HIV Vaccine Researcher Charged with Fraud


US federal prosecutors have filed charges against a former Iowa State University laboratory manager, Dong-Pyou Han, after he falsified data that subsequently lead to millions of dollars in grants for an experimental HIV vaccine.

Han, who resigned  from Iowa State university last autumn, admitted to spiking rabbits blood with human antibodies in an effort exaggerate the promise of the vaccine. It was a laboratory at Harvard who noticed irregularities in the results back in 2013.

What sets this case apart from other scientific fraud cases is the sheer amount of money involved. Han’s deception dates back to 2008 when he was working under Michael Cho at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland developing an experimental HIV vaccine.

The fraudulent results, that were seen as ground breaking at the time, led to Cho’s team being recruited by Iowa State in 2009, and the receipt of a $5 million grant from the NIH.

This case highlights the fierce competition to win increasing scarce NIH funding

Stephen Brown, medical director for the AIDS Research Alliance, said the case highlights the fierce competition to win increasingly scarce NIH research funding.

“Han’s case also indicates the need for greater transparency and oversight of the peer review funding process, which is cloaked in secrecy and often leads to large sums being given to favored organizations, despite a lack of output,” Brown said in a statement.

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