UC Irvine officials are investigating whether a former medical school professor violated research-ethics rules for a recently published study about nutritional supplements--and are questioning whether he performed the work at all.
Darryl See, 39, resigned from the UCI faculty in September 1998 after admitting he had violated research procedures, university officials said Wednesday. But a newly published study, in which See claimed to still be on the UCI faculty, has renewed concern at the medical school that he may have used human blood samples without gaining permission from a university research review board.
“We’re concerned because publications have come out referring to the use of human blood and animals about which we have no record,” said Tom Cesario, dean of the UCI Medical School.
See, who graduated from the UCI medical school, was hired for its faculty in 1992 and promoted to associate clinical professor in July 1998.
See’s research at the university focused primarily on treatments for viral diseases, including AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome and herpes. He resigned from the faculty after a UCI review panel determined that he had used patients’ blood samples without obtaining authorization from school officials and that he may have given incorrect doses of anesthetic to lab animals.
Investigators also concluded that See may have falsified documents showing that human research subjects had given consent to be used in medical studies. A formal inquiry was never completed because See had acknowledged wrongdoing and left the faculty, university officials said.
The university renewed its investigation in light of a new study in the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Assn.
In the article, See, the chief author, contends his research was done partly at the school and identifies himself as a faculty member of UCI although he resigned nearly a year ago.
“The university is conducting an administrative audit and to date has found no evidence that this study was done at he university or involved patients at UCI,” university officials said in a statement.
UCI officials announced the investigations as Bloomberg News, a financial wire service, reported Wednesday that Mannatech Inc., a Texas nutritional supplements company, is using the See study to promote its products.
Bloomberg also reported that See has a significant financial interest in Mannatech’s products. He has received more than $100,000 from the company in speaker fees and research grants since 1998, and his wife has been a Mannatech distributor since 1997, the wire service reported.
The university has also investigated claims in See’s article that his research was funded in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. While the grant he identifies in the article is being used to fund research at UCI, the federally funded study is “completely unrelated to the research described by See in the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association,” the university said in a statement.
See is identified as co-chairman of the American Nutraceutical Assn.'s research advisory council on the association’s Internet site. The site offers publications for sale, including a book co-written by See on anti-aging strategies.
He is also listed as founder and director of the Institute for Longevity Medicine in Orange County. See’s personal Web site offers information on the use of nutritional supplements to treat conditions ranging from AIDS to cerebral palsy.
See could not be reached for comment. Reportedly on vacation in France, he told Bloomberg by phone that he has asked the journal to print a correction saying his study wasn’t funded by a federal grant.
“I don’t want to pick a fight with the NIH,” he told Bloomberg.
Cesario emphasizes that the university doesn’t believe anyone was hurt by the study.
“The issue is a very simple one,” Cesario said. “We have a policy that if you deal with any human tissues, you have to at least go through [a review board]. They have to know about it because they may say you have to tell the patient you’re going to do this.”
A UCI committee comprising faculty from outside the medical school is now systematically checking See’s other work, Cesario said.
“He actually did some very fine work early on, that as far as I know was free of any question,” Cesario said.
Cesario said UCI has sent See a letter ordering him to stop claiming he is a member of the faculty. As for the claims made in the article, Cesario said, “We at the University of California don’t want to vouch for it.”