Duke University pays $ 112 million to settle false search lawsuit

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By Associated press

RALEIGH, NC – Duke University will pay $ 112 million to settle a whistleblowing lawsuit after federal prosecutors announced that false data from a research technician had allowed millions of dollars to benefit from federal grants , announced Monday the school and the government.

Durham Private University has claimed dozens of research grants containing falsified or fabricated information that unfairly drained taxpayers' money from the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies, the department said. American Justice. The school said it was refunding the subsidies and the corresponding penalties.

"Taxpayers are expecting and deserving that federal grants be used efficiently and honestly," US Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin said in a statement. "Can we infer that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or in reports is totally unacceptable."

The complaint was filed for the first time in 2015 by Joseph Thomas, former whistleblower and former employee of Duke. The Ministry of Justice took it back afterwards. The lawsuit alleges that the false research was conducted by former research technician Erin Potts-Kant, supervised by pulmonary medicine researcher William Michael Foster. Foster's laboratory experimented with mice to determine the effects of diesel exhaust gas inhalation, among other tests. Several research papers written by the Foster team were subsequently retracted.

"We expect Duke researchers to always meet the highest standards of integrity, and virtually all do so with great dedication," said University President Vincent Price. "When people do not respect these standards and those who are aware of potential wrongdoings do not report them, as was the case in this case, we must assume our responsibilities, recognize that our processes are not the same. identification and prevention of misconduct have not worked and take steps to: improve. "

The transaction was announced the same day that US District Judge Catherine Eagles scheduled a hearing on why the deal supposedly reached in November had not been finalized by the Department of Justice.

The government alleged that between 2006 and 2018, Duke knowingly submitted false data to federal agencies in 30 grants. The university had warning signs that some of the research was fraudulent, but did not do anything until discovering in 2013 that Potts-Kant had siphoned off money to spend on clothes and other items announced the pursuit.

Duke University said the technician had pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery by a state court and had paid the school's restitution. Foster retired in 2015, said university spokesman Michael Schoenfeld.

Thomas, the whistleblower, will receive $ 33.75 million from the settlement, the government announced.

Duke is still struggling with another research scandal that goes back over ten years. Dr. Anil Potti, a professor of medicine in Duke, was found guilty of misconduct while seeking treatment for cancer patients, US Department of Health Services investigators said. Social Services and Human Services in 2006. 2009.

In an agreement with the federal health agency, Potti did not acknowledge his responsibility, but agreed to have all his research supervised until 2020. Potti left Duke in 2010. Duke has settled the lawsuits brought by patients and rights holders of the patients who participated in these medical tests.

Following the two cases, the US National Institutes of Health last year asked researchers at Duke University to better report on how federal grants were being spent.

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