Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Former NIH postdoc doctored data

with 4 comments

ori-logoA genetics researcher included falsified data in two published papers, according to a report by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) released today.

At the time of the misconduct, Andrew Cullinane was a postdoctoral fellow in the Medical Genetics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). According to his LinkedIn page, he is now an assistant professor at Howard University in Washington D.C. The university’s College of Medicine lists him as an assistant professor in the Basic Sciences/Anatomy department.

As today’s notice in the Federal Register reports, Cullinane

falsified and/or fabricated data and related images by alteration and/or reuse and/or relabeling of experimental data.

The doctored data ended up in two papers and one submitted manuscript; Cullinane has agreed to retract or correct both published papers, adds the report.

The first, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG) in 2011, “A BLOC-1 Mutation Screen Reveals that PLDN Is Mutated in Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Type 9,” lists Cullinane as the first and corresponding author. This paper has been cited 47 times since publication, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, and is being questioned on PubPeer.

According to the ORI, in this paper, Cullinane

falsified and/or fabricated the results in Figure 3C by using the same gel images to represent expression of PLDN in fibroblasts and melanocytes.

David Nelson, editor of AJHG from Baylor College of Medicine at Houston, Texas, said the journal had no knowledge of the ORI findings, but journal officials

look forward to working with Dr. Cullinane and his coauthors to modify their publication appropriately.

The second paper was published in Neurology in April 2016. “Neurologic involvement in patients with atypical Chediak-Higashi disease” lists Cullinane as the third author, and is yet to be cited. 

In this paper, say the ORI findings, Cullinane

falsified and/or fabricated the results in Figure 2A by erasure of a band in the blot image for LYST/CHD-4 that was present in the original data.

The ORI report also mentions a third unpublished paper, “RAB11FIP1, Mutated in HPS-10, Interacts with BLOC-1 to Mitigate Recycling of Melanogenic Proteins.” The ORI report notes that in this paper, Cullinane

falsified and/or fabricated the results in Western blot data by reuse and relabeling, duplication, and/or manipulation in Figures 2B, 2D, 2E, 3A-C, 4C, 4E, 4G, 5B, 6A-C, 7A, 7D, 7G, 7J, and Supplemental Figure 3, and Respondent falsified and/or fabricated the results by reuse and relabeling of centrifuge tubes to represent different experiments in Figures 1D, 7C, 7F, 7I, 7L, and Supplemental Figure 2.

Another 2012 paper in Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research that lists Cullinane as first author is also being questioned on PubPeer. The paper, “A BLOC-1 mutation screen reveals a novel BLOC1S3 mutation in Hermansky–Pudlak Syndrome type 8,” which is not listed in the ORI findings, has been cited seven times.

Starting July 22, 2016, Cullinane has agreed to have any research funded by the Public Health Service — of which NIH is a part — supervised for three years.

For the same time period, Cullinane has also agreed to exclude himself from committees such as peer review panels.

Update: 8/30/16 3:38 p.m. Eastern Time: The journal Neurology tells us it is investigating.

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Comments
  • Theresa Defino September 2, 2016 at 9:36 am

    FYI, he will only be unable to accept support from Public Health Service-funded research and serve in PHS advisory positions but is free to apply (and get) funds from anywhere else in the federal government, eg, National Science Foundation.

    • Ivan Oransky September 6, 2016 at 10:44 am

      Updated, thanks.

  • Alan Price September 6, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Actually the ORI action, as noted in the RW post, requires supervision of his work by the institution in future NIH sponsored reseach. It does not prohibit submission of requests for such funding or acceptance of such funds.

    • Theresa Defino September 6, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      The post originally said he couldn’t get any US research funding w/o the supervisory plan (it was not specific to the PHS).

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