Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and its parent health care system, Partners HealthCare System, have agreed to pay $10 million in a bid to resolve the allegations that a stem cell research lab at BWH attracted and received federal grant money by fraudulent means.
Former lab scientist Piero Anversa and his colleagues Annarosa Leri and Jan Kajstura allegedly used manipulated and fabricated data to get approval for grant applications that were submitted to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts which revealed the settlement on Thursday, April 27, said that the controversial laboratory work involved a study concerning the potentials of the human heart in repairing itself. Unfortunately, other scientists were not able to replicate the results of the study, which was published in the journal Circulation in September 2012.
2012 Paper On Regenerative Powers Of The Heart Retracted
The American Heart Association, which publishes the journal Circulation, issued a retraction for the 2012 paper on the human heart's regenerative powers prompted by reviews of BWH and the Harvard Medical School, which determined the data were compromised enough to warrant a retraction.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office said that BWH itself shared to the government allegations against Anversa's lab disclosing its concerns to the Office of the Inspector General, Office of Research Integrity, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and worked with the Department of Justice. It also commended the effort of the hospital in disclosing the allegations.
"Medical research fraud not only wastes scarce government resources but also undermines the scientific process and the search for better treatments for serious diseases," said acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb. "We commend Brigham and Women's for self-disclosing the allegations of fraudulent research at the Anversa laboratory, and for taking steps to prevent future recurrences of such conduct."
The hospital has been conducting its own investigation since at least 2014 albeit no finding has yet been released.
"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 hospital said.
The government alleges that among the problematic works in the laboratory included invalid and inaccurately characterized heart stem cells, improper protocols, misleading or reckless record-keeping and discrepancies of data and images that were submitted in applications to the NIH research grants and publications.
Attracted Millions In Federal Funding
The government said that at the direction of Anversa and the two other researchers, the laboratory included scientific data in claims to NIH in a bid to get funds from NIH. The research into how and if it is possible for stem cells to be used for treating heart diseases has attracted millions of dollars in federal funding. Brigham said that the lab received a total of $42 million from NIH awards.
The three researchers are no longer affiliated with BWH and the laboratory closed in 2015.