Posts Tagged ‘Tissue Therapies’

VitroGro, Tissue Therapies and QUT’s “inadvertent” data falsification?

August 4, 2013

The mysterious goings-on at the  whistle-blower fracas at the Queensland University of Technology seem to run quite deep. The mystery is apparently compounded by commercial interests. The elements include a company spun-off from QUT (Tissue Therapies), University staff owning stock in the company, the company raising start-up money, listed on the stock exchange and having a value entirely dependent upon the prospects for one breakthrough product (VitroGro).

The latest revelation suggests that the whistle- blowers, Luke Cormack and another – whose identity is protected but was “inadvertently” revealed by the University Vice Chancellor –  have been spied upon. Cormack was given “counselling” organised by the University – which counselling was never confidential. The contents of these discussions were apparently reported by the counselor to the University authorities!! Seems to be a remarkable absence of ethical standards at the University and – more particularly – with the counselor. Perhaps it was all “inadvertent”.

A summary of the story is here in the Courier-Mail.

His colleagues had discovered a cheaper and more reliable way to grow human tissue, with huge implications for biology and medicine. Cormack’s research concerning stem cells aimed to build on their findings.

But no matter what he tried, his cells refused to grow. He later failed his PhD.

The key question is whether VitroGro has real prospects or is just hype. It is supposed to be used in healing wounds by helping cells to grow. If VitroGro’s potential benefits have knowingly been hyped by the “inadvertently” manipulated data, then there is a risk that this is all a start-up scam.

Business start-up scams depend upon inflating the apparent value of a start-up company by promoting perceptions of a bright future such that investment money can be attracted.


Results falsified but only “inadvertently” by researchers at Queensland University of Technology

July 31, 2013

There are strange goings-on down under at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The story has all the necessary ingredients for a genuine scandal. Falsified results in a grant application and a paper, the paper retracted, grant money awarded on the basis of the alleged results, a University with commercial interests in the alleged results of the alleged research, a whistleblower’s name illegally revealed by the Vice Chancellor of the University, and the Crime and Misconduct Commission accused of colluding with the University.

The University has found that the falsification of results was inadvertent and not fraud and nothing to worry about.


UPDATE: Now the QUT “investigation” which came to the “finding” that the falsification was “inadvertent” and not fraud is itself being questioned by the federal agency that gave the scientists a $275,000 grant for stem cell work.

31st July: The National Health and Medical Research Council is not satisfied with some of QUT’s investigative procedures and wants a review by the Australian Research Integrity Committee. The move is unusual, with the ARIC set up in 2011 to ensure research allegations of misconduct are investigated properly taking on just a handful of cases.


It is compelling reading and lives up to the convoluted tradition of Australian politics. But I have some difficulty in telling the “good guys” from the “bad guys” – if there are any “good guys” in this saga at all!

29th July: QUT reputation at risk after grant application and research mistakes

RESEARCHERS at one of Queensland’s top universities have admitted to incorrectly filling out a lucrative grant application in a mistake that could cost the university hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The “inadvertent” mistake by Queensland University of Technology scientists has put the university’s reputation at risk, the Vice-Chancellor says. The National Health and Medical Research Council is examining the circumstances under which it awarded QUT a $275,000 grant for research, and QUT boss Peter Coaldrake said the university faced having to pay it back. 

Whistleblowers have exposed errors in the reporting of embryonic stem cell research, prompting an internal probe into alleged misconduct and the retraction of a key research paper. The lead researcher has admitted to The Courier-Mail that an “inadvertent mistake” occurred in the writing of the grant application and an associated scientific paper published in 2010.

The NHMRC awarded the money to fund research into stem cell cultivation at QUT’s prestigious Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation. The scientists were working on developing a “world-first” product to safely grow human cells in the lab without the use of risky animal proteins.

However, university insiders accused the researchers of exaggerating some results. “It was alleged that some data in the grant application had been falsified,” Prof Coaldrake said.

The scientists were subsequently cleared by a QUT inquiry. QUT later told the NHMRC there was no misconduct in the grant application. The journal involved has since retracted the article, a highly unusual step. …

30th July: QUT researchers cleared of fraud

AN “inadvertent” mistake in filling out a grant application by researchers at Queensland University of Technology saw the university awarded $275,000 for stem cell research and which has subsequently lead to an internal probe into research misconduct and the retraction of a research paper, the Courier Mail reported yesterday.

The NHMRC awarded the grant for research into stem cell cultivation at QUT’s Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation. The scientists were working on developing a “world-first” product to safely grow human cells in the lab without the use of risky animal proteins, the Courier Mail said.

But the researchers were accused of falsifying some results, even though the scientists were subsequently cleared by an internal inquiry of any wrongdoing.

The whistleblowers who drew attention to irregularities in the research say QUT has a conflict of interest because it is a shareholder in a company called Tissue Therapies which was set up with the express purpose of developing and commercialising products based on the research.

30th July: Premier Peter Beattie gave QUT researchers in grant controversy an extra $225,000 for related work

QUT scientists at the centre of a controversy over a $275,000 federal grant for a now discredited journal paper also received $225,000 from then premier Peter Beattie for related work, as part of a 2007 funding package worth more than $1 million.

But while QUT has informed the Crime and Misconduct Commission and the National Health and Medical Research Council about errors in the application for the federal grant and the retraction of a key research paper, the university has not told the State Government.

31st July: QUT vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake reports himself to CMC for disclosing whistleblower’s identity

QUT Vice-Chancellor Peter Coaldrake has reported himself to the Crime and Misconduct Commission after disclosing the identity of a protected whistleblower.

Prof Coaldrake named the person in an interview with The Courier-Mail in which he discussed the allegations by the whistleblower of research misconduct by QUT scientists. Prof Coaldrake later turned himself in to the CMC.

QUT later confirmed the employee’s status as a whistleblower protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act. This law makes it an offence for public officials to disclose the person’s identity without their consent, except for the purposes of official investigations. The offence carries a fine of up to $9000. …… In the same interview Professor Coaldrake declined to name four academics from other universities involved in investigating research misconduct allegations involving a retracted scientific paper. He said this was because he wasn’t sure if the academics’ identities were known by the stem cell researchers being investigated. … QUT has declined to explain why Prof Coaldrake volunteered the name of the whistleblower.

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