Scientist charged in HIV vaccine fraud case

Posted Jun 26, 2014 by Tim Sandle
Federal prosecutors have filed charges against a scientist after he admitted falsifying data that led to millions in grants and hopes of a breakthrough in AIDS vaccine research.
File photo: A nurse wearing blue gloves administers a vaccine into a male patient s arm.
File photo: A nurse wearing blue gloves administers a vaccine into a male patient's arm.
Rhoda Baer (National Institutes of Health) Public domain.
Former Iowa State University laboratory manager Dr. Dong-Pyou Han has confessed to spiking samples of rabbit blood with human antibodies to make an experimental human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine appear to have great promise. According to ABC News, this resulted in the U.S. government (through National Institutes of Health) providing him millions of dollars in grants (estimate to total $19 million).
Han, aged 57, continued taking the grants until another laboratory, based at Harvard University, uncovered irregularities that suggested the results were bogus and that intentional falsification had been taking place. Not only did Han’s claim lead to tax dollars being wasted, it also led to several other researchers spending time on research that simply did not work.
Han's misconduct dates to when he worked at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland under Michael Cho, who was leading a team testing an experimental HIV vaccine on rabbits.
Han was indicted in mid-June 2014 on four counts of making false statements, each of which carries up to five years in prison. Han is from South Korea and his passport has been confiscated.
Such prosecutions of scientists are very rare events. The case 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, irrespective of output.