Noted red wine molecule heart researcher Dipak Das, PhD, has filed a $35 million defamation claim against the University of Connecticut Health Center for wrongful termination, violation of the university’s by-laws, and lack of due process as protected by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Dr. Das made worldwide headlines in January 2012 when U CONN authorities issued a press release and posted a website alleging 145 claims of scientific fraud that were backed by 60,000 pages of evidence. However, that website was quickly taken offline after many of its allegations were publicly rebutted. Soon thereafter, it came to light that the university’s review board had never read the entire report and has instead relied upon a 23-page summary in its decision to dismiss Dr. Das from his position as director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at the U CONN Health Center.
Dr. Das conducted landmark animal studies that demonstrated the red wine molecule resveratrol (rez-vair-ah-troll) can limit damage to the animal heart during a heart attack and turn a mortal heart attack into a non-mortal event.
Despite the fact Dr. Das’ research had been duplicated and verified by other researchers, university authorities alleged Dr. Das had fabricated all of his research in order to fraudulently obtain research grant money. Thereafter radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh brashly claimed on air that Dr. Das “made it all up,” that there was no valid evidence to show resveratrol prevented mortal heart attacks. Sales of resveratrol pills tumbled in the aftermath.
Specifically, U CONN Health Center authorities claimed Dr. Das had altered images showing the production of gene-derived proteins (called a western blot image). But alteration of these images would only change understanding of the underlying genetic mechanisms involved in Dr. Das’ experiments, not the conclusions of his studies which showed unequivocal ability of resveratrol to protect the heart prior to and during a heart attack.
Dr. Das conducted one experiment in his animal laboratory where he submitted tissue samples to National Institutes of Health researchers for a more advanced method of genetic analysis called microRNA. That microRNA analysis corroborated with Dr. Das’ western blot data and fully validated his research, but this fact was never considered by the U CONN Health Center review board. That study was published in a peer-reviewed journal (PLoS ONE) and can still be viewed online as it hasn’t been retracted like many of his other research papers.
A U CONN Health Center press release stated that university authorities were working closely with the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI) throughout its entire investigation and said it had sent its complete report to the ORI for an independent investigation. But Dr. Das’ legal counsel asserts that U CONN Health Center had never submitted any such report to the ORI. In fact, third parties who came to the defense of Dr. Das appealed for the ORI to conduct an independent examination in order to clear Dr. Das’ name of these false allegations.
U CONN Health Center apparently depended upon a computerized analysis to come to its conclusion that Dr. Das had fabricated western blot images, but there is criticism that these computer programs are not flawless in their analysis. Oddly, U CONN Health Center authorities could not produce the sole evidence disc against Dr. Das—the computer hard drive U CONN seized from his office—saying it had been lost, thus leaving him with no way to adequately defend the allegations against him.
U CONN Health Center authorities have subsequently conducted a vendetta against Dr. Das, contacting at least eleven scientific journals so far to request his published papers be retracted.
Dr. Das’ complaint claims U CONN Health Center dismissed him before the official investigation against him was completed and then denied him opportunity to present contrary evidence or testimony by expert witnesses, in violation of the right to due process under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
One of the dramatic claims U CONN Health Center made early on was that Dr. Das was the only person who had keys to his office where the computer was used to alter the western blot images. U CONN Health Center authorities alleged this is where Dr. Das secretly fabricated the results of his research.
This was adamantly refuted by Dr. Das and corroborated by his former students who claim his office door was usually open and students could enter to add western blot images to his computer files at any time of day. Dr. Das’ students conducted all of the western blot tests. He had no direct hand in performing the tests.
The claim has been filed with the Office Of The Claims Commissioner for the State of Connecticut and is not subject to sovereign immunity as it is asserted the university terminated Dr. Das in excess of its statutory authority.