National Institutes of Health

Duke University reported in January that its scientists won $384.6 million last year from the National Institutes of Health, “ranking 9th in the country among universities, research institutions and teaching hospitals that are awarded the taxpayer-based research dollars.”

This week, they had to give some of it back.

Duke has agreed to pay $112.5 million to the U.S. Government to settle a suit brought by a whistleblowing lab tech. The case involves another research technician who fabricated data from 2006 to 2013. The findings were used in applications for some of those NIH-funded studies.

The government investigation began after Joseph M. Thomas brought a qui tam case under the False Claims Act. Thomas’s share of the settlement will be $33,750,000.

The Justice Department announcement quoted U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin saying that taxpayers expect federal grant dollars will be used honestly.

“Individuals and institutions that receive research funding from the federal government must be scrupulous in conducting research for the common good and rigorous in rooting out fraud,” the statement notes.  “May this serve as a lesson that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or reports is completely unacceptable.”
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