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Over to the Criminal System

Federal prosecutors in the US have filed charges against former Iowa State University laboratory manager Dong-Pyou Han after he admitted to falsifying data, the Associated Press reports.

According to investigators, Han confessed to spiking rabbit blood samples with human antibodies to make it appear that an experimental HIV vaccine was more promising than it really was.

In February, the Des Moines Register reported that Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services inquiring as to why Han only received a three-year ban from federally funded research

"This seems like a very light penalty for a doctor who purposely tampered with a research trial and directly caused millions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted on fraudulent studies," Grassley wrote at the time.

This month, Han was indicted on four counts of making false statements. Each of those counts, the AP notes, carries up to five years in prison.

The indictment says that Han's research misconduct led colleagues to make false statements in federal grant applications and progress reports to the National Institutes of Health. NIH, the AP adds, has paid out some $5 million under that grant.

"It's an important case because it is extremely rare for scientists found to have committed fraud to be held accountable by the actual criminal justice system," Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, tells the AP.