A former associate professor at Purdue University faked data in two published papers and hundreds of images in 16 grant applications, according to a U.S. government research watchdog. 

Alice C. Chang, whose publications and grants listed her name as Chun-Ju Chang, received nearly $700,000 in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through grant applications that the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) said contained fake data. She will be banned from receiving federal grants for a decade – a more severe sanction than ORI has typically imposed in recent years.

In its findings, ORI said Chang, who was an associate professor of basic medical sciences at Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine:

knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly falsified and/or fabricated data from the same mouse models or cell lines by reusing the data, with or without manipulation, to represent unrelated experiments from different mouse models or cell lines with different treatments in three hundred eighty-four (384) figure panels in sixteen (16) grant applications.

Two of the grant applications were funded. Chang received $688,196 from the National Cancer Institute, a division of the (NIH), from 2018-2019 for “Targeting metformin-directed stem cell fate in triple negative breast cancer.” The other grant ORI says was submitted in 2014 and funded, “Targeting cell polarity machinery to exhaust breast cancer stem cell pool,” does not show up in NIH RePorter. The rest of the grants were not approved. 

We found a Chun-Ju Chang who is dean of the College of Life Sciences at China Medical University in Taiwan and has published papers with a group that Chun-Ju Chang at Purdue also published with. She did not immediately respond to our request for comment. 

ORI’s finding also stated Chang faked data in two papers supported by government funding by reusing figures reporting gene expression in mice and cells after drug treatments, relabeling them to say they showed the results of different experiments. According to the agency, she has agreed to request corrections for the papers: 

  • “Leptin–STAT3–G9a Signaling Promotes Obesity-Mediated Breast Cancer Progression,” published in May 2015 in Cancer Research and cited 83 times, according to Clarivate’s Web of Science. 

  • “Retinoic acid directs breast cancer cell state changes through regulation of TET2-PKCζ pathway,” published in February 2017 in Oncogene and cited 26 times. 

Between the two papers and 15 of the grant applications, ORI said that Chang reused gene expression data, sometimes with manipulation, in 119 figure panels. She reused other types of data and images in hundreds of figures across multiple grant applications, ORI found. 

As well as correcting the two papers, Chang agreed to a 10-year ban from all federal contracting, including grant funding. She also agreed not to serve in any advisory or consulting role with the U.S. Public Health Service, which includes the NIH, for that time period.

DISCLOSURE: Adam Marcus, a cofounder of Retraction Watch, is an editor at Medscape.

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