SiteWatch: Duke Close to Settling Research Fraud Lawsuit

It is reported in the Duke Chronicle by Ray Gronberg that Duke is close to settling a court case about its handling of falsified data that the lawsuit alleges is tied to $200 million in federal research grants. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by Joseph Thomas who claimed that Duke used falsified data to obtain research grants and thereafter covered up the fraud.

Per court documents recently filed, a settlement is awaiting approval by the Department of Justice. The lawsuit stems from fraud allegedly committed by former Duke researcher Erin Potts-Kant, who worked in the Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care department of Duke Health. Potts-Kant has had more than a dozen papers retracted since news broke of the allegedly faked data. She was arrested in 2013 for embezzling money from Duke. 

Potts-Kant admitted to altering some of the data, but maintained that the experiments were actually run. According to Duke’s filings, Potts-Kant told the Ad Hoc Investigation Committee, which investigated her research following her arrest, that she had “fabricated and/or falsified that were included in various publications and grant applications.” 

In his suit, Thomas alleges that Potts-Kant manipulated data that she collected when studying the lung function of mice. Based on that data and pursuant research articles, she was then able to secure additional research funding from the federal government, according to the suit. These allegations bring more than 60 federal grants-totaling approximately $200 million from agencies like the National Institutes of Health and Environmental Protection Agency—into question. See the link below to read the rest of Mr. Gronberg’s story.