PUBLISHED: 12:49 EST, 26 December 2013
An Iowa State University assistant professor has stepped down after being accused of faking the results of an AIDS study by mixing human and rabbit blood to the tune of millions of federal dollars.
Biomedical researcher Dr. Dong-Pyou Han resigned from his post at the university in October after admitting to falsifying research that has generated $19million in federal grants over the years.
According to Dr James Bradac, of the National Institutes of Health, Han added human blood components to rabbit blood, making it appear as if the animals were developing resistance to the HIV virus.
Bradac, who oversees federal AIDS vaccine grants, called it the worst case of scientific fraud he had seen in 24 years,The Des Moines Register reported.
The human blood that was surreptitiously added to rabbits’ blood came from people whose bodies had produced antibodies to HIV, thus skewing the results of the experiment.
Han’s so-called breakthrough made headlines in the scientific community, raising the possibility that an AIDS vaccine was not far off.
But the scientist’s brazen gambit began falling apart when other researchers were unable to replicate his results.
According to Bradac, Han was part of Dr Michael Cho’s research team. The two started working together 15 years ago at Case Western Reserve University of Ohio, and continued their collaboration after transferring to ISU together.
Test subjects: Han added human blood components to rabbit blood, making it seem as if the animals were developing resistance to HIV
Lucrative lie: ISU was granted nearly $10million towards AIDS research after Han’s bogus breakthrough
Dr Cho has not been implicated in the fraud case and does not face any disciplinary measures.
The research team received a total of $19million in federal grants over the years to develop a cure for AIDS.
More than half of the money was awarded to ISU after Han had reported his doctored results showing rabbits buildings defenses against the HIV virus.
ISU spokesman John McCarroll told the paper that Dr Cho learned this past January about potential problems with his team’s tests.
The questionable samples were then sent to another institution for testing, which confirmed that Han had spiked the blood to skew the outcome of the experiment.
Federal officials said the rest of the ISU research team was kept in the dark about Han’s scheme. Of the $19million awarded to ISU for AIDS research, about $4million has yet to be spent.
Web of lies: Han’s plan collapsed when other researchers attempted to replicate his results showing rabbits’ bodies building defenses against the HIV virus (pictured), but failed
There is a possibly that the federal government would ask the university to repay the money, but Bradac, of NIH, said it would be a highly unusual move.
After resigning from ISU October 4, Dr. Han agreed to exclude himself from any federally funded research for a period of three years beginning November 25, 2013.
On Tuesday, Dr Cho, the head of the research team at ISU, vowed to continue working on an AIDS vaccine despite the setback caused the fraudulent actions of his former colleague.
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