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Duke to Pay $112 Million to Settle Fabricated Research Data Lawsuit

Duke University will pay $112.5 million to the U.S. government to settle a data fabrication lawsuit that yielded the university millions of dollars in federal research grants since 2006.

The suit, filed by former Duke employee Joseph Thomas on the behalf of federal government, alleged the University of submitting false research and fabricated data to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to receive approximately 30 grants, the Justice Department said.

Specifically, the Department of Justice found that the results of research related to mice conducted in Duke’s Airway Physiology Laboratory, as well as statements from those results, were fabricated.

The lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act’s whistleblower provision, targeting a serious of violations that took place between 2006 to 2018.

“Duke knowingly, the government contended, falsified data to claim millions of grant dollars from the National Institutes of Health,” Maureen R. Dixon, special agent in charge at the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said.

“OIG and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold such grantees fully accountable regardless of the length or complexity of the investigations.”

Due to the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, Thomas will receive $33.7 million from the university settlement.

The university has announced several measures in response to the settlement to improve the quality and integrity its research including the appointment of a new Advisory Panel on Research Integrity and Excellence, the establishment of a new, integrated leadership structure for research, and the creation of an Executive Oversight Committee.

“We expect Duke researchers to adhere always to the highest standards of integrity, and virtually all of them do that with great dedication,” Duke president Vincent E. Price said.

“Through these efforts, many of which have been underway for several years, we aim to promote and adhere to the highest standards of research excellence and integrity,” Price added.

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