Pharmaceutical researcher faked data in two papers, says federal watchdog

Shaker Mousa

A former professor and vice provost for research at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in New York, falsified data in two published papers, according to findings from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

Shaker Mousa, who was also chairman and executive vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research Institute at Albany, already has at least 10 retractions and two corrections, by our count

The falsified data appeared in “Tetraiodothyroacetic acid-conjugated PLGA nanoparticles: a nanomedicine approach to treat drug-resistant breast cancer,” which appeared in Nanomedicine in 2013, and “The proangiogenic action of thyroid hormone analogue GC-1 is initiated at an integrin,” which appeared in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology in 2005 and was retracted last September. ORI called for Mousa to request a correction or retraction of the Nanomedicine paper as well. 

The ORI found seven micrograph panels appeared in both the Nanomedicine and Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology papers and were relabeled to “report pro-angiogenic factors as alternate pro-angiogenic factors, anti-angiogenic drug treatments as alternate anti-angiogenic drug treatments, and control treatments and anti-angiogenic treatments as the same treatment.” 

The findings relate to research funded by two grants. One, on which Mousa was the sole principal investigator from 2009-2010, received nearly $375,000 in funding. The other grant awarded over $6 million from 1997-2020 to Thomas Scanlan, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, as principal investigator. Mousa received nearly $1.9 million in total funding as sole principal investigator. 

ORI’s findings follow comments on PubPeer from 2022, when commenter “Actinopolyspora biskrensis” compared images from the 2013 Nanomedicine paper with those that appeared in another Mousa paper from 2009, “The anti-angiogenic activity of NSITC, a specific cathepsin L inhibitor.” The latter was retracted in October 2023. 

Mousa, whose work attracted other scrutiny, defended the recurring image by claiming it was the result of using the same positive control, FGF2, in both studies: “That is why you see the same representative FGF2-mediated stimulation of angiogenesis selected in both reports.”

Actinopolyspora also commented on the 2005 paper from the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, suggesting images from it appeared in two of Mousa’s later papers, “Fluorinated Analogs of Organosulfur Compounds from Garlic (Allium sativum): Synthesis, Chemistry and Anti-Angiogenesis and Antithrombotic Studies,” which was corrected in January 2023, and “Nanoformulated Bioactive Compounds Derived from Different Natural Products Combat Pancreatic Cancer Cell Proliferation,” which was retracted in August 2022. Mousa did not respond on PubPeer.

Mousa has not yet responded to our requests for comment. As part of a settlement with ORI, he agreed to have his research supervised for four years and will not serve on federal committees, boards, or peer review committees during that time.

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4 thoughts on “Pharmaceutical researcher faked data in two papers, says federal watchdog”

    1. Don’t know if he still consults at the company, but he should find out whether there is still a so-called Federal “Corporate Integrity Agreement,” which prevents Federal Funding to companies that employs a subject to federal action, such as ORI.

  1. I’m always blown away that the penalties for a ORI finding like this are so inconsequential. A four year funding ban and research supervision seems like a pretty mild punishment for essentially misappropriating $1.9 million, putting entire lines of research at risk with fake findings, and probably muddying the reputations of innocent collaborators, since we now have to question whether they were aware of the fabrications or not.

    I’m hoping that this kind of action actually results in being informally permanently blackballed from serious research afterwards. Can anyone provide any insight into what usually becomes of careers after these events?

    I mean, especially when he won’t even admit to the wrong-doing or show any remorse, funders and employers would have to be incredibly naive to just trust he’s magically rehabilitated after four years of penance.

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