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Investigation finds pharmaceutical researcher falsified grant applications

Andrew S. Wiecek

An investigation led by the Office of Research Integrity and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has found that the researcher included false figures in his R01 grant applications.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) found that Boris Cheskis, former senior scientist at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, engaged in research misconduct in two R01 grant applications. The grant applications were submitted in 2004 and 2005 to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The findings come after an investigation conducted by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Cheskis was researching estrogen receptors and modulation of nongenomic phosphorylation cascades at Wyeth’s Women's Health Research Institute. Cheskis' team identified a scaffold protein, MNAR, that interacts with estrogen receptor alpha (ERa) to regulate signaling pathways involved in the regulation of cell functions including cellular proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis.

The ORI investigation found that Cheskis “intentionally” falsified Figures 5 and 6 in a R01 grant application titled ``MNAR Crosstalk with Steroid Receptors,'' which was submitted to NIH on Sept. 28, 2004. In an amendment to that grant application, submitted on Nov. 9, 2005, the investigation found that Cheskis “intentionally” falsified Figures 6 and 9.

Last year, Cheskis and his co-authors retracted a 2002 paper on the same research that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS). According to the author’s note that accompanied the retraction, the authors believed that the cell-based data were unreliable in demonstrating the MNAR dependency of estrogen receptor mediated activation of a particular pathway. However, they affirmed that the biochemical data showing the ER-MNAR-Src interaction were still valid.

Although Cheskis neither admitted nor denied the ORI’s findings of misconduct, he has agreed to enter into Voluntary Settlement Agreement. For two years, Cheskis will be excluded from serving in any advisory capacity to the Public Health System (PHS). Also, if an institution submits an application for PHS support for a research project that includes Cheskis’ participation, they must also submit a supervisory plan to ensure the scientific integrity of Cheskis’ contributions.

Since 2005, Cheski has continued to investigate the role of MNAR in estrogen regulation pathways. He authored a report published in Steriods in 2008 and a review on estrogen signaling in 2007. In 2009, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals was bought by Pfizer Inc.