UCL trachea transplants: Videregen sets lawyers on Liverpool academics Murray and Levy

UCL trachea transplants: Videregen sets lawyers on Liverpool academics Murray and Levy

The Science and Technology Committee of the British House of Commons opened in November 2017 an inquiry into Research Integrity. This prompted two University of Liverpool academics to submit a letter to the committee, describing the inaccuracies, misrepresentations and blatant lies which incurred in the course of the trachea transplants performed by the surgeons Paolo Macchiarini and Martin Birchall. The two academics were Patricia Murray, professor in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, previously a nurse on a Head and Neck unit, and Raphael Lévy, senior lecturer in nanotechnology and imaging. The two also notified the relevant UK authorities and Birchall’s employer UCL of their concerns, especially after even suspected data manipulations came to light. UCL representative gave as a reply an oral and written testimony to the parliamentary committee, other stakeholders provided their own written replies. The first Murray-Levy letter was followed by a second one, because UCL needed help recalling correctly what they did to which patient, and how many have died from the very similar trachea replacement technology which UCL still demands to be allowed to test on 60 more patients.

Now the most vile thing happened, as reported by The BMJ on July 12. Videregen, the Liverpool-based company which bought the trachea regeneration patent from UCL and engages Birchall’s services as advisor, deployed lawyers against Murray and Levy, precisely via their employer University of Liverpool. The main issue is the parliamentary submission by Levy and Murray, subject to absolute privilege. Yet Videregen also cites from the confidential notice of suspected research misconduct Murray and Levy submitted in good faith to UCL (which has not yet decided whether misrepresenting data and providing false information in applications for funding, ethics approval and regulatory permissions is serious enough to warrant an investigation). One wonders who forwarded Videregen this notice, which was confidential and absolutely none of their business? UCL, or their professor Birchall, or Birchall with permission from UCL? Another question is: is our tax money which the EU Commission gave Videregen for trachea transplanting now being used to threaten critics? Continue reading “UCL trachea transplants: Videregen sets lawyers on Liverpool academics Murray and Levy”

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”

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”

David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck

David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck

This is a story of David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck at University of London, professor of genetics at UCL and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. All this he achieved also by his impressive publishing record, part of which will be discussed below by my regular contributor Smut Clyde. Just part of it, because there are in fact oodles of Latchman co-authored papers discussed on PubPeer for evidence of data manipulation. As Birkbeck and UCL were repeatedly bombarded by whistleblowers, Latchman was (pretend)-investigated on misconduct charges twice. Naturally, neither whitewashing report was released to public. After the first investigation of 2015, we only learned:

“UCL confirms that the conclusion of its investigation is that Professor Latchman has no case to answer in relation to research misconduct”.

Last month, UCL declared that Latchman committed “recklessness” and was “insufficiently attentive” to what his junior researchers used to do in his lab and in his papers, namely the cardiologist Tiziano Scarabelli and the cancer researcher Anastasis Stephanou. The former is presently professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center in USA, while the latter is professor at European University Cyprus. These two were found guilty of having manipulated images in 7 papers. All other Latchman co-authored papers (of the 32 investigated) are perfectly fine, and anyway, as Birkbeck explained:

“The matter does not relate to Professor David Latchman’s leadership of Birkbeck, which has been excellent for the past 15 years.  Furthermore, there is no suggestion by UCL that Professor Latchman had any knowledge of, or involvement in, the image manipulation identified”

This is a typical academic attitude. When a paper is needed to get promotion and funding money, boss claims the main credit. When a paper is exposed as fraudulent, boss never had anything to do with it (see for example this Spanish case).

Retrospectively, both UCL investigation look even more of a farce, as Latchman himself seems to have been instructing the university how to properly investigate others and not him:

“In my view, the investigation should focus on those actually involved in preparing the questionable figures and those directly involved in supervising their production”

Despite at least 5 retractions, Latchman remains in his position as Master of Birkbeck, where he is paid GBP 400k a year, one of the highest rector salaries in UK. Without diminishing the responsibilities of Scarabelli and Stephanou (in fact, Smut Clyde presents much more below), there seems to be a pattern at UCL of finding the exclusive blame with those no longer employed, while their English-bred senior professors turn out utterly blameless. Recent revelations in the Macchiarini trachea transplant affair also suggest that. However, some of problematic Latchman papers have neither Scarabelli nor Stephanou as co-author. Very reckless of UCL not to have investigated those.

Continue reading “David Latchman, the reckless Master of Birkbeck”

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”

No good news, instead a major disaster in appeal court re: Macchiarini affair

The German justice has spoken on trachea transplants again, in the appeal hearing at Kammergericht Berlin, and found the problem to lie with the journalists and press freedom. Good news first: I might have won the first injunction case against Philipp Jungebluth, or at least in large part, so I will probably get most of my money refunded there (Update 30.05.2018: the court tricked me and rejected my appeal on that injunction too. It remains valid to 1/3 just as before, see below). This only happened because the judges regarded how exactly Jungebluth left his job in Heidelberg being a minor enough issue (they did advice him to sue a Swedish newspaper for interviewing him about his sacking in Sweden (sic!)). This money I then will pay back to Paolo Macchiarini‘s acolyte and the court, and much, much more on top, because the three appeal court judges announced to uphold the second injunction in full. These are their oral arguments from yesterday summarised: Continue reading “No good news, instead a major disaster in appeal court re: Macchiarini affair”

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”