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> Science crime: A recent history

The Great Ving
Group: Members
Posts: 754
Member No.: 219

Posted: Feb 16 2010, 10:57 AM
Quote Post
Science crime: A recent history

Posted by Jef Akst

[Entry posted at 16th February 2010 03:12 PM GMT]

Last Friday, biology professor Amy Bishop shocked the country when she allegedly shot and killed three of her colleagues at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, purportedly motivated by the university's recent decision to deny her tenure. Although certainly one of the most heinous crimes in recent memory, it is by no means the first criminal offense to disturb the scientific community. Here is a timeline of some disquieting events from the last few years:

September 27, 2009: University of Maryland pharmacologist Clinton McCracken admitted to having bought a narcotic known as buprenorphine from an online company in the Philippines after his live-in fiancé, University of Maryland School of Medicine postdoc Carrie Elisabeth John, died of what was initially believed to be an overdose on the drug. Although John's autopsy later revealed that she had no drugs in her system -- instead, cause of death was attributed to an allergic reaction made worse by her asthma -- McCracken was charged with multiple drug offenses, to which he pled not guilty at a hearing last December. His trial is set for March 25 in Baltimore Circuit Court.

September 13, 2009: The body of 24-year-old Annie Le, a doctoral student at Yale School of Medicine's Department of Pharmacology, was found inside a wall in the laboratory building where she was last seen. Four days later, police arrested Yale lab tech Raymond J. Clark, III, who pled not guilty for her murder at his January 26 hearing. His pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 3, 2010 in New Haven.

August 26, 2009: Six Harvard University Medical School researchers found themselves in the emergency room after drinking coffee that turned out to be contaminated with sodium azide, a toxic preservative commonly used in scientific laboratories. Last month, Harvard police closed the active phase of their investigation without conclusion, leaving open the question of whether the poisoning was intentional or a result of poor lab safety.

November 10, 2008: University of California, San Francisco postdoc Ben Chun Liu was arrested by campus police for allegedly poisoning a female colleague's drink with ethidium bromide, an agent commonly used as a fluorescent tag for agarose gel electrophoresis and other lab techniques. The victim, a lab associate in the same department, was not seriously harmed by the drink, and all charges against Liu were dropped last March.

August 6, 2008: Federal prosecutors declared that Bruce Edwards Ivins, a biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland, was solely responsible for the anthrax attacks in 2001 that killed five people and infected several others. After learning of the impending prosecution earlier that summer, Ivins committed suicide by an overdose of acetaminophen, preventing the case from ever going to trial.

July 19, 2006: World-renowned geneticist W. French Anderson of the University of Southern California was convicted of molesting the daughter of his colleague when she was 10 to 15 years old. Having headed the first human gene therapy clinical protocol in 1990, Anderson was known to many as the "father of gene therapy" and published more than 300 publications over the course of his career, according to ISI. Following his conviction, Anderson lost his tenure and faculty position at USC and was banned from the campus. He is currently serving his sentence of 14 years in prison.

March 30, 2004: Weidong Xu, a former Harvard Medical School instructor and researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, was arrested for allegedly swindling his friends, students, and colleagues out of more than half a million dollars. Xu claimed that he had planned to use the money to fund a SARS research company in China, but in an attempt to increase his capital, fell for a Nigerian email investment scam. Xu was charged with larceny, to which he pled not guilty.

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