Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More on the Verfaille matter in stem cells

The californiastemcellreport discusses the renewed investigation by New Scientist of charges of data manipulation by adult stem cell worker Catherine Verfaillie. Verfaille currently is a reviewer of proposals for CIRM and a COMMENTER to the stem cell report stated:

As for CIRM, if Verfaille truly is that competitive and unscrupulous to knowingly allow multiple instances of data finagling to come from her lab, then she shouldn't be privy to the information in CIRM grants. CIRM may need to be even more vigilant not only on who sees what but on the quality of what is coming out of the CIRM money. If the study really should be repeated, CIRM might best serve the field by encourgaging researchers to repeat it.

To the californiastemcellreport:

Of the text --"'What's unusual here is that you're starting to get other people involved" --, one can only wonder "where" the speaker was during the Hwang Woo Suk affair, which involved several people, including a researcher who went from Hwang's lab to Schatten's lab, and who was responsible for part of the fraud. Unmentioned in the stemcellreport was the fact that Verfaille's MN work involved ADULT stem cells (and possible manipulation of photographs thereof) while Hwang's Korean work involved EMBRYONIC stem cells, and BOTH manipulation of photos AND complete fabrication of results, a more serious problem, harkening back to Jan-Hendrik Schon. Both the Hwang and Verfaille matters involve patent applications. As a general matter, "inequitable conduct" is brought up in litigations, not prosecutions, and a finding of inequitable conduct can have adverse consequences. HOWEVER, the Federal Circuit recently strengthened pleading standards, making it more difficult to assert charges of inequitable conduct. [See
NLJ story mangles analysis of Exergen case?
Of patent angles in the Verfaille matter, see

Patent applications involved in Verfaillie matter
. Both the stemcellpost and the comment miss a significant point: fraud and bad science in areas such as stem cells can take place because the entire relevant community has an interest in seeing the the area move forward, with more investment. As was pointed out in 88 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc'y [JPTOS] 239 (March 2006) [which details the Hwang fraud] :
The failure of editors and referees of the journal Science to detect the fraud in manuscripts of Woo Suk Hwang prior to publication, and the
widespread acceptance of the work after publication, illustrates some difficulties
in relying on peer review to authenticate the validity of scientific work.

**In passing, the investigation of Verfaille was, in part, done by Eugenie Samuel Reich, who did some questionable work in the Purdue bubble fusion matter.


See also

**UPDATE. Moon rock fraud.

'Moon rock' in Dutch museum is just petrified wood

The Dutch national museum acquired the rock after the death of former Prime Minister Willem Drees in 1988. Drees received it as a private gift on Oct. 9, 1969 from then-U.S. ambassador J. William Middendorf during a visit by the three Apollo 11 astronauts, part of their "Giant Leap" goodwill tour after the first moon landing.
Middendorf, who lives in Rhode Island, told Dutch broadcaster NOS news that he had gotten it from the U.S. State Department, but couldn't recall the exact details.
"I do remember that (Drees) was very interested in the little piece of stone," the NOS quoted Middendorf as saying. "But that it's not real, I don't know anything about that."
[from AP]

IPBiz notes that frauds can be difficult to unravel.


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