Weak Chronicle editorial on Potti Mess

✔ Good day, my Fellow Dukies.

When Anil Potti first applied to Duke, the discrepancies were popping out of his resume. Or more accurately the six versions of his resume that then existed.

This university should have asked some very basic questions. For example, Potti claimed he served a fellowship at an Australian university with a mentor who happens to be from the University of North Dakota. No one bothered to check to find out what the mentor thought of him.

In fact as the scandal developed, we learned there is no university with the name Potti provided, though there is one that is similar, and the mentor was "flabbergasted" because he had never even heard of Potti.

This information was sitting out there, just waiting to be discovered before we hired this clown.

Not to mention the faked Rhodes Scholarship; anyone in academia should have known this award is for study at Oxford University and not, as Potti put it, "Rhodes, 'Australia.'"

Uncle Dick has responded to all this by saying:

"The university will in general continue to accept credentials on their face as presented by the people who present them... We're not going to start running background checks and police checks on everybody... You can't reasonably do that, nor is there a need to."

No Brodhead, your system works well. And there is no need at all to change it. This quotation, this indictment of our President should have been part of today's Chronicle editorial.

✔ Today's editorial could be read to suggest that Potti's work was challenged for three months. This would be a wrong conclusion.

The specific review for "faculty misconduct" as provided in faculty handbooks and federal grant procedures has been underway for three months and will continue despite his resignation. But since 2007, there has been a rising chorus in the genome community about his work.

A chorus that Duke chose to ignore.

✔ FC would also like to comment on Potti's taking "full responsibility." Those seemingly sweeping words have critical limitations, for they apply only to mistakes or "anomalies" in the administration's view, "in data handling, analysis and management."

"Full responsibility" for flubbing yes, but Potti has never acknowledged willful misconduct. The magnitude of what is now being discovered suggests there is intentional, fraudulent conduct.

The Chronicle has never told its readers how Dr Nevins -- who endorsed Potti's research as one of many co-authors -- finally "dug down" to the first level of research in one study and looked at 59 initial samples of ovarian cancer Potti was analyzing.

16 of those samples are not this kind of cancer at all. Nevins: "At this point, I cannot trace the origin or nature of these samples."

Of the remaining 43 samples, the news is not much better. "The tumor ID labels for these samples are incorrect. In a large number of these cases, the mis-identification results in reversal of the clinical annotation of response vs. non-response." In other words, chemotherapy that helped a patient was recorded as not helping, and chemotherapy that did no good was recorded as helping.

This is not just sloppiness. Particularly when the results of your "science" are going to lead to clinical trials, which translated into English means experiments on human beings.

Nevins co-authored at least eight medical journal articles with Potti. So far he's reviewed two and found validity in none. Faster your seat belts!

✔ There are two investigations underway, replete with problems.

The first is a faculty misconduct investigation by other faculty who have not been identified. We do not know if anyone other than Potti is under investigation. The final report on this may never be public.

The second is being conducted "outside" the University, at its request, by the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) Previously we endorsed this and in most times, we'd be impressed with the involvement of this august body. But we have learned 81 of 2,000 members are from Duke -- an entanglement that could sully if not nullify the inquiry thru conflicts of interest. This must be addressed head on.

Moreover, we have no idea about the reach of the IOM review or whether it will end with a public report. Who is under investigation, for what? Nor do we know if critical questions involving administrators that let this matter fester will be raised at all.

Fellow Dukies, that kind of inquiry does not cut it. We were promised transparency and accountability.

✔ The Chronicle properly notes one emphasis must now be on Potti's patients, people who were treated according to a scheme of his, a protocol that has no validity.

At the board of trustee meeting coming up on Friday and Saturday, the status of these patients should be reviewed, to insure that Duke is doing and will do all it can to help them. The Trustees must put their imprimatur on this guarantee.

But I will bet they will leave campus not caring at all. Private jets will be standing by at Raleigh Durham Airport.

If patients sue, this university must not engage in another Bernard defense -- named for general counsel Pamela Bernard who has wiggled and obfuscated and delayed plaintiff after plaintiff in other matters, to the point of being a burden on our conscience.

Fact Checker has made initial conduct with one Potti patient, and her emotions are overwhelming to write about. We hope to bring you this within the week; unfortunately the Chronicle only allows posts that are responsive to its stories.

✔ Thank you for reading FC.

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