Iowa biologist falsified figures

Former University of Iowa molecular biologist, Jusan Yang, falsified several figures in an unpublished manuscript and at two scientific meetings, the US Public Health Service's Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:reported;http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-09-014.html last week. Yang, a postdoc in linkurl:John Engelhardt's;http://elab.genetics.uiowa.edu/ lab from 1997-2002 and an assistant research scientist in linkurl:Curt Sigmund's;http://neuroscience.grad.uiowa.edu

Elie Dolgin
Nov 10, 2008
Former University of Iowa molecular biologist, Jusan Yang, falsified several figures in an unpublished manuscript and at two scientific meetings, the US Public Health Service's Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:reported;http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-09-014.html last week. Yang, a postdoc in linkurl:John Engelhardt's;http://elab.genetics.uiowa.edu/ lab from 1997-2002 and an assistant research scientist in linkurl:Curt Sigmund's;http://neuroscience.grad.uiowa.edu/faculty/pages/curt-sigmund.html lab from 2002-2005, presented falsified data at the __American Heart Association's Council for High Blood Pressure Research__ meeting in September 2003 and at the __Experimental Biology__ meeting in April 2004 claiming to show that four different RNA interference vectors inhibit a transcription factor that regulates expression of the blood-pressure enzyme, linkurl:renin.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/20481/ A manuscript containing the linkurl:erroneous results;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54912/ -- entitled "Increased renin transcription after inhibition of NF-YA with RNAi reveals through regulation of Ea element and Ear2" -- was in preparation but was never submitted. Yang's bogus findings were also initially included in an NIH grant application, which was rewritten to...
US Public Health Service's Office of Research Integrity (ORI) linkurl:reported;http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-09-014.html last week. Yang, a postdoc in linkurl:John Engelhardt's;http://elab.genetics.uiowa.edu/ lab from 1997-2002 and an assistant research scientist in linkurl:Curt Sigmund's;http://neuroscience.grad.uiowa.edu/faculty/pages/curt-sigmund.html lab from 2002-2005, presented falsified data at the __American Heart Association's Council for High Blood Pressure Research__ meeting in September 2003 and at the __Experimental Biology__ meeting in April 2004 claiming to show that four different RNA interference vectors inhibit a transcription factor that regulates expression of the blood-pressure enzyme, linkurl:renin.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/20481/ A manuscript containing the linkurl:erroneous results;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54912/ -- entitled "Increased renin transcription after inhibition of NF-YA with RNAi reveals through regulation of Ea element and Ear2" -- was in preparation but was never submitted. Yang's bogus findings were also initially included in an NIH grant application, which was rewritten to remove Yang's data before submission. The University of Iowa launched an inquiry into Yang's findings in March 2005 when "the leadership of the laboratory identified some anomalies, and were very concerned about the irreproducibility of some of the results," linkurl:Richard Hichwa,;http://www.physics.uiowa.edu/faculty/RHichwa.html associate vice president for research at the University of Iowa and the former research integrity officer who oversaw Yang's investigation, told __The Scientist__. Hichwa refused to say which laboratory -- Engelhardt's or Sigmund's -- he was referring to. The questionable data presented at the 2003 linkurl:American Heart Association meeting;http://hyper.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/43/6/1346.pdf was co-authored with Sigmund alone. Both Sigmund and Engelhardt declined to comment, as did former Iowa professor, linkurl:Robin Davisson,;http://www.vet.cornell.edu/BioSci/faculty/davisson/ now at Cornell University, who co-authored papers with Yang in 2003 and 2006. The university's 13-month investigation -- longer than usual because "Dr. Yang was not very helpful," according to Hichwa -- reviewed Yang's data, lab books, excel files, and images, as well as directly queried Yang through his lawyer, and concluded that Yang falsified five figures in his manuscript. In one figure, a linkurl:Western blot;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/12759/ was mislabeled and inappropriately enhanced in Photoshop. Throughout the manuscript, Yang claimed that each figure was based on four independent repetitions, when the actual number of repetitions ranged from one to three. Standard error bars and levels of statistical significance were also inaccurately reported. Several of these figures appeared in Yang's two conference presentations, too. "He falsified and fabricated data," said Hichwa. "He declared that he had a number of replicate measurements when he did not. Really what it comes down to was he was not able to recreate or provide support for his original findings." None of the falsified data were ever published in peer-review journals, and no problems were found with Yang's previous results, including first-author papers published in the__ linkurl:Journal of Virology;http://jvi.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/73/11/9468 __(cited in 74 papers, according to ISI) and__ linkurl:Molecular Therapy;http://www.nature.com/mt/journal/v7/n3/abs/mt200353a.html __(cited in 14 papers), Hichwa said. "The ORI concurred with the University of Iowa's findings," linkurl:John Dahlberg,;http://ori.dhhs.gov/about/contact_ori.shtml director of the ORI's division of investigative oversight, wrote in an E-mail. But the "ORI does not consider this a major misconduct case; the amount of misconduct was limited and no falsified data was published." According to the University of Iowa's records, Yang earned a MD from the West China University of Medical Sciences in Chengdu (now Sichuan University), a Master's in cardiology from the Chongqing University of Medical Sciences, and a PhD in molecular medicine from the linkurl:Third Military Medical University;http://www.tmmu.edu.cn/newweb/wblue/index.aspx in Chongqing. From 1987-1993, Yang worked at the Central Hospital of Wanxian Prefecture, first as a resident and then as a cardiology clinical fellow. From 1993-1996, he was the director of science development and technique transfer at the Chongqing University of Medical Sciences. In August 1997, he joined the University of Iowa. Yang voluntarily left the University of Iowa in August 2005 after the university's July 2005 inquiry report called for a full-blown investigation of misconduct. At the time, he was linkurl:earning $49,052.;http://www.press-citizen.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/99999999/SALARIES/50407058 Yang is currently volunteering in a health care facility in California toward obtaining his certification to practice medicine in the US, and is not employed anywhere that receives Public Health Service funding, Dahlberg said. __The Scientist__ was unable to contact Yang, whose specific whereabouts are unknown.

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