Thursday, April 27, 2017

Partners, Brigham pay $10M to settle research fraud probe

Partners, Brigham pay $10M to settle research fraud probe

Partners Healthcare and Brigham and Women’s have agreed to pay $10 million to settle allegations by the federal government that a group of former stem cell researchers at the hospital falsified data to win grant funding from the NIH.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston announced the settlement, which stems from grant applications submitted by a stem cell research lab run by former Harvard Medical School professor Piero Anversa.

According to the government, Anversa and two other researchers, Annarosa Leri and Jan Kajstura, used “manipulated and falsified information” to obtain funding to study whether stem cells can repair cardiovascular damage. The data was published in a 2012 issue of the journal Circulation, but the study was later withdrawn amid allegations that it had been partially fabricated.

Anversa and Leri sued Brigham in 2014, saying the hospital's investigation into their alleged conduct was flawed and marred by conflicts of interest. A judge dismissed that case in 2015.

On Thursday, prosecutors credited Brigham with voluntarily disclosing the possible fraud to the government, and noted that the scientists are no longer affiliated with the hospital.

“Individuals and institutions that receive research funding from NIH have an obligation to conduct their research honestly and not to alter results to conform with unproven hypotheses,” Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said in a statement. “Medical research fraud not only wastes scarce government resources but also undermines the scientific process and the search for better treatments for serious diseases.”

In a statement, a Brigham spokesperson said the hospital ceased drawing funds implicated in the alleged fraud when the claims came to light, and also closed the lab.

"BWH is committed to ensuring that research conducted at the institution is done under the most rigorous scientific standards, and has made significant enhancements to research integrity compliance protocols as a result of this event," the spokesperson said.

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