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”

Karolinska gets taught German medical ethics

Karolinska gets taught German medical ethics

A most bizarre thing happened. In the aftermath of the scandal around the thoracic surgeon and regenerative medicine enthusiast Paolo Macchiarini, which left many patients dead, his former employer Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, Sweden, requested a retraction of one of his papers. It was not about a trachea transplant, but about unethical and painful medical experiments on a dying patient (actually, two of them). KI’s decision to request a retraction of the paper Jungebluth et al, “Autologous peripheral blood mononuclear cells as treatment in refractory acute respiratory distress syndrome”, Respiration, 2015 was based on the investigation commissioned by Swedish Central Ethics Review Board (CEPN). The Swiss-German and family-owned medical publisher Karger and its journal Respiration however categorically refused to retract the paper and ordered KI not “to patronize the readers of the journal ‘Respiration’.

It gets much worse. The German Editor-in-Chief of this journal has a huge conflict of interest. It is better you just read on, because if I try to summarize it here, I might get sued by Macchiarini’s German friends and associates once again, and next time it might even be prison for me. In Germany, doctors have a very special status. Journalists or even patients do not, as I learned in court.

Continue reading “Karolinska gets taught German medical ethics”

UCL trachea transplant inquiry: scapegoating, obfuscation and a lost nose

UCL trachea transplant inquiry: scapegoating, obfuscation and a lost nose

In 2017, the great London university UCL invited an external expert commission to investigate its role into the deadly trachea transplants performed by the former UCL honorary professor and scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. An already sacked UCL nanotechnology professor, Alexander Seifalian, whose lab made the two UCL plastic POSS-PCU tracheas in 2011, was announced as the main culprit on UCL side for all the suffering of these two patients Andemariam Beyene and Keziah Shorten, as well as some recipients of vascular grafts. All this despite Seifalian’s having had no clinical role, training or ambitions, as he professed in his interview to the investigative committee, which I now obtained.

The interview also makes perfectly clear that the investigative committee’s surprise finding, namely that the nanotechnology specialist fabricated non-GMP certified plastic grafts for clinical use behind everyone’s back, was actually slanderous. Not only did UCL know very well that the product, which their own business branch UCLB approved for clinical use in Iran, Switzerland and India, was not GMP-certified, they even used it on their own patient at UCL hospital UCLH, in an attempt to grow a plastic nose. Even the UK regulatory authority MHRA was informed, and apparently did not mind or interfere. All this did not stop UCL investigators from publicly fingering cancer survivor Seifalian as the only culprit for that GMP-non-compliance.

Finally, the committee had information that Birchall allegedly proposed to make a plastic trachea for the child patient Ciaran Lynch in December 2009. Seifalian refused, for technical reasons, but this definitely and literally saved the boy’s life. Ciaran, presently one of just 3 known survivors of ~20 trachea transplants performed by Macchiarini and his former close associate, the UCL laryngologist Martin Birchall, was operated in London in March 2010 with a freshly decellurised cadaveric trachea graft supplied from Italy; Macchiarini was the surgeon. That clever Birchall-attributed idea, of being the first one to implant the utterly untested plastic trachea, and into a child no less, was somehow dropped from the final UCL report. Sod knows why. Continue reading “UCL trachea transplant inquiry: scapegoating, obfuscation and a lost nose”

Macchiarini victim’s family sues trachea makers for wrongful death

Macchiarini victim’s family sues trachea makers for wrongful death

Yesim Cetir was a young woman from Turkey, whose vulnerability the scandal surgeon used to test his plastic trachea (twice), a third such operation he performed at the hospital of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and his fifth plastic trachea recipient. Like almost all the at least 17 patients whom Paolo Macchiarini experimented upon with either cadaveric or plastic trachea, Yesim died. Her suffering was long and horrible, her father Hayrullah Cetir dedicated all his waking hours to caring for his daughter. He died himself soon after her, from a neglected cancer.

Since April 2017, Yesim’s family (or in US legalese, the Estate of Yasim Cetir) is suing the company Harvard Bioscience, which spin-off Biostage (in turn formerly known as Harvard Apparatus) produced the bioreactors and the second plastic trachea graft used by Macchiarini on Yesim. Also the manufacturer of her first plastic trachea, Nanofiber Solutions, is being sued at the Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts, USA, case number 1784CV01174. An article in Boston Business Journal indicated that even Macchiarini himself might be subject to the wrongful death lawsuit:

“Now, the estate of one of the deceased patients is pursuing wrongful death claims against both Biostage and Macchiarini”

Continue reading “Macchiarini victim’s family sues trachea makers for wrongful death”

University of Iceland: no formal legal sanctions against Macchiarini partner Gudbjartsson

University of Iceland: no formal legal sanctions against Macchiarini partner Gudbjartsson

The University of Iceland in Reykjavik previously published an external investigation report into the first ever plastic trachea transplant, performed by Paolo Macchiarini at the hospital of Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, Sweden. The patient was Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene, PhD student at University of Iceland, and the Icelandic surgeon who treated Beyene and then delegated him to Macchiarini for that deadly treatment was Tomas Gudbjartsson, professor of surgery at same university (see my report here). One year after the operation, when Beyene already started to suffer from the plastic trachea which eventually killed him, Gudbjartsson organised a conference on regenerative medicine in Reykjavik, featuring Macchiarini as guest of honour and Beyene as a kind of trophy.

The University now announces to investigate the circumstances of that conference, for which it apologises, and to host on June 1st 2018 a new one, on research ethics. Gudbjartsson will not suffer any disciplinary consequences, because he was said to have expressed sufficient level of protest against the attempts by Macchiarini and his acolyte Philipp Jungebluth to twist the patient abuse into a success story which they published in The LancetJungebluth et al, 2011. A paper which University of Iceland now describes as “objectionable”. Continue reading “University of Iceland: no formal legal sanctions against Macchiarini partner Gudbjartsson”

Sumitran-Holgersson and Olausson to retract 8 papers for research misconduct

Sumitran-Holgersson and Olausson to retract 8 papers for research misconduct

Bad news for regenerative medicine enthusiasts, the data manipulating biologist Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson and her surgeon partner Michael Olausson, both professors at the University of Gothenburg (GU) in Sweden. They were previously found guilty of breach of medical ethics and patient abuse for their experiments with “regenerated” decellurised veins, which incidentally serve as basis for an EU-funded clinical trial currently prepared by the Gothenburg-based company VeriGraft (founded by Sumitran-Holgersson and her husband Jan Holgersson, also a GU professor, read here). There was even a trachea transplant: that patient died very soon after, the paper later retracted for data manipulation and absent ethics vote. It was a decellurised cadaveric graft by method very similar to that of Paolo Macchiarini. Another tracheal graft was prepared for one of Macchiarini’s patients at Karolinska Institutet (KI) after her plastic trachea failed, but it was sent back unused. Because of such expertise in misconduct and medical ethics breach, Olausson and his GU colleague Hasse Ejnell served as experts who helped Swedish prosecutor drop manslaughter charges against Macchiarini (read all that here).

Now that Sumitran-Holgersson’s research funding was withdrawn, with the new decision by the Expert Group at the Swedish Central Ethical Review Board (CEPN) she becomes even more of a liability for GU: eight out of her ten analysed papers with Olausson are set for retraction, due to data manipulation by the corresponding author Sumitran-Holgersson (while all her co-authors were made co-responsible to various degrees). I reported the evidence before, on my site, after my readers notified me and posted it on PubPeer. The 2012 paper in The Lancet describing a regenerated vein transplant was however not earmarked for retraction, despite that among other things it contained a fake ethics vote (see my earlier reporting), which the journal The Lancet couldn’t care less about.

The original misconduct report was written for GU in September 2017 by the external investigator Ole Didrik Laerum, medicine professor at University of Bergen in Norway, who was appointed exactly one year before that. Sumitran-Holgersson didn’t like his results and demanded from CEPN a revision by the Expert Group on Research Misconduct, in which she was supported by her GU colleague Kristoffer Hellstrand. This now proved to be her big mistake, because what Sumitran-Holgersson et al got now, was findings of research misconduct and instructions for retractions. The Swedish original of CEPN Expert Group report is available here, (Update 21.03.2018: English version here), these are its findings: Continue reading “Sumitran-Holgersson and Olausson to retract 8 papers for research misconduct”

Pravda of Jessus report, CNRS Politburo scared of own people

Pravda of Jessus report, CNRS Politburo scared of own people

Following my recent article about attempts to fix data irregularities in the papers by CNRS’ chief biologist and director of l’Institut des sciences biologiques (INSB) Catherine Jessus, this state-owned French research institution, the biggest in Europe, now went full Pravda. Just as the notorious propaganda newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Pravda means Truth in Russian), CNRS press release of February 21st about the Jessus misconduct investigation combines lies, disinformation, and thinly veiled threats and calls for mass denunciation of traitors. The foreign enemy of French science is clearly identified: myself, the slanderous blogger.

All that would be mildly entertaining, were it not for the main victim of that investigative report: research integrity. We learn from that Soviet-style propaganda piece that Jessus took responsibility for almost all of the data manipulations in her papers, in fact even more data integrity problems emerged during the investigation, in figures previously not flagged either on my site or on PubPeer. Jessus was tasked by the commission to analyse her own incriminated figures herself, and to report her findings to her investigators. These professors of the l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC, now Sorbonne University) who wisely chose to hide their identities (while decrying same with PubPeer commenters, sic!) had then the cheek to actually endorse the practice of data manipulations, in a public document, most astonishingly that of gel band duplications across different gel images, “for reasons of visual symmetry”. In other instances of cloned gel bands, the investigators spoke of scientifically-irrelevant “assembly errors” of western blots. No, not of separate antibody panels. Of individual gel images. They do not believe in monolithic photographs of an experimental gel, but prefer those as a digital puzzle or a collage, to be assembled from various bits and pieces in Photoshop, where a scientist sometimes inadvertently slips and uses the same gel band or bit of background twice.

Masquerading  research misconduct as good scientific practice is a form of scientific misconduct in itself. It doesn’t matter if these so-called experts really believed into the greater good of data manipulations, or strategically trolled the scientific community under cover of anonymity to save Jessus from herself, or were professionally unqualified to judge on the matters of biological science. Their decision not to see any misconduct despite ascertained evidence, while appropriating the entire blame onto those who blew the whistle, was borderline criminal, considering the circumstances. These dishonest UPMC investigators should be dragged out of their anonymity and publicly shamed and disciplined for the damage they just did to the reputation of French science. Continue reading “Pravda of Jessus report, CNRS Politburo scared of own people”