TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: MIT Fires Professor Over Falsified Data

MIT Fires Professor Over Falsified Data

Michael Kunzelman (
Fri, 28 Oct 2005 16:29:52 -0500

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press Writer

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has fired a biology
professor for allegedly fabricating research data.

Luk Van Parijs, an associate professor in MIT's Center for Cancer
Research, was placed on leave after a group of colleagues reported the
allegations of "research misconduct" to MIT administrators in August

He was fired Wednesday, according to MIT spokeswoman Denise Brehm.

The school says Van Parijs, 35, admitted to fabricating and falsifying
data in a paper, several manuscripts and grant applications.

An MIT investigation found no evidence that his co-authors or other
members of his research group were involved in the alleged misconduct,
said Alice Gast, the school's associate provost and vice president for

"Integrity in research and scholarship is a bedrock principle of MIT,"
Gast said in a statement. "Research misconduct violates this principle
and MIT takes any allegations of research misconduct very seriously."

Van Parijs did not immediately return a telephone message left at a
residential listing.

In an e-mail to The Boston Globe Thursday night from his MIT account,
Van Parijs said, "I was shocked at the timing and manner in which MIT
made the announcement since I had cooperated with the investigation to
the fullest of my capabilities."

Gast wouldn't identify the work that contained the allegedly
fabricated data. But in May, the journal "Current Opinion in Molecular
Therapeutics" published a correction of an 2004 article of which Van
Parijs was the lead author, the Globe reported.

The correction said the article's authors were unable to document a claim
that researchers had found a way to use a virus to both make the blood of a
mouse cancerous and block the actions of specific genes to see how that
would affect the cancer. Such a finding would advance cancer research by
making it easier to study blood cancers in mice.

Among Van Parijs' other work was a 2003 study published in the journal
Nature Genetics that explained how to use RNA interference to turn
genes off in cells, a potential step toward silencing genes involved
in disease.

Brehm said Van Parijs was conducting "basic scientific research" on
the defects in immune cells during disease development.

"This area of research at MIT is still strong and healthy," Brehm
added. "Researchers here continue to make legitimate and important
advances in this area."

Because Van Parijs received federal funding for some of his work, MIT
said it consulted with the Office of Research Integrity, part of the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as the school
investigated the allegations.

MIT plans to give the Office of Research Integrity a report on its
investigation in about a month, but those findings will not not be
made public until federal officials complete their own investigation,
according to Brehm.

"The investigatory process is very confidential and is not yet
complete," she added.

Van Parijs, who earned a doctorate in immunology from Harvard in 1997,
was a postdoctural student at the California Institute of Technology
from 1998 to 2000. He worked with Cal Tech President David Baltimore
"on problems in immunology," said school spokeswoman Jill Perry.

Perry said Cal Tech has launched its own investigation into the work
Van Parijs performed there before he left for MIT, including work that
was published in the journal Immunity.

Van Parijs' profile on Community of Science, an online database of
information about scientists, describes his area of expertise as
"regulation of cell proliferation and death in the function and
diseases of the immune system."

His work has been published in several magazines and journals,
including Science, according to his online profile. A spokeswoman for
Science said the magazine was not aware of MIT's investigation.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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