Gene Therapy Researcher Faked Data

A former postdoc in a prominent gene therapy lab is branded a fraud by the US government more than three years after having a slew of papers retracted from various journals.

By | April 25, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, LUPAA former postdoc who studied gene therapy at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York is guilty of research misconduct, according to the US government’s Office of Research Integrity (ORI). Retraction Watch broke the news today (April 25) that Li Chen—who was a postdoc in the lab of Savio Woo, a noted gene therapy scientist—faked data that appeared in four published studies, four National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant applications, and a submitted manuscript that was never published.

Six papers from the Woo lab were retracted from PNAS, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Human Gene Therapy, and Molecular Therapy in 2010. Chen was listed as an author on four of those papers. The ORI found that Chen, “intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly fabricated and falsified data reported in four (4) publications, one (1) submitted manuscript, and four (4) grant applications” that claimed to report a cure for phenylketonuria, or PKU, in mice.

Apparently, Chen fudged 19 figures, including images that illustrated the chromosomal locations of integration sites, reported the use of PCR to determine integration frequencies, and represented the detection of chromosomal translocations in human cells, among other fabrications. In some cases, Chen indicated that gene therapy experiments were successful when in fact the experiments were not even performed.

Mount Sinai dismissed Chen after conducting its own investigation in 2010, but now the former postdoc is ineligible for grants from the NIH and can’t serve on any of the agency’s committees for the next three years, according to the ORI.

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Avatar of: JLo


Posts: 7

April 28, 2014

Classical example of desperate person that wants fame and reputation . This individual simply does not care whom will be hurt I think that it is a major problem with big labs of high reputation scientists. They grow to a level where they do not know what is happening in their labs. Names such as Woo, Baltimore, Collins and the latest scandals in Korea and Rikens. The supervision and mentoring is thing of the past, they are more involved in politics or going around on the seminar circuit, that what is happening in their labs. They need to select more honest individuals. The scientific society must start banning those unethical individuals and barring them to receive federal funded grants ever

Avatar of: Jay Thakar

Jay Thakar

Posts: 16

April 28, 2014

The restriction of three years for grant as well as committee service should be extended for at least 10 years. Three years punishment nay not cure the ill.

Avatar of: Doug Easton

Doug Easton

Posts: 13

May 12, 2014

I must agree with Jay. It seems to me that the level to which fraud has risen in big time biomedical science today is ruinous to the public reputations of everyone who works in the field. Not only is it dishonest it is a danger to the participants in Phase I clinical trials, who can be seriously harmed or killed by worthless nostrums generated by reckless and callous people.

I really don't see why criminal penalties do not apply. I would like to see these people (I do not use the term "scientists" here) spend some time in prison. Or perhaps alternatively, spending time as an orderly in a cancer ward.

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