Moffitt Officials Resign After Investigation Reveals Disclosure Problems Related To Chinese Researchers

Six officials and researchers from the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, have resigned amid a controversy related to research collaboration with Chinese investigators. Both the center’s CEO, Alan List, MD, and the director of Moffitt Cancer Center, Thomas Sellers, PhD, left their leadership positions.

The departures occurred during ongoing investigations into foreign influence on American-funded medical research by federal officials. During an internal review, Moffitt’s compliance office found several violations related to research collaborations with investigators from China. Some of these violations were related to employees’ personal involvement in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, which violated the center’s conflict of interest policies. The program is designed to bring leading Chinese scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs who are working at U.S. and European institutions back to China. Experts have testified that Congress should end financial assistance to Thousand Talents participants, as some worry these individuals could “steal” scientific breakthroughs.

Officials added that there is no indication that research performed at Moffitt was compromised or that patient care has been affected.

Moffitt’s board chairman, Timothy Adams, MD, has taken on operational duties as the center searches for a new CEO. “About last summer, the NIH began warning institutions to be on alert,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “Our compliance team spent countless hours reviewing the findings of the investigation in this unfortunate circumstance.”

The center’s compliance office also is reviewing its 12-year research and education partnership with Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital, located in Beijing.

On December 20, NCI director Norman Ned” Sharpless, MD, convened a conference call with the directors of all 71 NCI-designated cancer centers, in which he emphasized the need to fully comply with NIH policies on conflict of interest and intellectual property.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, December 18, 2019; AP News, December 19, 2019; Cancer Letter, December 20, 2019.