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”
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”
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”
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”
On July 29th 2016, Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) retracted a cardiology paper from 2009 for data manipulations. Only some days later, on August 20th 2016, the corresponding authors Sathyamangla Naga Prasad and Sadashiva Karnik (both from the same Department of Molecular Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US, submit that same paper, under same title, with only some changes, to PLOS One. All authors remained the same, only two mysteriously fell off the paper: George Calin and his former mentor Carlo Croce. The latter is a notorious cancer researcher from Ohio State University, PubPeer star accused of misconduct and author on 7 retracted papers (according to the new Retraction Watch database). Croce even made it into New York Times, which he now sues, together with his critic David Sanders. (some more details here).
It makes sense why Prasad and Karlin decided to play it safe and throw their toxic Ohio colleague Croce and his loyal former lab member Calin off their paper. They even replaced a fake western blot which caused the JBC retraction. This refurbished PLOS One paper was accepted on January 5th 2017 and published on March 22nd 2017. Now also the handling editor at PLOS has now a lot of explaining to do: Sudhiranjan Gupta, from Texas A&M University. A man who understood Prasad’s and Karnik’s dilemma, because also Gupta has his own record of gel band duplications on PubPeer, all of these incidentally with his former boss at Cleveland Clinic, Subha Sen, who in turn is co-author on both the retracted Prasad et al JBC 2009 and the new Prasad et al PLOS One 2017.
Using the free online plagiarism tool at Draftable.com, I was able to establish an extensive textual overlap, the files are available here and here. The well-known sleuth Claire Francis established figure re-use, which I document below.
Continue reading “PLOS One publishes near-copy of retracted JBC paper, sans coauthor Carlo Croce”
The Swedish Karolinska Institutet (KI) has investigated its own cell biologist and well-funded autophagy researcher Helin Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg, following my publishing of a dossier with evidence for data manipulations in her papers. Also PubPeer evidence was considered. This was a second investigation of Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg, who was fully acquitted by KI already in 2016. While the new KI investigation progressed, one of Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg’s publications was retracted (Shen et al, Oncogene 2008), due to image duplications and unavailability of original data. With their second decision, KI again exonerated Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg from all suspicions. One of the reasons was: since the Shen et al 2008 is retracted, it ceases to exist. Hence, all image duplications it shares with other Vakifahmetoglu-Norberg papers cease existing also. Other arguments were the author’s assertions to have reproduced more than 10 year old results faithfully (since the original data was unavailable), or her presenting evidence that similar looking images were in fact dissimilar. Unfortunately, where such original data could be recovered, it was shown only to internal investigators at KI, noone else. The case is closed, no appeal is possible. There will be no corrections even, unless journals do the unlikely thing and decide not to accept the KI decision.
Another Vakifahmetoglu paper (Imreh et al, J Cell Biol. 2011) is still under KI investigation but she has officially nothing to do with it. KI announced to follow this through with her former boss and the paper’s last author, Boris Zhivotovsky. He is under another KI investigation already, together with several of his colleagues including the department’s prefect Ulla Stenius (see my report here), who received the KI letter about Vakifahmetoglu whitewashing in cc. Continue reading “Data manipulation evidence in Helin Vakifahmetoglu papers “warrants no further consideration””
On June 9th 2017, the research integrity news website Retraction Watch brought an article titled: „Journal won’t look at allegations about papers more than six years old, nor from “public websites””. A public outcry followed, protesting about what was perceived an outrageous case of editorial cover-up of research fraud. The journal in question was Molecular & Cellular Biology (MCB), published by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM); the vituperative Retraction Watch article was prompted by an editorial in the June issue of this journal. The problem with that name-and-shame Retraction Watch article however was: the accusatory title did not fit their own main text at all, which did actually clarify that evidence on public websites like PubPeer is in fact very much looked at by the MCB journal editors, just not publicly commented upon. And that:
“The ASM spokesperson explained that, like the ORI, ASM journals will make exceptions to the six-year statute of limitations, for instance if older papers “provide evidence of an extensive pattern of misconduct.””
Continue reading “Journal announces to clean up past literature, gets “smeared” by Retraction Watch”