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Neuroscientist Apologizes for Falsifying Data

01/10/2013
Jesse Jenkins

A neuroscientist has been found guilty of falsifying data in three NIH grant applications. So what does he have to say for himself?


A former Gladstone Institute neuroscientist, who falsified data in three grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health, has made a formal apology for his actions after resigning last month.

"I would like to express my sincere remorse and apologies to the community,” said Paul J. Muchowski, the former senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease. Source: Muchowski, OmisOnline.org





"I would like to express my sincere remorse and apologies to the community,” said Paul J. Muchowski, the former senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, which is affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “I now fully realize that any shortcuts in drafting grant applications are wrong and not acceptable scientific procedure. I will never again commit such mistakes.”

In three grants applications, Muchowski “falsely reported from research experiments when the results did not exist at the time the grant applications were submitted,” according to a report published in the Federal Register by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on January 7, 2013.

Muchowski has been a prominent figure in the field of Huntington’s disease research and is the author of several papers that have been cited over 100 times each, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge (1-3). Most recently, in a paper published in June 2011 in Cell, Muchowski and colleagues reported that the novel compound JM6 alleviates neurodegenerative symptoms in mouse models of Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease (4).

“Importantly, my research findings were never called into question, and there will be no retractions based on these findings,” said Muchowski.

The investigation began when a colleague of Muchowski brought forth concerns of the researcher’s misconduct, said Gladstone officials. To investigate these allegations, the institute formed an internal committee as well as a separate committee consisting of senior UCSF scientists. During the investigation, Muchowski admitted his misconduct and submitted his resignation at Gladstone Institutes in November 2012.

“Both committees concluded that Dr. Muchowski’s falsification and fabrication of data in grant applications clearly departed from accepted practices in the research community and constituted scientific misconduct,” Jeanette Borzo, chief communications officer at Gladstone, said in a statement. “Gladstone’s president and trustees agreed with the committees’ conclusions.”

Gladstone president R. Sanders Williams said, “We are saddened by this event, but heartened that our research culture encouraged a colleague of Dr. Muchowski to alert us to this matter. From that point, our established policies guided us through careful review to a resolution of this situation.”

As a result of ORI’s findings, Muchowski has agreed to be supervised for the next two years on any federally funded research project with which he is involved. In addition, he will not participate in any advisory role to the Public Health Service.

“I am utterly remorseful and penitent for my mistakes and wrongdoings,” said Muchowski. “I hope that I can continue to work and collaborate with others around the world, focusing on the future."

Read the complete apology here...

References

  1. Muchowski, P. J., and J. L. Wacker. 2005. Modulation of neurodegeneration by molecular chaperones. Nature reviews. Neuroscience 6(1):11-22.
  2. Muchowski, P. J., G. Schaffar, A. Sittler, E. E. Wanker, M. K. Hayer-Hartl, and F. U. Hartl. 2000. Hsp70 and hsp40 chaperones can inhibit self-assembly of polyglutamine proteins into amyloid-like fibrils. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97(14):7841-7846.
  3. Willingham, S., T. F. F. Outeiro, M. J. DeVit, S. L. Lindquist, and P. J. Muchowski. 2003. Yeast genes that enhance the toxicity of a mutant huntingtin fragment or alpha-synuclein. Science (New York, N.Y.) 302(5651):1769-1772.
  4. Zwilling, D., S.-Y. Huang, K. V. Sathyasaikumar, F. M. Notarangelo, P. Guidetti, H.-Q. Wu, J. Lee, J. Truong, Y. Andrews-Zwilling, E. W. Hsieh, J. Y. Louie, T. Wu, K. Scearce-Levie, C. Patrick, A. Adame, F. Giorgini, S. Moussaoui, G. Laue, A. Rassoulpour, G. Flik, Y. Huang, J. M. Muchowski, E. Masliah, R. Schwarcz, and P. J. Muchowski. 2011. Kynurenine 3-Monooxygenase inhibition in blood ameliorates neurodegeneration. Cell 145(6):863-874.

Keywords:  research misconduct