Duke repays $437k of ACS research grant

Duke will comply with the American Cancer Society’s request for repayment of a grant that funded the work of former Duke cancer researcher Dr. Anil Potti.

The University will repay approximately $437,400 of the $729,000 ACS grant awarded in 2007, Dr. Michael Cuffe, Duke University Health System vice president for medical affairs, confirmed in a statement Monday. The remainder of the grant award had not yet been spent and will be retained by the organization. Officials from ACS could not be reached for comment Monday.

ACS suspended payments on the grant this summer after questions arose concerning Potti’s resume. Duke officials, led by Provost Peter Lange, conducted a review of Potti’s credentials and announced in August that they had identified “issues of substantial concern.” Cuffe’s statement noted that the termination of the grant was “a decision ACS made based on the issues with Dr. Potti’s curriculum vitae used in the award application.”

“As I understand it, [the ACS’s] concern was that the original award of the grant was based on a false pretense—that is [that] he was a Rhodes Scholar—and they focused particularly on that issue,” said Huntington Willard, director of Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.

Potti resigned from his positions at IGSP and the School of Medicine Nov. 19. That day, Willard noted in an e-mail to IGSP staff that Potti accepted full responsibility for “anomalies in data handling, analysis and management.” Attention to these scientific discrepancies intensified in July when falsifications in Potti’s resume, particularly his claim to be a Rhodes Scholar, were identified.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of ACS, told The Chronicle in November that the organization had requested information from Duke concerning its review of the scientist’s credentials. He noted that the school would not be precluded from future funding if it resolved issues surrounding Potti’s work.

Cuffe said Duke is intent on preserving a favorable relationship with the organization.

“Duke has had a long-standing and positive relationship with the [ACS], and we fully understand their position regarding the termination of the grant to Dr. Potti,” he said. “We look forward to our continued relationship with ACS as research partners.”

Willard, too, noted the importance of “maintaining a high level [of] trust” with ACS. Willard said the ACS grant termination will only affect Potti and that “the damage is contained to just that group.”

“[Potti] was the only investigator on this particular grant, and the work that was proposed just involved himself and his laboratory,” he said.


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