CUNY Investigation Accuses Alzheimer’s Researcher of Misconduct
A much-anticipated investigation by the City University of New York has accused neuroscientist Hoau-Yan Wang, a CUNY faculty member and longtime collaborator with embattled biotech firm Cassava Sciences, of scientific misconduct involving 20 research papers, the journal Science reported. Many of Wang’s papers provided key support for the experimental Alzheimer’s drug simufilam’s jump from the lab into clinical studies. The investigative committee found numerous signs that images were improperly manipulated. For example, the investigation found that a 2012 paper in The Journal of Neuroscience suggested that simufilam can blunt the pathological effects of beta-amyloid contained signs that the images had been improperly manipulated. The report also concluded that Lindsay Burns, Cassava’s senior vice president for neuroscience and co-author on several papers, bears primary or partial responsibility for some of the possible misconduct or scientific errors.
However, the committee could not prove its allegations because Wang did not produce the original raw data. Instead, the panel says its finding of wrongdoing was based on “long-standing and egregious misconduct in data management and record keeping by Dr. Wang.” The 50-page report obtained by Science said Wang failed to turn over to the panel “even a single datum or notebook in response to any allegation” and cites “Wang’s inability or unwillingness to provide primary research materials to this investigation” as a “deep source of frustration.” The report said that Wang offered a variety of defenses, including a claim that much of his original data had been “thrown away in response to a request from CCNY [City College of New York] to clean the lab during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The panel could find no evidence of such a request. The CUNY investigation into Wang began in the fall of 2021 in response to allegations from other investigators that the Office of Research Integrity forwarded. Given the CUNY report, some scientists have called for the two ongoing simufilam trials to be suspended.