give awards for.

Continue reading “Salk Gandalf Tony Hunter gets AACR prize for magic western blots”