Former Iowa State Researcher Faked HIV Vaccine Findings

December 17, 2013

(RETRACTION WATCH) A former researcher at Iowa State University (ISU) faked results of experiments to make tests of a vaccine against HIV in animals look more powerful, according to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

oriweb_logoSpecifically, ORI and ISU found that Dong-Pyou Han falsified results in research to develop a vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) by intentionally spiking samples of rabbit sera with antibodies to provide the desired results. The falsification made it appear that rabbits immunized with the gp41-54 moiety of the HIV gp41 glycoprotein induced antibodies capable of neutralizing a broad range of HIV-1 strains, when the original sera were weakly or non-reactive in neutralization assays. Falsified neutralization assay results were widely reported in laboratory meetings, seven (7) national and international symposia between 2010 and 2012, and in grant applications and progress reports P01 AI074286-03, −04, −05, and −06; R33 AI076083-04; U19 AI091031-01 and −03; and R01 AI090921-01. Specifically:

a. Respondent falsified research materials when he provided collaborators with sera for neutralization assays from (i) rabbits immunized with peptides from HIV gp41-54Q (and related antigens HR1-54Q, gp41-54Q-OG, gp41-54Q-GHC, gp41-54Q-Cys and Cys-gp41-54Q) to assay HIV neutralizing activity, when Respondent had spiked the samples with human IgG known to contain broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV-1; and (ii) rabbits immunized with HIV gp41-54Q to assay HIV neutralizing activity, when Respondent had spiked the samples with sera from rabbits immunized with HIV-1 gp120 that neutralized HIV.

b. Respondent falsified data files for neutralization assays, and provided false data to his laboratory colleagues, to make it appear that rabbits immunized with gp41-54Q and recombinant Lactobacillus expressing gp41-64 (LAB gp41-64) produced broadly reactive neutralizing antibodies, by changing the numbers to show that samples with little or no neutralizing activity had high activity.

Han can’t receive NIH grants for three years, nor serve on any NIH peer review committees. His faculty page has been scrubbed from ISU. The PI on the three grants involved was Michael Cho, with whom he also worked at Case Western. We’ve asked Cho whether any of Han’s papers will be retracted, and will update with anything we learn.