A paper co-authored by Khachigian — whose work at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has been funded by millions of dollars in funding from the Australian government, and has led to clinical trials, although more on that later — was retracted from Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. The “corresponding author published the paper without the full consent or acknowledgement of all the researchers and would like to apologize for this error,” according to that notice.
Three more papers, all from the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), were retracted the following July, saying only that “This article has been withdrawn by the authors,” as was typical for the JBC for many years.
A bit less than three years later, David Vaux, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (and now a member of the board of directors of our parent non-profit organization, The Center For Scientific Integrity), wrote to UNSW about a different paper by Khachigian, “c-Jun regulates shear- and injury-inducible Egr-1 expression, vein graft stenosis after autologous end-to-side transplantation in rabbits, and intimal hyperplasia in human saphenous veins.” Six of the figures in that paper, Vaux wrote in an email dated February 14, 2013, appear to contain duplications and/or alterations of images in such a way that the same data is used to represent two different conditions.
A week after receiving Vaux’s message in 2013, UNSW deputy vice-chancellor for research Les Field wrote to Khachigian, saying he would be conducting a preliminary investigation and asking for the original data behind the JBC article.
Meanwhile, on March 19, Khachigian registered a second planned trial of Dz13, a compound that scientists hoped could treat skin cancers, among other conditions. But on July 30, that trial was suspended, with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporting that Khachigian and his team had been cleared of misconduct in two previous investigations but were the subject of a third. In October, Khachigian was placed on leave.
Less than two months later, on New Year’s Day 2014, Australia’s NHMRC began funding an $8.3 million (AUS), 5-year grant to study Dz13, led by Khachigian — who was, at the time, still on leave.
In July 2014, Martin told Khachigian that he had once again been cleared of misconduct. And in May 2015, Martin said in a memo to UNSW faculty and staff that Khachigian would be returning to the university on May 18.
In November 2015, UNSW issued a statement to that effect. Meanwhile, in early 2016, Circulation Research retracted another paper by Khachigian, also for figure issues. And last month, the JBC retracted the 2010 paper, making the sixth retraction for Khachigian, who did not respond to a request for comment from Retraction Watch for this story.