Duke University has agreed to pay $112.5 million to settle claims that it knowingly included fake data in applications for federal grants that brought more than $200 million into that school and other nearby universities. The suit, brought by a former employee, alleged that the university was aware that a University biologist included fraudulent data in a number of grant applications and reports, including for some work done with Duke pulmonary researcher William Michael Foster, who was named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit.
Former Duke biologist Joseph Thomas sued Duke in May 2013 under a federal whistleblower law. Under the False Claims Act, Duke could have been on the hook for up to three times the amount of any ill-gotten funds. Mr. Thomas will receive 30% of the settlement payout. Whistleblower Thomas was represented by John Thomas Jr. his brother with the firm Healy Hafemann Magee.
The NIH last March told Duke that grant recipients from the school would have to undergo additional approval processes related to grant renewals and extensions. Duke said those are in place until the NIH is satisfied the school has addressed “faculty accountability” with NIH regulations.
Duke has added a number of quality-control initiatives in recent years to ensure research integrity, and will introduce more in the wake of the settlement.