Concerns about Marseille’s IHUMI/AMU papers – Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series describing papers from the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire Méditerranée-Infection (IHUMI or IHU) and Aix-Marseille Université (AMU) — institutions in Marseille, France — with potential problems.

In Part 1, I listed papers with image concerns. In Part 2, I focused on a set of papers describing many different research projects on specimens collected from homeless people — but all run under the same IRB approval number.

In this post, we’ll take a look at IHU/AMU papers describing samples obtained from people in African countries. Many of them lack wording on ethical approval by the local authorities, and all lack authors from these countries. This type of research might fall under the definition of neo-colonial science.

A paper on a bacterium isolated from a stool sample from a Pygmy woman named after the senior author. Amazingly fast peer review too. Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2052297516301536
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Concerns about Marseille’s IHUMI/AMU papers – Part 2

This is part 2 of a series describing papers from the IHUMI/AMU institutions in Marseille, France, with potential problems. In Part 1, I listed papers with image concerns. In this follow-up I’ll focus on a set of papers that might have problems with human subjects research not having received proper ethical approval. The articles span a decade of research on homeless people in Marseille, and involve different studies and specimens — but all were run under just one IRB approval number.

Photo credit:
Jon Tyson @jontyson
on Unsplash
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Cassava Sciences: Of stocks and blots

A group of anonymous persons filed a Statement of Concern with the FDA regarding the integrity of research papers about Simufilam, an Alzheimer’s Disease treatment drug candidate developed by Cassava Sciences (Nasdaq: $SAVA). The petition raises concerns about Western blots and methodology. I took a look at the problematic photos included in the report, and agree with most of those concerns. I also found some additional problems.

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Concerns about Marseille’s IHUMI/AMU papers – Part 1

Last March, I shared my concerns about a paper from the IHU-Méditerranée Infection (IHUMI)/ Aix-Marseille University (AMU) claiming that Hydroxychloroquine in combination with Azithromycin could reduce coronavirus viral loads faster than no treatment.

Other papers by this group of researchers led by Professor Didier Raoult and/or his right-hand man Professor Eric Chabrière, also appear to contain problems, ranging from potentially duplicated images to ethical concerns.

In this blog post I have gathered the papers by the Raoult and Chabrière group that have image concerns. This post is not an accusation of misconduct, but a compilation of the potential problems found in 22 different papers by this group. I welcome the authors removing any concerns by providing the original figures.

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Northeastern University professor with 69 papers on PubPeer has resigned

A chemistry professor at Northeastern University in Boston, MA who has almost 70 papers flagged on PubPeer resigned yesterday, May 4, 2021.

On his blog For Better Science (Update May 5, at the bottom), Leonid Schneider shared an email from the Chair of the Department of Engineering, which states that Thomas J Webster has resigned from the university.

Webster has 69 papers flagged on PubPeer, mostly for concerns about image irregularities. I reported 59 to the journals and institution in March 2020.

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Similar images from the Technion

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the oldest university in Israel, ranking itself ‘among the world’s top science and technology research universities’.

It is here that a group of researchers appears to have been publishing remarkably similar photos for the last decade — or more.

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Forty five papers from Tianjin Medical University

This week I worked on a large set of papers from a research group at the Tianjin Life Science Research Center at Tianjin Medical University. The group, headed by Dr. Hua Tang and funded by many National Natural Science Foundation of China grants, has published a total of 113 PubMed-indexed papers.

However, a significant number of these — 45 as of today — have PubPeer posts in which concerns are raised about their figures.

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Troubles with VSELs

A stem cell research group at the University of Louisville, Kentucky — famous for apparently discovering an exciting new class of stem cells — could be facing new troubles.

Although the work of Mariusz Ratajczak was supported through large NIH and Vatican grants, no other lab could replicate his findings on very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs).

And now, 28 papers from the Ratajczak lab are listed on PubPeer for image duplication and textual similarity concerns.

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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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