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“It is expressly understood that Respondent does not admit to any of the allegations”

Andrew Apranik’s reposnse to the NIH findings against him.

Brief story:  Andrew was charged with scientific offenses by the administration fo the UW School of Medicine.  The UW faculty, following the Faculty Code and administrative rules of the UW, convened council of the faculty made up of very high level faculty members.  This council found the UW at fault for violating Andrew’s rights of due process. Despite this finding, the UW President, Mark Emmert, now the embattled head of the NCAA, unilaterally accused the faculty council of incompetence and fired Dr. Aprikyan.  Now, the National Institutes of Health has found that Andrew did violate its rules.  Andrew answers:

“It is expressly understood that Respondent does not admit to any of the allegations”  these words were removed by ORI from the published version. This case is not over yet for the reasons as described below.

Andrew Aprikyan: In 2003, a faculty member and a competitor in our field of study filed allegations of scientific misconduct against my collaborator and senior faculty member and me, then an Assistant Research Professor of Medicine. Importantly, all allegations of the complainant were not in good faith as they were determined baseless and were dismissed. The complainant noticed an error (later confirmed as harmless honest error that does not provide any gain and does not affect any conclusions of the paper) in our 2003 Blood paper just prepublished online and made up numerous allegations in regards to this and other papers. In these studies we discovered that various mutations in the neutrophil elastase gene (that we previously identified in pre-leukemic/neutropenic patients and published in Nature Genetics in 1999) cause accelerated apoptosis (programmed cell death) in primary bone marrow cells and human myeloid cell lines. As later it was stated by the complainant under the oath and in his affidavit, he could not reproduce our findings (because of using less sensitive methods) and filed his allegations at the “specific request and direct encouragements of his supervisors” in the UW School of Medicine. The 2003 Blood online paper was later withdrawn because the authors could not explain at the time for in-print publication why a mutation identified in one of the key patients in the study was not detected in a later blood sample from the patient. Later we concluded that the patient became mosaic after partially successful bone marrow transplantation and it took a while for donor stem cells without the mutation to dominate in the marrow, which eventually reduced the proportion of original patient’s cells with the mutation to undetectable level. It is important to emphasize that our findings, first reported in 2003, were later fully corroborated nationally and internationally by several independent laboratories in the US and Europe.

From the beginning I clearly stated that I never ever committed scientific misconduct and it will require fabrication of evidence to prove otherwise. In fact, during the investigation, which went for several years (becoming a “witch-hunt”) instead of about 90 days envisioned by the UW Policy and Faculty Code Regulations, this is exactly what happened, and in July 2007, pursuant to the University of Washington Policy I initiated an adjudicative proceeding. The public must be educated and be aware that if any employee, who feels grossly and unjustly mistreated by the university administration, must first go through the institutional adjudication in pursuit for justice before filing in the court. Otherwise the judge will dismiss the case. At the University of Washington the adjudication, as required by the University Policy, is a formal proceedings with the Adjudication Hearing Panel members consisting of several senior faculty members and a presiding hearing officer (professional attorney) all of whom are selected and appointed by the university President to resolve the conflicts and disagreements between the university faculty members and the administration’s actions or inactions. Pursuant to the University Policy and similar to the Jury system in the US Courts, the Adjudication Hearing Panel members review the facts/documents/evidence presented by the opposing sides, listen to the under oath testimony of the faculty members and administration representatives as well as of the expert-witnesses who are prominent scientists with indisputable expertise in the scientific areas in question, cross-examine the witnesses, ask questions and invite additional testimonies when needed. It must be emphasized that numerous highly respected and prominent scientists-experts carefully reviewed the primary data, the allegations and concerns and testified in writing and under the oath that there is no misconduct by Dr. Aprikyan, that the UW administration representatives misrepresented and/or misunderstood the facts, that Dr. Aprikyan’s science is correct and that Dr. Aprikyan and his colleagues’ findings were fully corroborated by different independent laboratories.

Throughout nearly 1.5 year-long adjudication proceedings at the University of Washington there were unequivocal fabrications of evidence by the university admin representatives and misrepresentations of facts that were documented and entered into evidence/record. As an example, one of renowned professors who carefully reviewed and analyzed the primary data testified that administration’s “conclusions that he [Dr. Aprikyan] performed scientific misconduct based on a quality of scientific evidence which would not meet the minimal scientific expectations”,

the administration’s “evidence had been assembled in a scientifically invalid way” and  “[t]his would not pass a minimum level of scientific scrutiny.”  After reviewing all the facts and documents presented by both sides, the under oath testimonies of numerous witnesses and expert-scientists, the University of Washington Adjudication Hearing Panel in a unanimous decision fully exonerated Dr. Aprikyan. The Adjudication Hearing Panel also reprimanded the university administration for several substantive procedural violations, including the fact that the lead administration investigator in this case also served as ultimate decision maker. Yet, the former President of the university Mark Emmert stated that the University of Washington professors do not have rights to adjudicate the administration’s decision and requested that the Adjudication Hearing Panel members reverse its decision. In its unanimous response, the Panel members wrote that “the Hearing Panel respectfully DENIES President Emmert’s request and AFFIRMS” its earlier exoneration decision because the UW Faculty Code specifically states that UW faculty members have rights to “adjudicate any injustice resulting from decisions, actions or inactions of any persons acting on behalf of the university in administrative capacity…” [http://www.washington.edu/admin/rules/policies/FCG/FCCH28.html]. Yet, President Emmert unilaterally reversed the exoneration decision stating that the Adjudication Hearing Panel is “arbitrary and capricious” and the university professors at the University of Washington do not have rights to adjudicate the administration’s decision. The Emmert’s decision that practically strips the University of Washington faculty of their rights to adjudicate/arbitrate administration’s unjust decisions leaves no UW faculty immune unless they are members of the ruling administration. What happen to me can happen to any faculty throughout the country. Is this how you want to be treated? These events resemble the Stalin’s era in Soviet Union when the decisions to send to GULAGs were made without a proper review of the facts at the leisure of the ruling administration. This appears to be the culture of the University of Washington administration (at least in Emmert’s era) to never accept its wrongdoing whether the university admin is up against its faculty members or against the Federal Government (as in the well-known Medicare Fraud case when the same administration of the University of Washington denied any wrongdoing and paid $35 million dollars to the Feds to settle that case).

This case of indisputable injustice to Dr. Aprikyan and abuse of power by the University of Washington administration must serve as a warning wake-up call to the university faculty and the staff members who are de facto deprived of their rights to stand up for the truth, and in pursuit for justice will need a fortune to be able to successfully fight throughout the state/federal courts against the university administration and/or ORI, which have practically unlimited resources and a whole army of staff attorneys. The ORI should not make any decision on this case because it does not have jurisdiction over the case until the legitimacy of the university administration’s decision to deny its faculty rights to adjudicate administration’s unjust decisions is determined in the court. Yet, litigation of the case against ORI (with nearly unlimited resources) in Federal Court requires time and money, and to date nobody ever won against ORI although there are some pending cases. Furthermore, the problem with ORI in this case is that the same ORI investigator, who was personally guiding/directing the UW investigation and granted 17 extensions turning the investigation from 90-day long process into a 7-year-long “witch-hunt”, became the ultimate decision maker for the ORI. This is an obvious conflict of interest and breach of any reasonable rules of impartiality. How fair is this? It is obviously hard to expect from a person whose decision was to keep the investigation going for nearly a decade to overrule herself and publicly admit the waste of the resources spend in this 10-year long nightmare. Under such circumstances you are simply guilty by virtue of being investigated and the innocence is not a factor anymore unless you can afford fighting for justice in Federal Court.

Being supported by nationally and internationally well-respected prominent expert-scientists and the university faculty members, Dr. Aprikyan stood up against the UW administration’s unjust decision and was fully exonerated by an unbiased Adjudication Hearing Panel proving his innocence. To do the same against ORI would take another decade of life and nearly seven digit number of dollars to confront ORI in the Federal Court and have the justice prevail. There is a limit what one can do with limited financial resources, and testing someone’s limit and patience is not always a good idea.

You can read more about this case and the commentaries of professors who know well the insights of this story and continue supporting Dr. Aprikyan:

http://handbill.us/?p=231; http://handbill.us/?p=2890; http://handbill.us/?p=1435; http://handbill.us/?p=11273;

http://handbill.us/?p=256

 

In summary, if you are targeted by a spiteful competitor and/or investigated by your institution’s administration and you want the justice to prevail, make sure you are ready for years of emotionally draining frustration stemming from numerous frank fabrications of evidence against you and misrepresentations of actual facts. Perhaps, if you still believe in the system, you may be successful only if you involve unbiased and prominent scientists with undisputable expertise in the questioned areas, spend at least several hundred thousand dollars for legal representation by strong and well-connected attorneys, can minimize the length of the process and ensure that the investigators in your case do not become the final decision makers.


2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Zanzibar Won #
    1

    Sounds if Dr. David Dale no longer coming to your defense. NIH conviction pursade him?

  2. theaveeditor #
    2

    Have you asked Dr. Dale to comment?



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