Concerns over the safety and welfare of research participants led the US National Institutes of Health to suspend seven grants awarded to researchers in Duke University’s department of psychiatry last year, according to a March 2018 letter from the NIH to the North Carolina–based university that was obtained by Medscape Medical News.
The document refers to a previous letter, dated December 15, 2017, sent from Duke to NIH, notifying the federal agency of “allegations of research misconduct against several investigators in the Duke Department of Psychiatry and . . . potential issues concerning clinical research irregularities,” according to the March 2018 letter from the NIH to Duke. The March 2018 letter also mentions a phone call between the university and the agency that took place in February 2018, during which Duke expressed concerns about how to proceed with the NIH awards in the face of the misconduct allegations.
The letter did not name the grants or researchers involved in the allegations, and both the NIH and Duke declined to provide such information to Medscape upon request. Duke spokesperson Michael Schoenfeld tells the publication that the investigation “of these anonymous allegations did not result in any finding of research misconduct.” He adds that all the grants have since been reinstated.
This incident is the third in as many years that the university has been in hot water with federal regulators. In 2015, former Duke cancer researcher Anil Potti was found guilty of research misconduct in the course of his government-supported work, and earlier this year, the university paid $112.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a former Duke biologist who had raised concerns of misconduct on the part of his supervisor.
Clarification (May 22): This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the suspended grants have been reinstated, according to Duke.