Potti Mess: Another investigation beginning but that's not enough

Search words: Duke University Anil Potti

✔Fact Checker here.

The Chronicle is correct in itemizing different investigations into the Potti mess, and I start today's essay by declaring there is a need for one more. The Cancer Letter -- which broke the story of Potti's fake Rhodes Scholarship -- expressed this need very well:

"When questions about Potti’s science emerged in scientific literature and in alarms sounded by internal critics, the Duke administration formed a protective barrier around the man they considered their star, forming committees that operated in secret, and then incorrectly portraying the findings of one of these committees as validation of Potti’s science."

The integrity of this university, the credibility of its administration, demand a fourth investigation. An outside investigation of our administration. The alarms the Cancer Letter wrote about went off for nearly four years before this school acted.

The Cancer Letter says the entire Brodhead Administration needs to be investigated. "Focusing on the three Duke trials (Potti's so called clinical trials, experiments on human beings) may have been good enough last week, but not now..."

Moreover, Duke's action is replete with conflict of interest.
FC notes the first Duke review -- conducted internally last December with outside bio-statisticians as consultants -- went forward while Duke had a substantial financial interest in proving Potti's science was indeed valid -- for the university would collect a royalty from every patient who ever is screened by the methods he invented. Why wasn't this conflict of interest recognized? Well it was, but not until recently. At least now Duke is divesting itself of a financial interest in Potti's so-called discoveries.

Just how much money is at stake here? Neither Rose Ritts, executive director of Duke's Office of Licensing and Ventures, nor VP for PR Michael Schoenfeld, answered FC inquiries about how much money the school stood to make.

Further, we have the spectacle of the husband of the Dean of the Medical School working with Dr Potti and co-signing at least one major medical journal article. Yet two administrators promoted by the Dean -- who still report to her -- were allowed to sign off on Duke's internal investigation last December.

✔✔And now the decision of the august Institute of Medicine to accept the assignment of reviewing Dr. Potti's science.

Unfortunately, this is being muddled from the start by the simultaneous review of the standards that all scientists should be using when they develop tests -- thru their genome studies -- that will predict the course of a disease and its response to particular medicines. This gives Dr Potti a big excuse: the standards had not been developed within the profession, how could he have known what to live up to.

Meanwhile, just like the three year old case of biochemist Homme Hellinga, the Potti case will drag on and on. The prediction for another 18 months.

We know both Hellinga and Potti are collecting pay. In Potti's case, even though the Chronicle did not remind us today, we know he is suspended.

The big question that FC has not been able to answer is suspended from what? Just his teaching position? Just his research position? His ability to admit and treat patients at Duke Hospital?

In reviewing the website of the North Carolina Medical Board, FC notes Dr Potti retains his license to practice medicine, and there is NO report from Duke, as a health care institution, about actions it took against Potti after discovering "substantial concerns" -- meaning big lies -- in his resume. FC believes these concerns are properly reported to the Board.

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