A former Vanderbilt University biomedical engineer committed fraud on a massive scale, according to a new Office of Research Integrity (ORI) report.
Igor Dzhura is banned from receiving federal funding for three years, and is retracting six papers, which have been cited more than 500 times. Since leaving Vanderbilt, he has worked at SUNY Upstate Medical University, and now works at Novartis.
According to the ORI, Dzhura was a busy boy at Vanderbilt, faking images and drastically inflating the number of experiments he conducted by duplicating computer files and saving them in nested folders. The total body count from his work includes:
…submitting and publishing multiple falsified and/or fabricated action potential traces and summary data in at least sixty-nine (69) images in twelve (12) different figures across seven (7) publications and three (3) grant applications by duplication and relabeling of traces; resizing, modifying, and splicing different traces; and modifying and/or duplicating bar graphs.
Dzhura admitted to the ORI that he had
…significantly departed from accepted research practices by engaging in the intentional and knowing fabrication and falsification of data files.
Here’s a taste of what he did, according to the ORI:
- created a hierarchy of computer folders containing duplicated and renamed files; the falsified groups of files included eighty-two (82) groups of duplicated files with each group containing two to twenty-one (2-21) duplicates, which made it appear that experiments were conducted when they were not; and
- used the falsified and/or fabricated data files in Figure 6 of a paper published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology (292(5):H2202-H2211, 2007), to represent Ca+ currents in cardiac myocytes from CLCAD-/- mice; specifically, Respondent claimed that Figure 6 represented results from seven (7) mice when the data files were three (3) sets of duplicated and renamed files plus one additional data file. All of the data files were part of larger groups of identical duplicated and renamed data files on the Respondent’s hard drive.
He also agreed to six retractions. We’ve added the number of citations next to each link, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge:
- Calmodulin kinase determines calcium-dependent facilitation of L-type calcium channels, Nature Cell Biology, 247 citations
- Calmodulin kinase and a calmodulin-binding ‘IQ’ domain facilitate L-type Ca2+ current in rabbit ventricular myocytes by a common mechanism, Journal of Physiology, 2000, 46 citations
- Calmodulin kinase II and arrhythmias in a mouse model of cardiac hypertrophy, Circulation, 2002, 159 citations
- Cytoskeletal disrupting agents prevent calmodulin kinase, iq domain and voltage-dependent facilitation of l-type ca2+ Channels, Journal of Physiology, 2002, 40 citations
- C terminus L-type Ca2+ channel calmodulin-binding domains are ‘auto-agonist’ ligands in rabbit ventricular myocytes, Journal of Physiology, 2003, 16 citations
- A dynamic α-β inter-subunit agonist signaling complex is a novel feedback mechanism for regulating L-type Ca2+ channel opening, FASEB Journal, 2005.
After Vanderbilt, Dzhura moved on to SUNY Upstate Medical Center. We emailed his principal investigator there, George Holz, who told us:
Dr. Dzhura left my lab back in 2010* and has been working at Novartis in Boston although I have had very little contact with him. I was unaware that ORI was conducting this investigation. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. When Dr. Dzhura was working at my lab in 2009 and 2010, there was no mention from him or any of his previous employers that his prior work had been questioned.
*Update 6:30 p.m. Eastern, 11/20/14: We’ve changed a date in Holz’s statement to reflect that Dzhura left the lab in 2010, not 2011 as originally stated.
Update 1:20 p.m. Eastern, 11/21/14: A Novartis representative reached out to inform us that they’ve fired Dzhura after discovering he included the faked papers on his application:
We have learned that Igor Dzhura included papers with fraudulent data in his application for employment at Novartis. Falsifying data is not acceptable and we have terminated his employment with the company. We are conducting an internal review to ensure that there was not any scientific misconduct related to his research here.