Findings of Scientific Misconduct

Whoa.

Based on the reports of separate investigations conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), CalTech, and MIT and additional analysis conducted by ORI, the US PHS found that Luk Van Parijs, PhD, former Graduate Student, Department of Pathology, Harvard; former Research Fellow and Instructor of Pathology, BWH; former Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biology, CalTech; and former Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Center for Cancer Research, MIT, engaged in scientific misconduct in research supported by grants U19AI56900, R21AI49897, R01AI42100, P01AI35297, R37AI25022, R01AI32531, R01CA51462, P30ES02109, and R01GM57931.

PHS found that Respondent engaged in scientific misconduct by including false data in grant applications R01AI54519-01A1, R01AI54973-01, R01AI54973-01A1, 2P30CA14051-34, and R21DK69277-01.

Specifically, PHS found that Respondent engaged in scientific misconduct by including false data in 7 published papers, 3 submitted papers (with 2 earlier versions submitted for one of these), one submitted book chapter, and multiple presentations as follows:

1. While at HMS/BWH, Dr. Luk Van Parijs falsified the expression of IFN-[gamma] and KJ-126 in flow cytometry dot plots for the immunized, naive, tolerized and tolerized + IL-12 experimental groups in Figure 4, JEM 186:1119-1128, 1997, by using the same non-stained cell population in the lower left quadrant to falsely represent CD4+ T cells negative for IFN-[gamma] and KJ-126 in each experimental group.

2. That Dr. Luk Van Parijs falsified the expression of different proteins in flow cytometry dot plots in Figure 1, Immunity, 8:265-274, 1998, in Figure 1C, Immunity, 11:281-288, September 1999, and in Figure 5, Immunity 11:763-770, December 1999, by using portions of the same dot plot to represent different cell populations expressing different proteins. Specifically:

a. While at HMS/BWH, Dr. Van Parijs used portions of the same dot plot to represent T cell populations expressing the 3A9 T cell receptor and CD4+ (top panel) or CD8+ (bottom panel) in 3A9+ (wild type), in 3A9/lpr (Fas-), or in 3A9/gld (FasL-) transgenic mice in Figure 1, Immunity 1998, where:

i. The CD4/3A9 dot plots for the 3A9+ and 3A9/gld transgenic mice were the same, and the 3A9+ dot plot was a subset of the 3A9/lpr dot plot;
ii. The CD8/3A9 dot plots for the 3A9+ and 3A9/lpr transgenic mice were the same in the lower left and lower right quadrants, and the 3A9/gld dot plot was a subset of the wild type dot plot;

b. While at CalTech, Dr. Van Parijs used portions of the same dot plot to represent the expression of hIL-2R[beta] and GFP in T cells infected with WT or [Delta]355+8F IL-2R mutant in Figure 1C, Immunity, September 1999, where the [Delta]355+8F dot plot was a subset of the WT dot plot.

c. While at CalTech, Dr. Van Parijs used portions of the same dot plot to represent the expression of B220 and IgM in infected (GFP+) and not infected (GFP-) spleen cells isolated from reconstituted mice in Figure 5, Immunity, December 1999, where the Infected (GFP+) dot plot for control mice was a subset of the Not Infected (GFP-) dot plot for FLIP mice.

3. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs falsely claimed in the text of RNA Interference Technology (Cambridge University Press, July 2004) and in Figure 2 of Nature Genetics 33:401-406 (2003) that experiments depicting the functional silencing of genes in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and in non-cycling dendritic cells by lentiviral-mediated RNAi were performed, when they were not. Specifically, in Nature Genetics:

a. Figure 2b falsely showed the transduction of bone marrow-derived dendritic cells infected with pLL3.7 Bim by flow cytometry, and knockdown of Bim expression by Western blot;

b. Figure 2d falsely showed the efficiency of pLL3.7 CD8 lentiviral infection in HSCs by flow cytometry for GFP expression (left panel), and falsely showed stable gene expression in progeny by flow cytometry for GFP expression in spleen cells from chimeras derived from infected HSCs (right panel);

c. Figure 2e falsely showed the reduction of CD8+ T cells in spleen cells from chimeras derived from pLL3.7 CD8 infected HSCs (right panel) and controls (left panel).

4. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs falsified figures in grant applications submitted to the NIH, a presentation in 2003, and Figure 6A, Immunity 19:243-255 (2003), by falsely claiming that the image in the figure represented an immunoprecipitation assay for Ras-GTP and a Western blot for total Ras protein, when it actually represented a Western blot for Bcl-2 and [beta]-actin in T cells, previously published as Figure 5C, J. Immunol., 168:597-603 (2002).

Dr. Van Parijs also admitted to falsification or fabrication of data in multiple submitted manuscripts, grant applications submitted to NIH, and presentations as follows.

5. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs admitted that in multiple presentations and submitted manuscripts in 2004, he falsely claimed that the bifunctional lentiviral vectors, U6-shRNA-rat insulin promoter (RIP)-Myc had been made, when they had not, and that transgenic mice carrying these lentiviral vectors with shRNA silencing Bim or Pten proteins in pancreatic cells showed accelerated tumorigenesis and death.

6. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs admitted that in multiple presentations in 2003 and 2004 and in grant application R21 DK69277-01 submitted to NIH in 2003, he falsely claimed that the number of CD8+ T cells and the incidence of diabetes was reduced by silencing CD8 expression with the pLL3.7 CD8 lentivirus in non-obese diabetic (NOD) transgenic mice, when the NOD transgenic mice data did not exist.

7. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs admitted that in multiple presentations, submitted manuscripts, and grant applications submitted to NIH in 2004, he falsely claimed that transgenic mice had been generated with the mono-functional lentiviral vectors with c-Myc, Ras or Akt under the control of the CD4 promoter, when they had not, and that transgenic mice had been generated with the bi-functional lentiviral vectors with CD4-c-Myc, Ras or Akt- and U6-shRNAs targeting luciferase, Bcl-2, or Bim proteins, when they had not. The effect of these misrepresentations was the reported false conclusion that a cytokine-stimulated proto-oncogene network regulated CD4+ T-cell survival and responses to foreign and self antigens.

8. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs admitted that in presentations and submitted manuscripts in 2004, he falsely claimed that mice injected with plasmids carrying shRNAs for Bcl-2, Akt1 and Akt2, complexed to polyethylene imine (PEI) showed a significant reduction in c-myc-induced tumor growth, when the experiments had not been done.

9. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs admitted that in presentations in 2004, he falsely claimed that shRNAs designed using algorithms developed in 2004 were more effective to silence target genes than the shRNAs designed with algorithms in 2002.

10. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs admitted that in multiple presentations, submitted manuscripts, a grant application submitted to NIH, and in the text of Current Opinions in Molec. Therapeutics, 6:136, 2004, he falsely claimed that an in vivo RNAi screen was developed to identify genes in cytokine and apoptosis pathways that accelerated or suppressed Myc-induced tumorigenesis in lethally irradiated mice, by using bi-functional lentiviral vectors that expressed c-Myc under control of the CMV enhancer-[beta]-actin promoter (CAG) and U6-driven shRNAs designed to silence 168 selected genes, when the experiments had not been done.

11. While at MIT, Dr. Luk Van Parijs admitted that in a submitted manuscript in 2004 and a grant application submitted to NIH in 2003, he falsely claimed that with the use of retroviral vectors with Bim and activated Ras, Akt or Myc, he showed that the IL-2-stimulated activation of proto-oncogene pathways functioned to promote the survival of T cells following antigen encounter by regulating Bim and Bcl-2 pathways, when the experiments that were performed were inconclusive.

14 Comments »

  1. Scotus said

    This is mindboggling. To my knowledge its the most extensive catalog of admitted/uncovered PHS-supported research misconduct reported (aside from the Poehlman case). Among many jaw dropping tid bits, as someone that spends a lot of time making sure my research is in compliance with institutional animal care and use requirements, its amazing that Van Parijs claimed to have made multiple lines of transgenic mice that actually didn’t exist. Did he have protocols in place for generating and working with these lines of mice? How on earth did he avoid detection for this deception?

  2. Odyssey said

    Whoa indeed.

  3. Wow! What a busy fucking beaver!

    Imagine if this dude devoted all that energy to actually doing science?

  4. whimple said

    And of course, an appropriate harsh penalty has been meted out:
    —-

    Dr. Van Parijs has entered into a Voluntary Exclusion Agreement in which he has voluntarily agreed, for a period of five (5) years, beginning on December 22, 2008:

    (1) to exclude himself from any contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and from eligibility or involvement in nonprocurement programs of the United States Government referred to as “covered transactions’ pursuant to HHS’ Implementation (2 CFR Part 376 et seq.) of OMB Guidelines to Agencies on Government wide Debarment and Suspension (2 CFR, Part 180); and

    (2) To exclude himself from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS, including but not limited to service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant.

    Although he didn’t receive lifetime PHS debarment or jail time like Poehlman, it’s almost certainly over for him, at least as an academic scientist. Given the economic situation and the recently intensified ethics scrutiny, industry may not be interested in taking a chance on him either. The policy article in Science on the downstream effects of ORI misconduct citations suggests low likelihood of his continuing on in academia … particulary since Van Parijs has made a career of fabrication and falsification.

    I agree with PhysioProf: if he could reach the rank of Assoc Prof at MIT making stuff up, which has got to be harder in many respects, just imagine if he’d put that energy into making real discoveries. – writedit

  5. George Smiley said

    What a douchebag.

  6. bikemonkey said

    that’s a mighty impressive rap sheet to read, even for a cynical bastige like me….

  7. niewiap said

    Makes you think… I wonder how many of the real big names in science got to where they are now thanks to such behavior. He has first author papers with Abbas and Baltimore as senior authors, both big shots in immunology. His publication list is almost as impressive as the list of his scientific misconduct cases. His Nature Genetics paper with fake results in it got cited over 200 times.

  8. […] the investigation of scientific misconduct by Luk van Parijs by US Public Health Service. Writedit covered the case in his blog, and so did Dr. Free-Ride a few years ago when he  had been fired from MIT based on […]

  9. MMBoston said

    Will he go to jail like Poehlman?

    Nope. No criminal charges were filed. Nature Medicine provided quick “where are they now” updates in 2006 and 2007. – writedit

    • MMBoston said

      I wonder why no criminal charges were filed? It seems like the extent of misconduct was huge – like Poehlman’s.

  10. MMBoston said

    Has any other researcher ever been criminally charged for misconduct besides Poehlman?

    Not by the federal government, in recent years anyway, that I’m aware of, but I’m really not sure. We’ll see if the DoD files criminal charges against Dr. Timothy Kulko. – writedit

  11. aibeema said

    Why was Poehlman’s case so different? Was the real issue with him the fact that he acquired so much money by lying on grant applications (signing them and verifying they were completely true)? I recently saw a presentation and the person presenting basically implied that this was the case.

    • writedit said

      Yes, this was the only grounds on which the federal government could take him to court – fraudulent use of taxpayer dollars. Scientific misconduct itself is not a criminal offense. – writedit

  12. I am looking forward to how the pro Global Warming misconduct and falsified data on dozens if not more scientists unfolds. So far its been buried but to me, this is a big stain on science and who do we trust and what data do we trust.

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