Researcher loses biotech post after reportedly confessing to fraud

A researcher has lost his position as a Chief Scientific Officer at a DNA sequencing company after he reportedly confessed to fabricating data in a 2015 paper, now retracted by the Journal of Cell Biology.

According to the CEO of Karmagenes, when the company learned about the retraction, the staff “immediately” conferred and decided the researcher — Pranav Ullal — should no longer serve as one of the company’s two CSOs.

Karmagenes CEO Kyriakos Kokkoris told us:

As the CEO of Karmagenes, it is part of my role and my responsibility to reply to positive or negative comments when the company’s image is affected.

At Karmagenes, we are very recently aware of the fabrication regarding Fig. 3, C (bottom right) and D (far right) of the paper ”The DYRK-family kinase Pom1 phosphorylates the F-BAR Cdc15 to prevent division at cell poles” and the subsequent retraction published in February 16 2017.

We immediately had an internal discussion and we have decided that Dr Ullal’s will no longer serve as second CSO at Karmagenes. Dr Ullal is fully aware of the consequences of his Academic misconduct. We would like to clarify that there is no link of his scientific career and his recent Academic misconduct, and Karmagenes technology.

Kokkoris added that scientific decisions at the company — which offers DNA-based personality tests — are made by a team of five PhD-trained life scientists:

In addition, there were 2 CSOs and the principal CSO was and continues to be Dr Dudin. Thus, Dr Ullal’s Academic misconduct [cannot] affect in any way Karmagenes technology…our proprietary algorithm has been developed by all the Karmagenes Scientific Team members based on the relevant information extracted from a pool of more than 22,000 scientific publication regarding human behavioral genetics, as seen in The National Center for Biotechnology Information that advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information

Indeed, on the Karmagenes staff site, the following text now appears after Ullal’s bio [their emphasis added]:

Dr Ullal was serving as the second CSO at Karmagenes but after some recent developments in his scientific career, Dr Ullal has decided to pursue his child dream of soon launching his own food business. Still, he serves occasionally as Scientific Narrator at Karmagenes and his role includes explaining scientific content in simple words through Karmagenes scientific blog.

Update, 6:10 p.m. Eastern, 2/22/17: Kokkoris said, in a comment left on our other post:

In light of all recent developments, the Board of Directors addressed the case and we have decided that Mr Ullal is no longer professionally associated with Karmagenes.

Hat tip: Neuroskeptic

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5 thoughts on “Researcher loses biotech post after reportedly confessing to fraud”

    1. I found it humorous that, in the “Lab alumni” section of the website for Sophie Martin’s lab at the Univ. of Lausanne (where Dr. Ullal is listed as a former post-doc), Kyriakos Kokkoris, CEO of Karmagenes, is described as “Hustler 1 at Karmagenes.”

      1. It is strange that the Lab Alumni list does not mention Omaya Dudin, the CSO at Karmagenes. His CV includes a period as PhD Student at Lausanne,
        “September 2011 – September 2016 (5 years 1 month) Switzerland
        Cell-cell fusion in fission yeast
        Supervised by Sophie Martin”.

        Perhaps the Alumni list is not frequently updated.

  1. “Personality test by DNA sequencing”? Really?

    Combined, it seems, with a more conventional self-assessment psych questionnaire, a knock-off of Goldberg’s IPIP:

    In addition, we provide a custom psychological test based on the internationally well-recognised BIG5 model (Openness, Consciousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism).

    Some might say that the Big-5 paradigm (including the rival Five-Factor Model) is the psych. equivalent of applying Factor Analysis to quantify the illumination under a streetlight, when the original goal was to find the key that one lost in the dark alley around the corner. But I could not possibly comment.

    1. But I could not possibly comment.

      I, however, possibly can.


      see, crawling around
      underneath a lamppost—you all know the punchline:
      “Because the light is so much better here!” Blackout.

      But: if he keeps searching
      in the light, on his knees,
      something might turn up, something
      of even greater interest than his keys.

      But: if, down the street, in dark
      too thick to tell two cats apart,
      he finds keys and cannot see whose keys they are,
      he might open who knows what unexpected door.


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