46 papers from a Royan Institute professor

The Royan Institute in Tehran, Iran was initially founded in 1991 as a research institute for infertility treatments. It now consists of three research institutes, one of which is the Royan Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Technology (RI-SCBT), which was founded in 2002 by Hossein Baharvand, its director.

Professor Hossein Baharvand has received many national and international awards, including three Razi research awards, the 2014 UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for Research in Life Sciences, a 2019 TWAS Prize, and the 2019 Mustafa Prize. He has an H-index of 57, with nearly 400 papers on PubMed. And, as of today, 46 of those papers have PubPeer comments because of image concerns or undisclosed conflicts of interest.

TL:DR: Excel spreadsheet – PDF version

Hossein Baharvand accepting the 2019 Mustafa Prize. Photo by Sarah Abdollahi. Taken from Borna.news.
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Conflict of Skinterest

In my post on August 4 2020 I wrote about the mysterious Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents (JBRHA) that published the bizarre paper on 5G and Coronavirus (now withdrawn). Most papers in this journal are not accessible and the Editorial Board consists mostly of deceased people.

Browsing further back into the journal’s archive I found an interesting supplemental issue from 2016 that consists of 20 papers on psoriasis – all written by the same group of prolific authors.

The papers are not without problems. Lack of IRB approval, lack of patient consent to have their photos published, unclear patient recruitment and trial locations, inclusion of children in experimental drug testing, and to top it off, incorrect statements about conflict of interest. All papers heavily promote the same product line of herbal ointments and gels – and the founder of the company is one of the authors!

This is a huge conflict of interest.

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Hollywood doctor treats COVID-19 patients with his brother’s miracle cocktail

A COVID-19 related preprint – that quickly disappeared and reappeared after being discussed on social media – was brought to my attention by Dr. Kevin C Klatt via Twitter.

This preprint, authored by Robert Huizenga, is called Dramatic clinical improvement in nine consecutive acutely ill elderly COVID-19 patients treated with a nicotinamide mononucleotide cocktail: A retrospective case series.

In the study, Dr. Huizenga describes nine COVID-19 patients whom he treated with a mixture containing nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).

Unfortunately, Robert Huizenga failed to disclose that this mixture is sold by a company founded by his brother, Joel Huizenga. He also treated these patients without the approval of an institutional review board (IRB).

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COVID-19, small RNAs, and conflicts of interest

Recently a paper published in Nucleic Acid Therapeutics, a Mary Liebert publication not to be confused with the more glamorous Nucleic Acid Research journal, was brought to my attention. It described the potential use of small RNAs as a therapeutic against SARS-CoV-2.

Alas, it is most memorable because of the alarmingly short time-to-acceptance, lack of references, and the omission of several conflicts of interest.

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ISAC shares concerns about the Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin paper

The International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (ISAC) has shared concerns about the Gautret et al. paper published in its own journal. This paper, published under senior authorship of Didier Raoult from the IHU-Méditerranée Infection in Marseille, describes a small study that showed remarkable effects of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin treatment in COVID-19 patients.

After world leaders and politicians started to tweet and endorse this study, many people pressured health officials to start treating COVID-19 patients with this regime, although the study was small and not yet confirmed by independent, larger, and better randomized other studies.

Several scientists and medical professionals, including myself, had concerns about how patients were assigned to each treatment group, how PCR results were reported, why patients with a poor outcome had been left out of the final results, and how this treatment could potentially result in serious side effects. I wrote about my concerns in this blogpost and on PubPeer.

Now, ISAC, who is overseeing the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, the journal that published this study, has joined in those concerns.

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Thoughts on the Gautret et al. paper about Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin treatment of COVID-19 infections

There has been a lot of excitement – and even a presidential tweet about a recent paper from the lab of Didier Raoult, an infectious disease specialist in Marseille, France. But although this study might offer a glimmer of hope, there are some serious problems with the paper too.

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