A former postdoc at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York faked data in four published papers, one submitted manuscript, and four NIH grant applications, according to new findings by the Office of Research Integrity.
We reported on six retractions from Savio Woo’s Mount Sinai lab in 2010, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and two each from Human Gene Therapy and Molecular Therapy. The PNAS paper, as we noted then:
claimed to have discovered a possible cure for phenylketonuria, or PKU, in mice—a finding that was cited more than 30 times and trumpeted in the media.
At the time, Mount Sinai said that two of the lab’s postdocs had been dismissed for misconduct. Now, more than three and a half years later, the ORI reports that a former postdoc in that lab, Li Chen:
intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly fabricated and falsified data reported in four (4) publications, one (1) submitted manuscript, and four (4) grant applications…
The ORI report refers to the PNAS paper, one of the Human Gene Therapy papers, and the two Molecular Therapy papers, as well as an unpublished manuscript submitted to PNAS. (Chen is not an author of two of the papers — one from Human Gene Therapy, and the one from the JNCI.)
Mount Sinai had already conducted in investigation before the papers were retracted, and ORI conducted its own analysis after reviewing the report of that investigation. Here’s what the ORI found:
The Respondent fabricated figures reporting the chromosomal locations of integration sites, fabricated data reporting the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to determine integration frequencies, falsified data representing the detection of chromosomal translocations in human cells, and fabricated figures by falsely reporting the results of High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) assays. The Respondent also falsified experimental data for LacZ stained liver sections and for hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained liver sections.
The fakery involved 19 figures claiming that
phenylketonuria (PKU) gene therapy experiments were successfully completed, when the available evidence shows the experiments were not performed…
Chen — who “failed to take responsibility for the fabrication and falsification,” according to the ORI — will not be eligible for NIH grants for three years, and can’t serve on any NIH committees, including peer review committees, for the same amount of time.