Duke University has put a prominent Indian-American cancer researcher on leave, said a university spokesman, following allegations that he had falsely claimed to have won several awards, including the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Anil Potti, an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Medicine and a leading proponent of personalised treatments for cancer based on genetic profiling, listed the Rhodes Scholarship in applications for federal grants. But according to a Rhodes spokesman, Potti was never a Rhodes Scholar.
The discrepancy was revealed in an investigative article in The Cancer Letter. The article also found that Potti’s biographies contained conflicting accounts regarding the two years he claimed to have been on the scholarship.
“Duke is aware of the allegations raised in the article regarding Dr. Potti and has instituted a formal internal investigation,” Duke spokesman Douglas Stokke was quoted as saying by the Raleigh News and Observer.
Potti, who did his MBBS from the Christian Medical College, Vellore before moving to the US, could be held guilty of a federal offense if prosecutors believe he lied in order to win government research grants.
The American Cancer Society, which awarded Potti a grant for $729,000 based —among other things — on his Rhodes scholarship claims, has said they will stop payment on the grant and conduct their own investigation.
According to the article, Potti claimed he was at the Queensland Research Institute in Australia on a Rhodes Scholarship during 1995 and 1996. There is no such institute. The man whom Potti claimed was his mentor in Australia, Gordon McLaren, told The Cancer Letter that he did not mentor Potti during that time.
Officials at CMC Vellore also told The Cancer Letter that Potti graduated in 1996.
In an email to the Cancer Letter, Potti said the claims “can be explained.” He, however, did not return emails or phone calls.