Embattled Alzheimer’s Researcher Is Charged With Fraud

A scientist whose research was at the center of controversy over an Alzheimer’s drug candidate has been charged with fraud.

A federal grand jury indicted Hoau-Yan Wang, a professor at the City College of New York, on Thursday for falsifying data to obtain grants totaling about $16 million from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Wang’s studies have supported research into a diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease and into simufilam, a drug in advanced clinical trials. The maker of simufilam, Cassava Sciences, a Texas-based pharmaceutical company, has said the drug improves cognition in Alzheimer’s patients.

Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately six million Americans – a number expected to double by 2050 – and there is immense enthusiasm for promising treatments. Cassava stocks have soared after each set of test results released.

But some scientists have publicly denigrated the drug, saying its mechanism of action and purported results were implausible. Some have gone further and accused the company and Dr. Wang, its scientific consultant, of manipulating the results. Several journals have retracted or attached statements of concern to publications by Dr. Wang and co-author Cassava.

Following the indictment’s announcement on Friday, Cassava’s stock fell to its lowest price since October 2020.

Rémi Barbier, founder and chief executive of Cassava, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in a statement posted on its website, the company said Dr. Wang’s work “was related to the early phases of development of the company’s drug candidate and diagnostic test.”

“Dr. Wang and his former public university medical school were not involved in the Company’s Phase 3 clinical trials of simufilam,” the statement said.

A company publicist pointed to a September 2023 publication that he said provides “independent verification of the science.”

An investigation by the City University of New York, of which the college is a part, struggled for months to gain access to Dr. Wang’s records. Ultimately, members of the investigative committee concluded that Dr. Wang was “reckless” in failing to preserve or provide the original data, an offense that “amounts to serious research misconduct.”

“The university has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with the federal government’s investigation until the matter is resolved,” a university spokesperson said in a statement.

Dr. Wang did not respond to requests for comment on the indictment.

Dr. Wang is now accused of falsifying grant application data over nearly eight years ending in April 2023, according to the Department of Justice. Some of the grants funded Dr. Wang’s salary and laboratory research at the university.

Federal prosecutors charged Dr. Wang with multiple counts of fraud and making false statements. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 55 years.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington field office is investigating the case. The indictment was handed down in Maryland, where the NIH is based.

In an emailed statement, NIH spokeswoman Renate Myles said the agency “does not discuss grant compliance reviews of specific funded awards, recipient institutions or supported investigators.”

“However, the NIH takes research misconduct very seriously,” she said. “NIH promptly and carefully reviews all allegations of research misconduct received. »

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