December 27, 2013
Iowa State AIDS Researcher Admits To Falsifying Study Findings, Fraud
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
With countless lives depending on their work, it seems unthinkable that AIDS researchers might falsify their work. However, that’s just what Iowa State University assistant professor Dong-Pyou Han has admitted to, according to federal documents released on Monday.
The Iowa State professor’s AIDS research project had been awarded $19 million in federal grants over the past several years, according to the Des Moines Register. Han resigned from the project in October after admitting to tampering with samples to give the appearance that an experimental vaccine was causing lab animals to build up protections against HIV.
Michael Cho, project leader on the ISU AIDS project, released an email statement to the local Des Moines paper regarding the incident on Tuesday.
“When it comes to doing science, integrity is the first and foremost important thing. So, as a scientist, it was extremely difficult for me to endure that a member of my laboratory committed this research misconduct,” Cho wrote. “What hurts me even more is that we wasted valuable resources and time in following a false lead in our efforts to develop a much needed vaccine against HIV-1.”
According to federal documents on the incident, Han had been presenting his falsified results at various science conferences over the years. To produce the fake results, Han mixed elements of human blood with the blood of test rabbits. Suspicions arose after other researchers said they were unable to produce the same results.
As the chorus of doubters began to grow, ISU officials called for independent researchers to review the research, which confirmed the fraudulent nature of the results.
Cho, who brought Han to the Iowa school as part of his transfer from Case Western Reserve University several years ago, emphasized the importance of the project’s continued work in his statement to the Des Moines Register.
“During the past three decades of AIDS pandemic, the disease has killed tens of millions of lives globally. So, despite this setback, I and the rest of my laboratory members are fully committed in our quest for developing an effective AIDS vaccine,” he wrote.
Cho added that his team, which includes researchers at other institutions, was frustrated with the situation and is working to push their research forward.
“As a matter of fact, I think the team came up with more novel ideas during the past four months than the past four years I have been at Iowa State University,” Cho wrote. “We also have established more collaborations with investigators with expertise from different disciplines.”
“In this regard, I am thankful to all of our collaborators within Iowa State University as well as to those at other institutions,” he added. “I am also thankful to ISU administrators who conducted a thorough investigation in this matter and have been extremely supportive to all of the laboratory members throughout the investigation, and for their continued confidence in our research program.”
An unnamed administrator at the National Institutes of Health told the Iowa paper that the federal agency is expected to review the $4 million in ISU grant monies that have yet to be released to the disgraced project.