Human Brain Project interview with Thomas Lippert: Simulating brain in computer is like simulating weather

Human Brain Project interview with Thomas Lippert: Simulating brain in computer is like simulating weather

Following is my email interview with Thomas Lippert, professor and director of the Institute for Advanced Simulation and the Jülich Supercomputing Centre at the Forschungszentrum Jülich in the west of Germany, located somewhere between the cities of Cologne and Aachen. Lippert’s FZ Jülich is a central partner at the Human Brain Project (HBP), the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagship mega-consortium which is funded with €1 Billion, half of which coming from the European Union.  Lippert heads the Subproject (SP) 7 at the HBP, named High-Performance Analytics and Computing Platform, tasked with providing the high-performance computational power in order to help the HBP megaproject simulate the human brain and its diseases.

I previously wrote some critical articles about HBP, about the hubris of its founding father Henry Markram, the bizarre way EU positively evaluated the performance of HBP without actually evaluating it, and also about the purpose of HBP and Flagship projects in general. Incidentally, the last article’s cover photo showed Lippert at a HBP conference. We got into a discussion over Twitter during HBP’s recent Open Day show in Glasgow, where Lippert kindly agreed to answer my questions about the purpose and orientation of HBP.

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DFG Senator Roland Lill explains how to do science properly

DFG Senator Roland Lill explains how to do science properly

My earlier article about strange image irregularities in the publications of the German mitochondria researcher Roland Lill seem to have motivated this pre-emeritus biochemistry professor of the University of Marburg to come to PubPeer and address the issues. While in his earlier statements he simply waved off all concerns of western blot band duplications, this time and with other papers he admitted those, while presenting the original Western Blot scans. Together with the first author on two such papers, Janneke Balk, Lill explained why copy-pasting western blot bands, sometimes on top of other gel images, had nothing at all sinister in it, but used to be somewhat of a normal research practice 10-15 years ago. And in some cases, gel bands can naturally duplicate themselves.

Any advice on research integrity from the side of a Senator of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina is certainly most valuable, this is why I will present here his explanations, so the younger generation of scientists can learn about correct figure preparation, including the proper use of gel band copy-paste function. The past evidence was forwarded to me by a reader of my site.  I will also offer Professor Lill and you for debate another example from his past publication, where a western blot was duplicated in different context. This was forwarded me from yet another reader of my site.  Continue reading “DFG Senator Roland Lill explains how to do science properly”

EU commemorates dead patients of Macchiarini & Birchall with a phase 2 trachea transplant trial TETRA

EU commemorates dead patients of Macchiarini & Birchall with a phase 2 trachea transplant trial TETRA

The European Commission now took 40 days to deny my second Freedom of Information (FOI) Inquiry about the TETRA phase 2 clinical trial with cadaveric trachea transplant they are currently financing with €7 Million. This is EU’s second attempt to become world-leading manufacturer of industrial trachea transplants, after the €5mn Biotrachea led by the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was terminated mid-term. No, not because EU had any concerns for the patients, quite the opposite: he was given a clean ethics vote to go ahead. Biotrachea was terminated by the EU because the plastic tracheas Macchiarini wanted to use lacked novelty, as the documents I obtained revealed.

The TETRA trial, led by Macchiarini’s past collaborator, the UCL laryngologist Martin Birchall, was already on the brink of being terminated in the wake of the Macchiarini scandal, as EU previously indicated to me. Now, exactly the opposite happens. The trial is being prepared at full speed despite the fact that its predecessor phase 1 trial INSPIRE was suspended (because of my reporting), never recruited any of its four patients and it most likely never will. That trial is also led by Birchall (details here), it is likely that its Innovate UK funding has ran out meanwhile. EU however seems to signal that they will go ahead with phase 2 trial even if phase 1 never happens. After all, there are those 10 patients who received a cadaveric trachea transplant  (here and below) and were operated under hospital exemptions between 2008 and 2012 by Macchiarini and Birchall. At least half of these 10 are dead, the lucky survivors either had their graft removed or live with permanently installed stents to prevent their rotting airways from collapsing (INSPIRE’s and TETRA’s clinical promise is actually that the patients will never need a stent). But this disaster seems exactly the reason for EU to try it again, and on a much, much bigger scale: 48 patients are scheduled to receive cadaveric tracheas. Probably because it will create employment.

The EU spokesperson ceased long ago answering my emails, after I declined to be instructed over the phone (strictly off-the-record) why EU’s approach to trachea transplanting is right; this is why I had to resort to FOI. The official time limit to answer my FOI inquiry from July 1st 2017 was 15 days, but the EU first pretended not to have received my postal address, then said they need more time, then said they need extra time to assemble the documents for me, and finally, the Director-General of the European Commission, Robert-Jan Smits, wrote to me on September 11th. He basically told me again to get lost and that he will never release any information (read here his past rejection of my FOI inquiry). His reasons, as before: the trachea transplant trial is a business enterprise and revealing any of its progress might endanger the financial interests of its stakeholders, and then there are privacy concerns. Exactly, Smits decided that the public must under no circumstances find out whom exactly the EU is giving this public’s money for research on humans. I am not making it up, read Smits’ letter yourself hereContinue reading “EU commemorates dead patients of Macchiarini & Birchall with a phase 2 trachea transplant trial TETRA”

Berlin court grants Jungebluth new injunction against my reporting

Berlin court grants Jungebluth new injunction against my reporting

The Kafkaesque farce of court injunction trials from German trachea transplanters against me continues. The Landesgericht court in Berlin issued a second injunction against me, as requested by the angel of innocence Philipp Jungebluth, the former right hand man and acolyte of Paolo Macchiarini. The target of the injunction is this article, concerning an unpublished Macchiarini paper Haag et al. As it practice in German law, this legally binding verdict, the breach of which is punishable by a fine of up to €250,000, was passed without allowing me to present my evidence. In fact, Jungebluth also was not asked to present any evidence, his word that I wronged him sufficed. The legal idea behind such injunctions “the element of surprise”, that is, to present the other party with a binding court verdict, a huge bill for it, followed by a huge fine for any alleged breach of the injunction, the pretext for which is always easy to conjure, all of which should discourage any attempts to fight back. You are expected to lose your court case without even knowing there was one going on. Germans think this is a great and just way to keep internet and other media at bay.

So this is obviously a financially heavily mismatched war of Macchiarini and his partners against me, with all the media who used to celebrate their (now known as lethal) human experiments suddenly very silent. I am however grateful for the past and current support of my readers, and ask you to keep donating. Because nobody in Germany cares about these dead and mutilated patients, who were all foreigners experimented upon abroad anyway.  Continue reading “Berlin court grants Jungebluth new injunction against my reporting”

Hannover Medical School MHH: where doctor careers matter more than patient lives?

Hannover Medical School MHH: where doctor careers matter more than patient lives?

Philipp Jungebluth, formerly right-hand man and student of the lethal trachea transplant surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, is threatening another lawsuit against me. This time, he is unhappy about being associated with the 5 trachea transplant operations Macchiarini performed in Italy (only one of these five might still be alive, with a permanent brain damage). Jungebluth freely admits through his lawyer to have been part in the two operations in Barcelona: the very first trachea transplant on Claudia Castillo in 2008, and another one, performed in secret against an explicit ban issued by the Hospital Clinic Barcelona, in a neighbouring hospital on the Argentinian patient DD. Both patients Castillo and DD were previously unsuccessfully operated on their airways by Macchiarini, both were eventually offered a bronchus or trachea transplant, respectively.  I was informed how the 55-year old  DD fared after the operation, and it was a total disaster (it is all but clear if she is still alive, in fact even survivor Claudia Castillo can’t be found anymore).

These two operations were however according to Jungebluth part of his German medical education, the so-called “practical year”, as student of the Hannover Medical School (MHH). It seems that a past MHH professor, Heike Kielstein (nee Nave) was involved in the histological analyses of these trachea transplants. In 2010, Kielstein as part of award ceremony presented Jungebluth with a €2500 prize for his Macchiarini-supervised medical dissertation, which described only the first trachea transplant patient, but kept the second transplant operation on DD as a total secret. But MHH apparently knew about that highly unethical act, and did not mind at all.

Hence, MHH did not cease all trachea transplant research in 2006, as they once told to me untruthfully. The technology was simply outsourced in a good MHH tradition to poorer parts of Europe. To escape tough German regulations or legal responsibilities? Or maybe because the non-German patients abroad were seen as more suitable for medical experiments? MHH, whose rector just recently ordered its own university not to investigate Jungebluth’s dissertation, remains deadly silent. Herr Professor Macchiarini, whose German is near-native (the Italian grew up in Switzerland) and is much better than his English, remains adjunct professor at MHH, against state law.  Continue reading “Hannover Medical School MHH: where doctor careers matter more than patient lives?”

Data integrity conspiracy against German research senator Roland Lill?

Data integrity conspiracy against German research senator Roland Lill?

Roland Lill is the quiet star of German molecular biology. The 63-year old professor works at the University of Marburg, on mitochondria, using yeast as a model organism. Lill is also since 2014 member of the Senate at the German Research Foundation (DFG), re-elected just recently, where he represents the interests of German molecular biologists and decides on federal funding distribution and research policies. Since 2016, the Marburg professor is also Senator for Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Leopoldina, which is the German Academy of Sciences. Furthermore, Lill is EMBO member since 2013 and he also used to be Fellow of the Max Planck Society.

Lill’s research focus is on iron-sulfur biogenesis, and his achievements for German science are indeed strong as iron, as evident by his awards and medals (including the Leibniz Prize of €1.55 Mn in 2003), his impressive funding acquisition success and publication record. Recently however, a sulfuric smell of rotten eggs emitted from the whistleblowing platform PubPeer, tainting his legacy. Currently 9 Lill papers are affected, the evidence looks worrisome, and might indicate possible data manipulations. Mostly it is about apparently duplicated gel bands. Luckily however, most papers are 13 and more years old, nobody would expect Professor Lill to have stored the original data for so long, even if it was ever available. The despicable attack on Professor’s Lill research record will be surely thwarted by the journals’ reluctance of dealing with problems in old papers, and of course by the tremendous respect and influence this Senator enjoys in German academia. In fact, both DFG and the two research integrity Ombudspersons of the University of Marburg refused to comment on the PubPeer evidence. Leopoldina announced to me to have the “accusations” addressed by their Ombudsman; DFG mentioned to have had the PubPeer information “forwarded inside the house”.

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Walles court trial against me ends with “amicable settlement”

Walles court trial against me ends with “amicable settlement”

The court trial against me by German trachea transplanters Heike and Thorsten Walles ended with the settlement in the appeal court in Bamberg. A costly one, which I had to accept, giving the danger of seeing me and my family driven to bankruptcy before the next very costly court instance can even be invoked for my defence, what with the two impending court fines for the alleged breach of the injunction Walles passed against me with the help of a certain evidence-allergic judge in Würzburg. My legal costs tally up to at least €12,000 and I am now stuck with those. On the plus side, none of my own and my generous donors’ money goes to Walles, they have to pay their own lawyers and half of the court fees, which made them very fuming and livid indeed, as their behaviour in the court room showcased. There the married trachea transplanters also made clear that they saw the operation on their 3 patients (described here and here) as successful research. This Walles stance is unblemished by the undisputed fact that their patients received no actual health benefits from those pig-intestine-based tracheal grafts whatsoever, in fact it looks quite the opposite. Thing is, those 3 operations were all performed in 2003, 2007 and 2009 as compassionate use, without any previous animal experiments, appropriate safety tests or in fact any ethics approvals. A question rises if, or rather how far Walles breached the Nuremberg Code of 1947 and the German medicinal product law, which forbid exactly that kind of research on patients.   Continue reading “Walles court trial against me ends with “amicable settlement””