Stem cell researchers sue Harvard, claiming faulty investigation lost them job offers

anversa
Piero Anversa

Piero Anversa, a stem cell researcher at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and a colleague, Annarosa Leri, have sued Harvard over an investigation into their work that they claim has cost them millions in a forfeited sale of their company, and job offers.

The team has had a paper in Circulation retracted, and a paper in The Lancet subject to an expression of concern.

In the suit, first reported by the Boston Business Journal and the Boston Globe, Anversa and Leri blame a co-author for the issues in the papers, and claim that their

professional reputations and careers have been shattered by an inquiry and investigation process that has been conducted contrary to federal regulation and institutional policies, and has been publicly disclosed by Defendants.

Specifically,

157. Drs. Anversa and Leri had a multimillion dollar offer to purchase their company, Autologous/Progenital, which was withdrawn when the investigation was publicly disclosed.

In echoes of the Fazlul Sarkar case, in which a scientist is suing PubPeer commenters because of an allegedly rescinded job offer:

158. Mt. Sinai was actively pursuing Drs. Anversa and Leri for prestigious and lucrative positions, but has put them on hold during the pendency of the investigation.

159. The University of Miami was also pursuing Drs. Anversa and Leri prior to the investigation, and put that offer on hold when the investigation was publicly disclosed.

160. Harvard had promised Dr. Leri an appointment as full professor, a position that is consistent with her achievements and receives a higher salary, but that appointment has been delayed.

But the lawsuit is not about money, of course:

161. Most distressingly, Defendants have interfered with Plaintiffs’ ability to focus on their potentially life-saving work.

There’s a section of the lawsuit that we thought would be worth annotating, because it involves retraction policies. So here goes:

120. In letters dated March 25, 2014, Dean Brodnicki (on behalf of Harvard and Brigham) notified both Circulation and The Lancet of the existence of the investigation and recommended that the journals retract the 2012 Circulation paper and the 2011 Lancet SCIPIO paper, before the investigation was even completed.

And for alerting the journals to the investigation we applaud Dean Brodnicki and Harvard — whom, we should note, we have found less than forthcoming in other cases. The point is to alert scientists reading the papers that there’s a problem, and to do it as quickly as possible. With the way some of these investigations drag on — and then come to mealy conclusions — waiting for them to be over just wastes money others are spending on trying to replicate or advance the work.

The fact that Anversa is now suing makes Harvard’s approach to transparency in the past a bit more sympathetic, although we don’t condone it. It also reminds us that we were recently forced to ask whether lawyers are ruining science.

121. Dean Brodnicki’s letter (on behalf of Harvard and Brigham) did not acknowledge that there is no evidence any individual other than Dr. Kajstura ever fabricated or falsified data or images reported in the 2012 Circulation paper and the 2011 Lancet SCIPIO paper.

We haven’t seen the letter, and if there was a way for the retraction notice to be more specific, fine, but we have to remind the plaintiffs that their names are on the papers, quite prominently, in fact.

122. Dean Brodnicki’s retraction request was contrary to established practices; papers are rarely or never retracted without first exploring the possibility of issuing a less serious correction and without the consent of the authors.

That last bit isn’t true at all; Retraction Watch readers will be familiar with lots of cases in which editors retract without authors’ consent, and we think that’s a good thing, since otherwise a scientist could just block a mark on his or her record.

123. Dean Brodnicki did not obtain the consent of Drs. Anversa and Leri prior to issuing her retraction request.

Why did she need to? Perhaps so they would have time to file a lawsuit to block it?

124. There was no need to disclose the investigation to Circulation or The Lancet before the panel completed its work.

See comments on #120.

127. Drs. Anversa and Leri are willing to correct the 2011 Lancet SCIPIO paper, but because that paper relates to a clinical study, Plaintiffs cannot do so without the approval of the Partners Institutional Review Board (“IRB”).

We’re not sure why that would be the case. They are, after all, the authors.

128. The IRB has not approved to date any corrections to the 2011 Lancet SCIPIO paper.

The suit claims that

Drs. Anversa and Leri had stellar reputations in the scientific community before these allegations were brought against them.

But the Anversa lab, according to an account supplied to us by a former research fellow there, was not an environment that encouraged the kind of skeptical thinking that should be the hallmark of science. Writing of one of Anversa’s hypotheses regarding cardiac stem cells, the former fellow wrote:

Beyond the science, ironically, a certain braggadocio also existed surrounding this hypothesis. Anyone who attended the pertinent sessions at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions could attest to this. In essence, to Dr. Anversa all investigators who questioned the hypothesis were“morons,” a word he used frequently at lab meetings. For one within the group to dare question the central hypothesis, or the methods used to support it, was a quick ticket to dismissal from your position.

We do get a brief mention in the suit. The researcher Anversa and Leri blame for the misconduct

was not even named in any of the Boston Globe stories, and was only identified as a co-author in the blog Retraction Watch.

60 thoughts on “Stem cell researchers sue Harvard, claiming faulty investigation lost them job offers”

  1. there is no evidence any individual other than Dr. Kajstura ever fabricated or falsified data or images

    Have Anversa and Leri just publically accused Dr Kajstura of scientific malpractice? This strikes me as potentially defamatory. Note to self: Do not work with those two people
    Perhaps their time would be better-spent suing each other for inviting Kajstura to be their co-author.

    1. Have Anversa and Leri just publically accused Dr Kajstura of scientific malpractice? This strikes me as potentially defamatory.

      Legal pleadings are exempt from such complaints.

  2. In the lawsuit filed by Anversa and Leri against Harvard, which the above post links to, there is a lot of incriminating information about the SCIPIO trial (much of it in items 51-55 of the lawsuit):

    1) The plaintiffs Anversa and Leri admit that Harvard recommended that the Lancet paper (Bolli et al, Lancet 2011) be retracted. The Lancet editors watered that down to an expression of concern.
    2) Anversa and Leri further admit that their intimate long-term collaborator Jan Kajstura falsified at least two image files in that paper.
    3) Anversa and Leri admit that there were discrepancies between the Certificates of Analysis for the cells and the actual data presented in the Lancet paper.
    4) Kajstura was the quality and safety officer on the SCIPIO study, and was responsible for the Certificates of Analysis.
    5) Kajstura fabricated data in at least two other papers, by the plaintiffs’ admission, and maybe many other going back decades, according to the complaint.

    Bottom line: we have no real idea what was infused into the patients in SCIPIO. This is a grave concern as it goes beyond the usual Retraction Watch cases: human beings were placed at direct risk in the SCIPIO trial.

      1. They gave informed consent to receiving a certain kind of cell. The chief safety officer in charge of manufacturing apparently altered the cell manufacturing records fraudulently in several respects, enough so that we cannot be certain what was actually infused into these unwitting research subjects. If I were one of the patients treated in the SCIPIO trial, I’d be suing Bolli and Anversa for assault and battery. The patients in SCIPIO are the real victims in this unsavory mess.

  3. 52. With respect to the first issue, Drs. Anversa and Leri have never been told which researchers were unable to follow the Brigham laboratory protocols.

    I’m failing to find anything in 42 C.F.R. part 93 that suggests they’re entitled to this as part of an institutional inquiry.

    Much of the complaint seems to be noise rather than signal, as they haven’t gotten close to exhausting administrative remedies within HHS.

  4. Exceptional claims (curing heart attack) require exceptional evidence. Within the community that go to the American Heart Association meetings and attend the glitzy stem cell plenary sessions, it is an open secret that the evidence is not very exceptional.

    What I find rather hard to accept is the claim of “shattered” careers and reputations. In Dr. Leri’s case, she continues to serve as a regular member of NIH’s Myocardial Ischemia and Metabolism study section (disclosure – I am also a member). I still see plenty of grants to this group in play on NIH RePorter too. Bruised maybe, but certainly not shattered; just can’t afford to buy a David Hockney painting 😉

    1. And yet again all of the misconduct is ascribed to a single rogue lab minion who is conveniently no longer working in the lab and probably no longer in the country…

  5. “……. For one within the group to dare question the central hypothesis, or the methods used to support it, was a quick ticket to dismissal from your position”

    How common is this in Academia?
    Very interesting and disturbing!

    1. I suggest is very common, especially if the person questioning is not of the ‘inner circle’ or who comes from a different scientific discipline. It may not be as overt as indicated here, but regular put downs because of who you are rather than what you know or are suggesting can be just as damaging to scientific research integrity and confirmation bias runs rampant.

  6. I was really worried about Sarkar silencing PubPeer commenters through his lawyers (http://laborjournal.de/editorials/888.lasso), but my concern for the poor little helpless Harvard is minimal.
    Besides, there may be a good catch to it: the public may not side with a powerful big-shot like Anversa suing his critics, never mind how much “life-saving ” he pretends to be into. And without public support for such scientists, friends in politics tend to distance themselves very fast.

  7. I have a maybe-not-so-small nit to pick with your response to point 120.

    It is indeed good to inform the readers ASAP that there are concerns about the validity of the data, i.e. through an Expression of Concern, but point 120 refers to an apparent request from the Dean to _retract_ the papers before the investigation had been concluded.

    In other words, and with the currently provided information, in my opinion RW does not respond to the actual complaint of Anversa & Lori.

    It is possible that RW has information that the investigation at the time of the Dean’s request to retract had already concluded without doubt there had been misconduct, but even then it could be good to wait with the actual retraction (and instead provide an EoC) so the journal can provide details on the conclusions of the investigation.

  8. This nugget from the lawsuit is either scandalous or libelous.

    100. Upon information and belief, as the former Director of the National Heart, Lung,
    and Blood Institute (“NHLBI”), Dr. Nabel used her discretionary authority to award a grant in
    excess of $20 million to Dr. Chien at MGH, after the proposal for the grant did not make even the initial cut for funding by three reviewers assigned by NHLBI, let alone the Council of
    NHLBI.
    101. Upon information and belief, just two weeks after the grant to Dr. Chien was
    awarded, Dr. Nabel was appointed President of Brigham, a co-founder of Partners.

    1. This kind of quid pro quo is so prevalent in academia, I’m afraid it would barely raise an eyebrow. Particularly in the upper echelon of prestigious institutions, the thinking is really ingrained that the “ruling classes,” organized based on narrow scientific disciplines, are true meritocracies, so that any influence wielding to get a grant funded or a paper published in Cell, Nature, etc after an initial failure of a pesky, unsuccessful round of peer review is really about protecting the status quo. The rest of us “rabble” trying to do science at second and third tier institutions are systematically marginalized whenever we approach the ruling class, either as peer reviewers of their work or when trying to publish our own studies in “their” journals. The NIH, private foundations, academic societies, and glam mag editors serve largely to perpetuate the primacy of the ruling classes within each discipline.

    2. Sounds like dirt throwing. A lot of people lost a lot of time and money on Isl1, which turns out to be a neat marker for neurologists, not so much in cardiac.

  9. So if I understand correctly, Anversa and Leri accept that the brilliant results coming from their laboratory have been bogus; in fact they specify a particular colleague as the source of the bogosity. So presumably they accept the corollary that any job offers and company-purchase offers they received, based on those bogus results, would have been misplaced. Nevertheless, they are arguing that Harvard should have concealed that information for long enough for new jobs and company purchase to be finalised, so that they could receive the full benefit of their colleague’s alleged misconduct.
    Have I missed anything?

  10. Possibly the only meritorious claims in the suit are that they were entitled to some reasonable expectation of confidentiality which was breached by several individuals disclosing aspects of the investigation to third parties. Quite how duping investors into buying their company or conning another university to hire them without disclosing these problems would have helped Anversa and Leri in the longer term is questionable though.

  11. I think these people getting all the name and fame after these articles were published and now once caught they are blaming the third person. As a lead sccientist, it is your duty to confirm the results and once are published, it is your responsibility. They are now caught and just crying foul, frankly speaking, no sympthy for such people. I am sure there are going to be many more high profile scientists who have controlled the NIH funding but failed or obtained success by different means.

  12. Wait, they’re claiming they can’t correct a paper until the IRB signs off? Since when do IRBs have any control over paper content.
    IRBs exist to protect human subjects prior to (and during) research. I don’t see anything in the common rule that would give them any power over publication. (Except maybe in cases where IRB approval wasn’t secured and/or properly followed during the actual experiment.)

  13. So Anversa and Leri admit in their suit that their company (Autologous/Progenita), which is involved with stem cell technology, is/was potentially worth millions of dollars. I find it interesting that at least three of their 2014 scientific papers that promote stem cell therapy in general, and c-Kit+ cells in particular, do not include any statement about such a glaring financial conflict of interest!

    1. Cardiac stem cell niches.
    Leri A, Rota M, Hosoda T, Goichberg P, Anversa P.
    Stem Cell Res. 2014 Nov;13(3PB):631-646. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2014.09.001. Epub 2014 Sep 8. Review.
    PMID: 25267073

    2. Human heart failure: is cell therapy a valid option?
    Rota M, Leri A, Anversa P.
    Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Mar 15;88(2):129-38. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2013.10.031. Epub 2013 Nov 13. Review.
    PMID: 24239645

    3. c-Kit-positive cardiac stem cells nested in hypoxic niches are activated by stem cell factor reversing the aging myopathy.
    Sanada F, Kim J, Czarna A, Chan NY, Signore S, Ogórek B, Isobe K, Wybieralska E, Borghetti G, Pesapane A, Sorrentino A, Mangano E, Cappetta D, Mangiaracina C, Ricciardi M, Cimini M, Ifedigbo E, Perrella MA, Goichberg P, Choi AM, Kajstura J, Hosoda T, Rota M, Anversa P, Leri A.
    Circ Res. 2014 Jan 3;114(1):41-55.
    PMID: 24170267

    Many would argue that this failure to admit to such a major conflict could be viewed as scientific misconduct and therefore would be grounds to retract these papers and to initiate investigation of other papers from these potentially biased authors. Hopefully, the editors of these journals will start their own investigations.

    1. “Hopefully, the editors of these journals will start their own investigations.”

      One thing I’ve learned from RW is that such investigations are less likely to happen than me getting bitten by a radioactive spider.

    2. The lack of disclosure also applies to their presentations at national and international meetings where the plaintiffs routinely state “NO DISCLOSURES”. Now we learn through a lawsuit that they have a company, Autologous/Progenital, worth millions. This company, according to a Google search, has been in existence for almost a decade.

    1. (that comment was supposed to be response to Scotus in an earlier sub-thread, but the website decided to relocate it)

    2. I would class him as a master minion- a conduit between the puppet masters (Anversa and Leri) and the ~25 underlings keeping them one step removed from the primary data and providing a potential plausible deniability buffer to invoke when things went wrong.

  14. Update:

    Links to the Ethics/Conflict of Interest requirements for authors of these three journals are as follows:

    Stem Cell Research
    http://www.elsevier.com/journals/stem-cell-research/1873-5061/guide-for-authors#5000

    Biochemical Pharmacology
    (NB: Anversa is listed currently as a member of the Editorial Board)
    http://www.elsevier.com/journals/stem-cell-research/1873-5061/guide-for-authors#5000

    Circulation Research
    (NB: a former Anversa co-author is Editor-in-Chief)
    http://circres.ahajournals.org/site/misc/AuthorsCOIDiscloseQuestionnaire.pdf

  15. A quick peep into the publications emanating from this classically eminent, if vertically structured, Harvard team was rewarded with this January 2014 publication. (Key fact, not yet noted on PubPeer.)

    Sanada F1, Kim J, Czarna A, Chan NY, Signore S, Ogórek B, Isobe K, Wybieralska E, Borghetti G, Pesapane A, Sorrentino A, Mangano E, Cappetta D, Mangiaracina C, Ricciardi M, Cimini M, Ifedigbo E, Perrella MA, Goichberg P, Choi AM, Kajstura J, Hosoda T, Rota M, Anversa P, Leri A.
    c-Kit-positive cardiac stem cells nested in hypoxic niches are activated by stem cell factor reversing the aging myopathy.
    Circ Res. 2014 Jan 3;114(1):41-55.
    PMID: 24170267

    Having espied figures of interest, it then took rather longer to count the 25 authors and find a specially noteworthy individual’s name in their midst. Perhaps relevant for point 121 –

    121. Dean Brodnicki’s letter (on behalf of Harvard and Brigham) did not acknowledge that there is no evidence any individual other than Dr. Kajstura ever fabricated or falsified data or images reported in the 2012 Circulation paper and the 2011 Lancet SCIPIO paper.

    To prevent possible misattributions though, wouldn’t it be nice if Circulation Research summarised author contributions?

    Let’s get to the point: In Figs. 3 and 4, one antibody detection plot occurs four times and a second antibody detection plot occurs three times. The Y axis is always labelled with Pimo. The X axis is always something different.

    http://i.imgur.com/nR1i3fv.png

    We learn that for young things, Isotype = Ki67 = Nkx2.5 = GATA4

    Whereas for old codgers, only Isotype = Ki67 = Nkx2.5 appears to hold true.

    Who knew?

  16. I agree that these do look identical. Surely one of the 25 authors of this paper could have spotted this, particularly since they presumably were aware that other work from the lab was being questioned for image manipulation.

    1. As above, there seems little reason to believe this journal will take any action. The editors of Circulation Research are all businessmen, after all, and in what is an almost too-close-for-comfort quote from “The Godfather,” blood is a big expense.

    2. Thanks Scotus for the confirmation. Surely only 24 of the authors could have caught this though? The one that did the labelling with the different factors might not have been interested in the similarities ever being noticed?

      1. Circulation Research is published by the American Heart Association which I am sure will take these concerns seriously irrespective who is on the Editorial board and their possible relationships with the authors. As always, this will be a long and slow process.

  17. Now that is an interesting finding. What we really need now is for Kajstura to break cover and provide his side of the story. Not holding my breath on that one though.

  18. The top 10 Google results on Piero Anversa are all about bad science, corruption, controversy. Stunning. This has the potential to be hugely embarrassing for Harvard and one has to wonder if stem cell research as a whole isn’t at this point completely discredited.

    1. Well, I would say at least half of the major researchers in cardiovascular stem cell research have known that this work was/is seriously flawed. I believe Chuck Murry, see his post, was one of the first people to question Anversa’s work. I attended a conference in 2014 where Anversa’s work was literally laughed at by some of the biggest names in stem cell science.

      The problem is the system. Anversa/Bolli/Leri have managed to gather much influence in the field despite the knowledge that many people seriously doubt their work. Their influence within the AHA and NIH cannot be understated. I have declined numerous requests to donate to the AHA because of this very serious problem.

  19. Anversa, Leri and Kajstura seem to hold most patents between the three of them
    Given the number of papers with Kajstura as first author, you could argue that Anversa and Leri were just riding on his coattails.

    Many would argue that this failure to admit to such a major conflict could be viewed as scientific misconduct and therefore would be grounds to retract these papers and to initiate investigation of other papers from these potentially biased authors.

    Indeed, one component of Anvera & Leri’s lawsuit is that Harvard investigation into their research is invalid because the investigators had conflicts of interest. So they share your concern!

  20. Another paper that has not so far been noted on PubPeer is, nevertheless, quite interesting to examine. It would seem that these authors like to publish in Circulation Research: I wonder whether anyone here has noticed that?

    D’Amario D1, Cabral-Da-Silva MC, Zheng H, Fiorini C, Goichberg P, Steadman E, Ferreira-Martins J, Sanada F, Piccoli M, Cappetta D, D’Alessandro DA, Michler RE, Hosoda T, Anastasia L, Rota M, Leri A, Anversa P, Kajstura J.
    Insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor identifies a pool of human cardiac stem cells with superior therapeutic potential for myocardial regeneration.
    Circ Res. 2011 Jun 10;108(12):1467-81
    PMID: 21546606

    There is more to call out but, for now, here are some interesting features apparently shared between a pair of plots in Figure 2

    http://i.imgur.com/ycdhbvY.png

    We learn that GATA6 is almost – but not quite – the same as CD90.

    Who knew?

    1. Continuing with this paper

      D’Amario D1, Cabral-Da-Silva MC, Zheng H, Fiorini C, Goichberg P, Steadman E, Ferreira-Martins J, Sanada F, Piccoli M, Cappetta D, D’Alessandro DA, Michler RE, Hosoda T, Anastasia L, Rota M, Leri A, Anversa P, Kajstura J.
      Insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor identifies a pool of human cardiac stem cells with superior therapeutic potential for myocardial regeneration.
      Circ Res. 2011 Jun 10;108(12):1467-81
      PMID: 21546606

      Another pair of plots in Figure 2 are essentially identical, while a third plot has small bits that are shared with the other two.

      http://i.imgur.com/0lkGKKC.png

      Original figure here for anyone curious enough to do an independent verification.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299060/figure/F2/

      We learn that a stretched alpha-SMA is the same as alpha-SA (unstretched).

      CD45 on the other hand is different in its core distribution but the same in its outliers. With scientific skepticism dialled to the maximum setting, might this be considered especially interesting?

      1. This 2011 Circulation Research paper is one of those gifts that keep on giving.

        D’Amario D1, Cabral-Da-Silva MC, Zheng H, Fiorini C, Goichberg P, Steadman E, Ferreira-Martins J, Sanada F, Piccoli M, Cappetta D, D’Alessandro DA, Michler RE, Hosoda T, Anastasia L, Rota M, Leri A, Anversa P, Kajstura J.
        Insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor identifies a pool of human cardiac stem cells with superior therapeutic potential for myocardial regeneration.
        Circ Res. 2011 Jun 10;108(12):1467-81
        PMID: 21546606

        In Figure 3J, a bunch of cells are shared between the control and activated states in neighbouring microscopy images. They may change location, they may rotate, their nuclei may change colours. But they are the same cells.

        http://i.imgur.com/VgbBKBd.png

        Original figure here

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299060/figure/F3/

        Is red the new blue?

          1. Thanks tekija (and to the good doctor bimler who also checked the marked images)!

            There is certainly a dramatic difference in the background of the middle panel compared to those either side. Your explanation would be the one most consistent with Occam’s razor 🙂

            By the way, there is plenty more for any sleuth still in need of festive figure gluttony.

            Fig. 1A. IGF-2 and IGF-2R plots are the same. Also, in the gels displayed upper right, a marker lane is simultaneously able to be the leftmost and the rightmost marker lane. Ambidextrous?

            Fig. 4. lower panel (IGF-2) GATA4 (2nd from left) and alpha-SA (rightmost) have an extraordinary number of spots shared between both figures. Vanishingly small probability that this happened by chance. Luckily though the GATA4 plot has a number of extra spots while alpha-SA has managed one or two of its own, so they are not 100% identical. Hurray!

            Astute observers might have noted by now that Figs. 1, 2, 3 and 4 all have what look like very visible duplications (PMID:21546606). Seems like job done, though others are welcome to continue the scrutiny with Figs. 5-8.

  21. Dr Anversa’s papers are published frequently in Circulation Research, which has been edited since 2009 by by his close collaborator Roberto Bolli. Six papers by Anversa appeared in just the first two years that Bolli was editor. Those papers were apparently not sent to an external editor for independent review and decision, as none of the papers contain the usual disclaimer which appears at the bottom of the title page when a paper has been sent to an external editor.

    Since 2011, the pattern has continued with 7 more Anversa papers published in Circ Res. This is, by far, the greatest number of papers (n=13) published by a single group in this journal over the 2009-2014 time period during which Bolli has served as editor. Interestingly, from the posts above, one published just this year (after the retraction of the Circulation paper and after the “expression of concern” by the Lancet editors regarding the Bolli-Anversa SCIPIO paper) contains what seem like blatant irregularities.

    Circulation Research is a journal of the American Heart Association, a public charity with a reputation to uphold. How do they tolerate such behavior by an editor?

    1. “Circulation Research is a journal of the American Heart Association, a public charity with a reputation to uphold. How do they tolerate such behavior by an editor?”

      Very easily, apparently. *Why* such behavior is tolerated – and one might argue implicitly endorsed – is another question.

      To reference yet another 1970s movie, perhaps it is time to “follow the money.”

    2. The AHA has a publications committee. Not sure who is on that but presumably it has some oversight for the journals. Agree that this looks bad for both the AHA and NIH/NHLBI.

  22. Colleagues,

    Several people have sent me notes about the comments here on Retraction Watch under the name of “Chuck”, assuming they are mine. I want to let people know that the person posting under the name “Chuck” is not me. I have had many disagreements with Dr. Anversa and colleagues for the past 15 years, in public forums and in print, so I have no need for anonymity on this point. To avoid ambiguity, any comments that are from me will be fully identified.

    Best regards,
    Chuck Murry
    University of Washington, Seattle

  23. There’s one line in his lawsuit that betrays and exposes the fundamental bias in the mind of Anversa: “The [Anversa] laboratory has worked to DEMONSTRATE [emphasis mine] that the heart is a constantly renewing organ, with the hope of developing stem cell therapies to repair damaged hearts.” By this simple statement in the lawsuit, Anversa reveals the fact that he has already convinced himself of the fundamental truth of his hypothesis, which would lead him to dismiss data that conflict with his personal version of the truth. The existence of this bias is consistent with a prior account (http://retractionwatch.com/2014/05/30/braggadacio-information-control-and-fear-life-inside-a-brigham-stem-cell-lab-under-investigation/), which reported that Anversa established a laboratory culture in which the only “valid results” are those that support his views. Whether or not Anversa and Leri are ultimately found to have manipulated the data themselves, they most certainly have created a laboratory culture in which their viewpoint that “the heart is a constantly renewing organ” is taken as an established fact. This is not science. In this context, what subsequently happened with data manipulation in the lab was possibly inevitable.

  24. From the lawsuit Fact II.36 “Dr. Anversa worked with Dr. Kajstura on a daily basis for over twenty years. Dr. Anversa had no basis to believe that Dr. Kajstura was dishonest or unreliable prior to these events.”

    The first paper published by Anversa and Kajstura as co-authors on pubmed was in 1993. Reiss K, Kajstura J, Capasso JM, Marino TA, Anversa P. Exp Cell Res. 1993 Aug;207(2):348-60.

    The first grayscale image in this paper (Fig 2) shows Northern analyses of PCNA, histone-H3 and GAPD in fetal myocardium and myocytes isolated from sham operated coronary-stenosed rats at 2 (A) and 7 days (B) after surgery. There is a strong correlation of band positions in what should be independent GAPD lanes in A (2 days) and B (7 days), if one of these blots is horizontally flipped in respect to the other. There are also correlations between the other 2 and 7 day blots

    If I was presented with this figure by a colleague to a publication with my name, it probably would not take long before I was troubled by the correlations between these “independent” blots.

    I think from the beginning of the relationship with the colleague that Anversa now says he had no reason to believe ” … was dishonest or unreliable ” there seems to have been a problem that should have led to questions.

  25. Dr. Anversa had no basis to believe that Dr. Kajstura was dishonest or unreliable prior to these events.

    There is an Alice-in-Wonderland air to this whole lawsuit… in which Anversa and Leri themselves declare that their milestone accomplishments of the last decade were fraudulent, in the course of suing Harvard for investigating possible fraudulence within those accomplishments, thereby robbing them of the promotions which they had earned with their fraudulent accomplishments:

    an appointment as full professor, a position that is consistent with her achievements

    Their so-far unsupported claim that someone else was responsible for the fraud seems completely irrelevant.

  26. Herr doctor bimler’s is a sage assessment. While the plaintiffs protest “not my fault”, they eagerly accepted grant money and accolades which they concede were based on fakery. Although Harvard may be hamstrung in responding, the admissions in the lawsuit would seem to compel independent investigations/sanctions by NIH and by the American Heart Association.

  27. Preamble: I use your site as teaching tool for my trainees and exort them to read and expand their horizons.

    So, this particular case is about money, and a lot of it. Read Jalees Rehman’s article about the lab and the apparent beginning of the whole episode with the Orlic paper……….http://www.scilogs.com/next_regeneration/the-road-to-bad-science-is-paved-with-obedience-and-secrecy/ then a whole new vista opens up.
    There are vast amounts of research, private speculators and other companies and individuals that have ploughed in funds into a ?bottomless pit.
    Another pointer is the number of patents taken out [not cheap to file and maintain.]
    And the next steps of setting up companies and marketing stem cells and treatments are/were going to be valuable.
    Whilst it may be about research retractions in this forum, the enormity of the finances invoked is staggering.

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