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Scripps researcher barred from federal grants

06/22/2011
Andrew S. Wiecek

After an investigation, the Office of Research Integrity has found that cancer researcher Philippe Bois falsified data in two published papers.  

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A Scripps Research Institute researcher has been banned from participating in federally funded research projects for three years because, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity (ORI), he falsified data in two published papers.

Philippe Bois, an assistant cancer biology professor on the Scripps Florida campus, “knowingly and intentionally” falsified data in figures that were published in the Journal of Cell Biology (JCB) and in Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) in 2005, said the ORI after an investigation.

After an investigation led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Office of Research Integrity has found that Bois falsified data in a figure from a 2005 paper published in the Journal of Cell Biology. Source: Journal of Cell Biology.

Philippe Bois falsified data in figures that were published in two journals in 2005, according to the ORI. Source: Scripps Research Institute

Bois has disputed the findings and intends to appeal the decision, according to a statement from Scripps. Bois declined to comment on the debarment as legal proceedings continue.

At the time of the misconduct, Bois was a postdoctoral fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After discovering and investigating the misconduct, St. Jude submitted a report to the ORI for further analysis and review.

In the 2005 JCB paper, Bois and colleagues reported that the protein FOXO1a, which regulates myoblast differentiation and fusion, was not expressed in primary alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) tumors, suggesting that it suppresses tumor formation (1). Specifically, Figure 1 of this paper was the main evidence that showed the down-regulation of FOXO1a in the ARMS tumor samples.

In follow-up experiments however, the authors could not reproduce the lack of FOXO1a expression reported in Figure 1 and, as a result, retracted the paper in 2007. After further investigation, the ORI found that Bois falsely reported the figure by selecting an immunoblot that showed the desired result.

In the 2005 MCB paper, Bois and colleagues reported the structural dynamics of a-actinin-vinculin interactions, which reorganize the actin cytoskeleton following the formation of adhesions junctions (2), via the binding of a-actinin’s a-helix (aVBS) with vinculin’s N-terminal seven helical bundle domain (Vh1).

Then again, after the paper’s publication, the authors realized that Figure 4, which showed sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) for papain digestion of VBS3 and aVBS, was mislabeled. Subsequently, the authors submitted a correction in 2007, since the figure did not affect the study’s results or conclusions. After further investigation, Bois was found to be responsible for the mislabeling.

After the ORI formally charged Bois earlier this year, Bois requested a hearing to dispute the findings. Last month, a judge dismissed the hearing request, citing that Bois had not raised a genuine dispute over the facts of the misconduct findings.

Currently, Bois is leading two research projects to study mammalian recombination hotspots, funded by over $900,000 in grants from the National Institutes of Health. The fate of these projects remains unknown.

References

  1. Bois, P.R., K. Izeradjene, P.J. Houghton, J.L. Cleveland, J.A. Houghton, and G.C. Grosveldz. 2007. FOXO1a acts as a selective tumor suppressor in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. J. Cell Biol. 177:563.
  2. Bois, P.R., R.A. Borgon, C. Vonrhein, and T. Izard. 2005. Structural dynamics of alpha-actinin-vinculin interactions. Mol. Cell. Biol. 25:6112-6122.

Keywords:  misconduct