Novartis AG Fires Scientist Who Falsified Data In 6 Research Papers

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November 25, 2014

By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity (ORI) announced yesterday its final action on the case of Igor Dzhura, finding that the scientist had “engaged in research misconduct in research supported by U.S. Public Health Services (PHS) funds.”

Formerly of Vanderbilt University, the ORI found Dzhura, a former senior research associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt, had included fraudulent data. Most recently Dzhura was employed by Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research located in Cambridge, Mass. Dzhura was fired from Novartis.

“We have learned that Igor Dzhura included papers with fraudulent data in his application for employment at Novartis,” a Novartis spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. “Falsifying data is not acceptable and we have terminated his employment with the company. We are conducting an internal review to ensure that there was not any scientific misconduct related to his research here.”

The publications in which he published falsified data include: Nature Cell Biology (2:173-177, 2000); J. Physiol. (535(3):679-687, 2001); Circulation (106:1288-1293,2002); J. Physiol. (545(2):399-406, 2002); J. Physiol. (550(3):731-738, 2003); FASEB J. (19:1573-1585, 2005); and Molecular Cell (23:641-650, 2006).

According to Retraction Watch, a blog that monitors research misconduct, the papers have been cited more than 500 times.

The ORI summary states, “ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct by submitting and publishing multiple falsified and/or fabricated action potential traces and summary data in at least sixty-nine (69) images in twelve (12) different figures across seven (7) publications and three (3) grant applications by duplication and relabeling of traces; resizing, modifying, and splicing different races; and modifying and/or duplicating bar graphs.”

Dzhura agreed to a Voluntary Exclusion Agreement to run for three years starting October 29, 2014. This will prevent him from contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the U.S. government, or any nonprocurement programs with the U.S. government. He also will not serve in any advisory capacity to PHS as a consultant, peer reviewer, committee or board.

After leaving Vanderbilt, but before moving to Novartis, Dzhura worked at SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

“Dr. Dzhura left my lab back in 2010 and has been working at Novartis in Boston although I have had very little contact with him,” Dzhura’s principal investigator at SUNY, George Holz, wrote in a Retraction Watch post. “I was unaware that ORI was conducting this investigation. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. When Dr. Dzhura was working at my lab in 2009 and 2010, there was no mention from him or any of his previous employers that his prior work had been questioned.”

In the Wall Street Journal post, Retraction Watch co-founder Ivan Oransky says that the dismissal from Novartis “is the first case we’ve seen in which a drug company has immediately fired someone for such revelations.”