Top Stem Cell Researcher Defrauded NIH for Grant Money and No Jail Time

Dr Peter Francis was a brilliant and successful ophthalmologist and research who worked at St Thomas Hospital in London.  In 1992 he was awarded the National Research prize as the top up and coming medical researcher in all of Britain.  Over the next four years he received other awards and recognition for his pioneering research which centered around the use of stem cells to cure certain forms of blindness.

In 2006, the Casey Eye Institute in Oregon recruited and hired Francis to conduct his research for them.  Due to the nature of his research, he was granted permanent US residency.

While working at the Oregon Health and Science University’s Casey Eye Institute, Francis procured two grants from the National Institute of Health.  The grants were awarded based upon Francis’ research in which he claimed to have been able to use stem cells to cure blindness in rats.  His research entailed using retinal pigment epithelial cells from rhesus monkeys and injecting them into rats that had develop retinal degeneration.  In his reports, Francis said that the rats exhibited ‘enhanced photoreceptor preservation and no adverse effects.’

Eventually, Francis’ research was supposed to lead to a way to stop and even reverse retinal degeneration in humans, thus preserving and in some cases restoring their vision.  Many people in the world of ophthalmology had their eyes on him and were anxiously awaiting the results from his next stage of experimentation.

That’s when the US Office of Research Integrity came into the picture.  It was soon discovered that Francis had never performed any of his research.  Everything he wrote about was just theory on paper and nothing more.  Once the whistle was blown, Francis immediately resigned from the Casey Eye Institute.

Generally when someone commits and act of fraud that nets a financial gain, it is treated as a criminal offense.  However, in the case of Peter Francis, he only received a slap of the back of the hand for his fraudulent acts.  He and the Office of Research Integrity have agreed that anywhere Francis works for the next two years that all of his work is checked and someone verifies that the lab experimentation is actually done.

If you ask me, he should be charged with felony fraud and have his fanny tossed in the slammer for a few years.  After all, the National Institute of Health is a federal agency belonging to the Department of Health and Human Services and defrauding the government is usually taken seriously.  Then when Francis is released from jail, US immigration officials need to deport him back to the UK.