In a Senate hearing held on Thursday, April 22, 2021, Dr. Michael Lauer, the Deputy Director of Extramural Research at the National Institute of Health in the United States testified that “As of April 2021” more than 90 awardee institutions had been contacted “regarding concerns involving over 200 scientists.”
The downloaded testimony of Dr. Michael Lauer said the following:
“Global partnerships made it possible for scientists and physicians to learn from one another, to take more full advantage of the research capacity by coordinating research so that more theories and therapies were studied. For example, NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) utilized its existing domestic and international clinical trials infrastructure, originally established to conduct research on HIV and influenza, and worked with partners in the public and private sectors to establish the COVID‐19 Prevention Network (CoVPN). The CoVPN has supported multiple COVID‐19 vaccine candidates to progress in record time from concept to authorization for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”
Dr. Lauer’s continued his testimony:
“Unfortunately a few governments have initiated systematic programs to exploit the collaborative nature of biomedical research and unduly influence U.S supported researchers.” Dr. Michael Lauer continued, “It is essential for us to continue our vigilance and take additional actions to protect the integrity of the U.S biomedical research enterprise while also protecting important relationships with foreign scientists worldwide.”
Dr. Michael Lauer informed the Senate that the “NIH has taken and continues to take a proactive approach to identifying, resolving and preventing 3 areas of concern.”
The 3 areas of concern are as follows:
1.) “First, is the failure by some researchers and NIH funded institutions to disclose substantial contributions of resources from other organizations including foreign governments and businesses.
2.) Second, is diversion of proprietary information included in grant applications or produced by NIH-supported biomedical research to other entities including other countries.
3.) And third, failure by some peer-reviewers to keep information in grant applications confidential including in some instances disclosure to foreign entities or other attempts to influence funding decisions.
Dr. Lauer said that the “NIH identifies and monitors emerging threats internally and through partnerships with intelligence and law enforcement colleagues across the government.” Mr. Lauer continued to say “when specific concerns are identified we work with leadership within awarding institutions to address the issue as appropriate. As of April 2021, we have contacted more than 90 awardee institutions regarding concerns involving over 200 scientists.”
Mr. Lauer indicated that the process is ongoing. He told the Senate that “while in some instances our outreach reveals simple misunderstandings, these efforts have uncovered inappropriate behaviours leading to actions by awardee institutions.” These institutions have the power to terminate, suspend and relinquish NIH funds but are “not limited to” those options.
Dr. Lauer said to date “there have been over a hundred scientists who have been removed from the NIH ecosystem through a variety of ways.” Resignations, terminations, pre-mature retirements or internal debarments were cited as some examples of the ways scientists had been removed from the NIH “ecosystem”.
In Dr. Lauer’s testimony (page 7 of 7) it concluded with the following thought:
“The individuals violating laws and policies represent a small proportion of scientists working in and with U.S. institutions. We must ensure that our responses to this issue do not create a hostile environment for colleagues who are deeply dedicated to advancing human health through scientific inquiry. We cannot afford to reject brilliant minds working honestly and collaboratively to provide hope and healing to millions around the world.”
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