[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 126 (Friday, June 28, 1996)]
[Pages 33744-33745]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-16561]



Office of the Secretary

Findings of Scientific Misconduct

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, HHS.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the Office of Research Integrity 
(ORI) has made final findings of scientific misconduct in the following 
    Vipin Kumar, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology: Based upon 
a report forwarded to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) by the 
California Institute of Technology (C.I.T.) dated January 10, 1991, as 
well as information obtained by ORI during its oversight review, ORI 
found that Vipin Kumar, Ph.D., formerly a scientist at C.I.T., engaged 
in scientific misconduct in biomedical research supported by Public 
Health Service (PHS) funds.
    Specifically, ORI found that Dr. Kumar committed scientific 
misconduct by falsifying and/or fabricating Figures 2a and 2b in a 
scientific paper published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, 
170:2183-2188 (1989) (JEM paper). ORI accepted the C.I.T. conclusion 
that Dr. Kumar ``freely admitted'' that he mislabeled the lanes

[[Page 33745]]

in Figures 2a and 2b, which are labeled to indicate they represent the 
results of research from different DNA samples when in fact a number of 
lanes are duplicates. Although Dr. Kumar denies that he intended to 
deceive anyone, C.I.T. concluded in its Report that the ``deliberate 
presentation of duplications of one experiment which are labeled to 
indicate they came from separate DNA samples deceives the reader as to 
the real source of the DNA in the experiment, where the central point 
of the experiment is the similarity of results among different 
sources.'' ORI also accepted the C.I.T. conclusion that Dr. Kumar 
presented Figure 2c of the JEM paper ``in a very misleading fashion.'' 
The central observation of the JEM paper is that both alleles of the 
alpha chain of the T-cell receptor gene are frequently rearranged. This 
conclusion was based, in part, on Figure 2c, which C.I.T. found had 
been labeled in a misleading fashion that led the reader to believe 
that the heavy band at the top of the blot was an 8kb restriction 
fragment (i.e., representing an internal control) rather than 
undigested material that failed to enter the gel. Examination of the 
original film indicates that there was no evidence that the second 
alpha- chain rearranges in mature T-cells. Thus, ORI further accepted 
the C.I.T. conclusion that Figure 2 was intentionally falsified and/or 
fabricated and that, as a result, ``one of the main scientific results 
of this paper was not substantiated by the original data.''
    In addition, ORI found that Dr. Kumar committed scientific 
misconduct by falsifying and/or fabricating Figure 5b of a manuscript 
that was submitted for publication to the journal Cell (Cell 
manuscript), but was later withdrawn. ORI accepted the C.I.T. 
conclusion that lanes 6, 7 and 8 of Figure 5b are the same as lanes 11, 
12 and 13, respectively, even though they are labeled as being from 
different samples. ORI also accepted the C.I.T. conclusion that Dr. 
Kumar made a number of other materially misleading statements in the 
Cell manuscript that were not supported by the primary data. For 
example, C.I.T. concluded that Dr. Kumar made a number of materially 
misleading statements about the age of mice and the timing of the 
injection of peptides into these mice in a paper published in the 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 87:1337-1341 (1990) 
(PNAS paper). This information is material because induction of the 
disease studied (i.e., allergic encephalomyelitis) is dependent upon 
the age of the mice.
    Based upon the findings of scientific misconduct in the C.I.T. 
Report, the JEM and PNAS papers were retracted prior to ORI's findings 
in this case.
    ORI and Dr. Kumar agreed to resolve the case through a negotiated 
settlement and limited voluntary exclusion agreement (Agreement), which 
the parties agreed shall not be construed as an admission of liability 
or wrongdoing on the part of the Dr. Kumar. Dr. Kumar plans to submit a 
letter to ORI in which he summarizes his response to ORI's findings. 
Dr. Kumar has agreed to exclude himself voluntarily from serving in any 
advisory capacity to the PHS, including service on any PHS advisory 
committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant for 
a period of three years. Dr. Kumar has also agreed to exclude himself 
voluntarily, for a period of eighteen (18) months from any contracting 
or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and 
from eligibility for, or involvement in, nonprocurement transactions 
(e.g. grants and cooperative agreements) of the United States 
Government. However, this provision will not apply to a currently 
pending PHS grant application involving Dr. Kumar.
    In addition, any institution that uses Dr. Kumar in any capacity on 
PHS supported research must concurrently submit a plan for supervision 
of Dr. Kumar's duties, designed to ensure the scientific integrity of 
Dr. Kumar's research, for a period of three (3) years. Similarly, any 
institution employing Dr. Kumar must submit, in conjunction with each 
application for PHS funds or report of PHS funded research in which Dr. 
Kumar is involved, a certification that the data provided by Dr. Kumar 
are based on actual experiments or are otherwise legitimately derived 
and that the data, procedures and methodology are accurately reported 
in the application or research report, for a period of three (3) years.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Director, Division of Research 
Investigations, Office of Research Integrity, 5515 Security Lane, Suite 
700, Rockville, MD 20852.
Dorothy K. Macfarlane,
Acting Director, Office of Research Integrity.
[FR Doc. 96-16561 Filed 6-27-96; 8:45 am]