Flashback: Vaccine researcher funded by the U.S. government sentenced to prison for medical fraud

It’s no secret the mainstream media loves to bash anyone who dares to express even a modicum of skepticism towards vaccines, so it’s important to reiterate that skepticism is most definitely not unfounded. While it would be great if things like fraud, manipulation and data falsification were things of times past, the truth is that there is no shortage of deceit when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry. Just two years ago, back in 2015, a U.S. biomedical scientist was sent to prison on misconduct charges.

What was the researcher’s crime, you ask? He fabricated and falsified data for during HIV vaccine trials — and he even confessed to his wrongdoing. Dong-Pyou Han was a biomedical scientist at Iowa State University and on July 1, 2015, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison for his crime, or just over four-and-a-half years. Han was also fined a hefty $7.2 million and will face three years of “supervised release” once he finishes up his time at the penitentiary.

Han resigned from his position at the university back in 2013; Iowa State left him with no choice after they concluded he had indeed fudged the results of his vaccine experiments — which, of course, were funded by grants from the  United States’ National Institute of Health (NIH). Science reports that Han was ordered to pay back the $7.2 million he’d received in grant money. At the time of his disgraced resignation, Han was also hit with a three-year ban on seeking grant money by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity. In 2013, the university also repaid the $500,000 the NIH had doled out for Han’s salary.

It turns out that Han had spiked rabbit blood samples with human HIV antibodies to make it look like the vaccine produced immunity. Sources say that Han’s misconduct can be traced all the way back to 2008 — when he first accidentally mixed human blood with the rabbit blood they were using in their vaccine experiments. Han says fear of disappointing his superior, Michael Cho, kept him from spilling the beans. As the Washington Post reports, “Instead of admitting them, he continued to spike future samples, which gave the impression that the rabbits were mounting an immune response and neutralizing the HIV virus, results that were considered to be a breakthrough in the effort to find a viable vaccine for the virus.”

But Han’s little deception soon became a much bigger problem; Cho (and subsequently Han) was scooped up by Iowa State University in 2009 and their HIV vaccine research continued — and it continued to get more and more funding from the NIH. With his “lab manager” title, Han had virtually unlimited access to the samples the team used, and for years, he continued to spike the rabbit blood samples with human HIV antibodies. Eventually, his misdeed caught up with him. A research team at Harvard University was attempting to validate Cho’s team’s research when they uncovered the truth: The rabbit blood samples were contaminated with human antibodies.

So much for vaccine skepticism being based on nothing but conspiracy theories, right? Fraudulent behavior like this is exactly why so many people are reluctant to trust what the medical establishment tells them.

Some, like former director of the U.S. Office of Research Integrity David Wright, feel that Han’s punishment is too harsh. “It’s questionable how much more is to be gained by jail time,” he commented. Han has expressed deep regret for his actions, but many people often do after getting caught.

While his prison time certainly sends a message to others who may consider academic fraud, there is another message to be had here: That scientists are not above the law, and (hopefully) will not be treated differently than other citizens when they purposely do the wrong thing. If Han fessed up to his mistake back in 2008, he wouldn’t be where he is right now.

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