Nemeroff is BACK, baybee! D. F. S.

May 22, 2012

Oh yes. Via pharmalot and Science Insider:

RePORTER tells us that the NIMH has funded:
from 17 May 2012 to April of 2017. With Charles Nemeroff as the Principal Investigator.
To the tune of $401,675 total costs for FY 2012. His institution seems to come in at 53% overhead which would make it $263K in direct. Hmm. Maybe that IDC rate is outdated because why would you bother with a traditional budget just to request another $13K?

if you are wondering, as I was, “2 of 2” appears to be this project. This junior partner in the deal gets only $290K in total costs.

YHN on:
Nemeroff’s third strike
Inselgate linkage

Nothing to say, really. It was a COI case where nobody really laid gloves on the guy for fraud. All he’s really guilty of is underreporting his earnings from Big (and small) Pharma interests to his prior employer Emory U. That should have triggered a stink with his NIH awards but again the rules are about managing conflict…nothing to prove that he actually defrauded the NIH with faked research to benefit his corporate paymasters. Nothing like that ever confirmed. Plus a failure to disclose his conflicts on some review articles or whatnot. Again, if he had disclosed properly it is very likely nothing would have been done differently.

Still, the whole thing smells and I’m sad that it happened in fields which vaguely intersect with my interests. I’m sadder still that the NIH fails to recognize the effect it has on all the scientists who are busting their behinds to secure a grant and do good work that isn’t tainted by conflict and extra-job income to the tune of hundreds of K per year in “consulting” gigs.

Dude. Fuck. Sigh.

UPDATE 052912: Grassley Investigates. Of course. Great move NIMH, great move.

No Responses Yet to “Nemeroff is BACK, baybee! D. F. S.”

  1. Maybe that IDC rate is outdated because why would you bother with a traditional budget just to request another $13K?

    I’m sure the direct cost budget request was a lot more than $250,000. Everybody knows you need to request about $300,000 direct costs to receive about $250,000.


  2. Pinko Punko Says:

    Way to go, NIMH!


  3. Pinko Punko Says:

    Also, if somehow coincident with your bad deeds Grassley is on the apparent side of angels, then you are probably a cobag. These guys fail upward.


  4. DJMH Says:

    Awesome! (They’re making him fund the grant himself out of the money he never disclosed getting from pharma companies, right? RIGHT?????)


  5. anon Says:

    If you’re bitching about non-disclosure, Nemeroff is not the only one. I’m certain there are many others:

    with a fuckton of NIH funding:

    Not sure if that link will work, but it’s easy to look up.


  6. Erik Says:

    If I know how to read ( maybe not), what I am seeing is just appalling. Indeed, CRaig Thompson has many millions dollars in NIH funding but the astonishing thing is that he has a P30 (13.2 millions)/year with some 10 subprojects except that the major one, worth 6.5 millions, is under Harold Varmus’s leadership. Let’s face it. Harold Varmus got the Nobel Prize but he is not God. How in the world can he be NCI Director, supervise directly and decide who are the investigators who deserve funding and, at the same time, lead a project 6.5 millions worth? Does he have any concept of % effort, professional incompatibility other than COI?

    This is not only disturbing. It also smells of sheer corruption inside NIH.


    Let’s see, who is next because bad examples spread very easily.


  7. becca Says:

    anon- sounds like Thompson screwed over UPenn/Sloan-Kettering. So NIH taxdollars went to make a profitable company profitable instead of a rich private research institute richer. Scandalous, sure. But not fraud, and not really comparable to the Nemeroff thing. Though the Harold Varmus thing is odd to say the least. Also, how do you spend 400k on glassware washing?


  8. anon Says:

    becca, I disagree. My understanding is that DM is equating the financial non-disclosure committed by Nemeroff to fraud. In his case, he misrepresented the amount he was paid for consulting work with pharmaceutical companies (I also understand that there was some back scratching with the NIH). Thompson is accused of using his research findings to START a company. I have no problem with this, but it appears he was dishonest to Penn about this startup, which is an illegal non-disclosure (and a form of fraud). Penn claims the damages could be at least $100 million. I’ve known other scientists who have started their own private companies based on research conducted at their academic institutions. These folks have rightfully shared their profits with the university.

    Varmus used to be the president of Sloan/Kettering. It’s possible that the $13 million project grant switched from Varmus to Thompson when he took the position. Nonetheless, $6 million is a hell of a chunk, especially when Thompson already holds 3+ R01 grants.


  9. Dave Says:

    “Also, how do you spend 400k on glassware washing?”

    Hold on…..what? Not familiar with this case. Do elaborate a little.


  10. Erik Says:

    Yes, the 13.2 million dollars was a P30 that Harold left behind at SK in the hands of new President Thompson. The same questions and criteria still apply. Multiple roles for a single person and multimillion dollars from taxpayers with many very talented investigators having an impossible time for making the payline. What a heck of a responsible scientific leader Harold is????.


  11. drugmonkey Says:

    DM is equating the financial non-disclosure committed by Nemeroff to fraud

    No. I am equating it with a clear violation of the rules of doing business. From the perspective of his employment at Emory and from the perspective of EU’s responsibility to the NIH when taking the award. It is not data fraud, but it is malfeasance.

    The thing about conflicts-of-interest is that we cannot ever truly know the state of mind of the person involved. Maybe that person is, through his scientific understanding, a complete and utter believer in the products made by companiesfor whom he consults (or has significant profit interest). This would not be a conflict if he’s as much using their consulting gigs to spread his own gospel as he is taking their money to further their agenda. it is possible that this is the case. if so, he’s not “doing it only for the money” so to speak.

    but influences are complex. and it is also quite reasonable to suspect that one’s belief in the validity of a product may be swayed by the compensation one receives over time. how to apportion legitimate belief and $$ influence? hmm?

    this is why we have RULES, ffs.

    NIH, otoh, is pretty clear that they are going to presume conflict if more than $10K, now $5, is involved. They want to have some sort of review. I am not familiar with how it would have gone if Nemeroff had admitted how much he was receiving from industry. I do not know if NIH is hardass or allows the usual ass-covering excuse making to let it go on anyway. Or how they could possibly say no if the Uni in question just passed off the PI role to someone else and kept the COI dude as a simple “Investigator”*

    *see Putin/Medvedev


  12. becca Says:

    anon- my point is, there is no scientific fraud suspected in the case of Thompson.
    If selling a product that comes out of research you did is an inherent COI, it is such whether your university gets the money or whether your company gets the money (though admittedly, if it’s a case of ‘we’ve established your morals are for sale, now we’re just haggling over the price’ type of issue, the company has a leg up on the uni if the $$$ are much more significant).

    In a real sense, founding the company *after* envisioning the product suggests the scientific judgement was made before money entered the equation (thus, not scientific fraud).

    Of course, founding the company *after* envisioning the product is what would make it IP theft from UPenn/Sloan-Kettering.

    However, for my own personal moral framework, I am uncertain whether I think universities ever have the right to demand the IP of researchers the way they do (i.e. they are legally entitled to whatever you sign off on, but they are morally entitle to jack diddly. I doubt I’d ever fight the uni lawyers on it, but I can’t blame a guy for trying).

    Dave- the 13 million P01 grant Thompson is PI on includes a subproject listed as “CORE-GLASSWARE WASHING” for $470,778. I’m sure they do things other than glassware washing… right?


  13. anon Says:

    “I am uncertain whether I think universities ever have the right to demand the IP of researchers the way they do”

    Of course they do. Companies do this, too. If their employee invents something, it is owned by the company. If a university’s employee (faculty, post-doc, research staff) invents something, the university has rights to it. The research cannot be conducted without funding. The facilities and funding are provided by the university – NIH awards are to institutions, not individuals.


  14. drugmonkey Says:

    If a university’s employee (faculty, post-doc, research staff) invents something, the university has rights to it.

    Academia has traditionally operated under much different rules than companies when it comes to intellectual freedom. Many of us do not agree it was a good thing when the Unis started viewing themselves as for profit companies with intellectual property retained for the good of University of State rather than for the world.

    Consider if your University took a view to publishing research that was similar to Pfizer has for their researchers.

    So….yeah. becca is talking about her moral and ethical stance and it is one shared by many people in academics.


  15. Eskimo Says:

    On that cancer center support grant, it’s funny that glassware washing gets more $ than genomics or monoclonal antibodies or X ray crystallography, and the biggest chunk is for planning and evaluation. It seems like a really convoluted way of keeping the lights on.


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