Sunday, November 18News That Matters

Harvard Medical School Requests Retractions for Former Professor's Research




The main quad at Harvard Medical School.

After years of lawsuits, investigations, and controversy surrounding research malpractice, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital requested retractions Sunday for 31 papers written by a former faculty member.

The professor, Dr. Pierro Anversa, held a joint appointment between the Medical School and Brigham and Women’s. He left the Medical School in December 2015, school spokesperson Gina Vild wrote in an email. The research conducted in Anversa’s laboratory primarily concerned cardiac stem cells.

“Following a review of research conducted in the former lab of Piero Anversa, we determined that 31 publications included falsified and/or fabricated data, and we have notified all relevant journals,” a joint statement from Harvard and Brigham and Women’s reads.
Anversa could not be reached for comment for this story.

The institutions also underscored the importance of ethical research practices.

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“A bedrock principle of science is that all publications are supported by rigorous research practices,” the statement reads. “The scientific community is interdependent and reliant on the rigor and good faith of researchers as we work collaboratively to advance knowledge and transform human health.”

The statement did not name the journals from which they had requested retractions.

These retraction requests are not the first time Anversa’s research has come under scrutiny. In 2014, both institutions launched an investigation into his findings, prompting the journal Circulation to retract one of his papers and The Lancet to publish an “expression of concern” about another.

Anversa and one of his co-authors subsequently sued Harvard and Brigham and Women’s in response, alleging that their investigations were illegal and harming the researchers’ reputations. In an August 2016 decision, the University and the hospital won the lawsuit.

After leaving Harvard and Brigham and Women’s in December 2015, Anversa went to work at Cardiocentro Ticino, a Swiss institute affiliated with the University of Zurich.

April Rusconi, assistant director at Cardiocentro Ticino, wrote in an email that Anversa no longer works there.

Last April, Brigham and Women’s and its parent company, Partners Healthcare, paid a $10 million settlement to the federal government for alleged research fraud Anversa committed in obtaining tens of millions of dollars in funds from the National Institutes of Health.

A press release from the Department of Justice stated at the time that Anversa and his colleagues had violated several research norms.

“The government alleges that problems with the work of the laboratory included improper protocols, invalid and inaccurately characterized cardiac stem cells, reckless or deliberately misleading record-keeping, and discrepancies and/or fabrication of data and images included in applications and publications,” the press release stated.

—Staff writer Luke W. Vrotsos can be reached at luke.vrotsos@thecrimson.com.

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