After a months-long, independent review of allegations against his scientific articles found issues with his work, Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced Wednesday that he will resign from his post.
The review, which was announced in December, followed allegations reported in Stanford’s student newspaper that scientific work co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne contained altered images. The panel concluded that Tessier-Lavigne “did not engage in any fraud or falsification of scientific data” in a dozen papers it reviewed, nor did it find he had “knowledge of or was reckless regarding research misconduct in my lab,” he said in a letter Wednesday to the Stanford community.
“Although the report clearly refutes the allegations of fraud and misconduct that were made against me, for the good of the University, I have made the decision to step down as President effective August 31,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote.
However, the report did identify some issues with Tessier-Lavigne’s work, including “instances of manipulation of research data by others” in his lab, which the panel found Tessier-Lavigne did not take sufficient steps to correct. “Although I was unaware of these issues, I want to be clear that I take responsibility for the work of my lab members,” he wrote.
“I expect there may be ongoing discussion about the report and its conclusions, at least in the near term, which could lead to debate about my ability to lead the University into the new academic year,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote.
A neuroscientist and biotech entrepreneur widely known for his Alzheimer’s research, Tessier-Lavigne has authored or co-authored about 300 scientific papers. Claims of anomalous images in a few of them have appeared for years on PubPeer, a website that enables anonymous contributors to examine scientific papers and highlight potential flaws.
Under scrutiny were several studies, some two decades old, co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne that were published in journals including Science, Nature and the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal.
The university launched a probe after a story in the Stanford Daily in which Elisabeth Bik, a microbiologist who works as an independent science-integrity consultant, said there were “serious problems” in some studies that list Tessier-Lavigne as a co-author.
Before he became Stanford’s president in 2016, Tessier-Lavigne served as president of Rockefeller University in New York, oversaw the development of cancer drugs as chief scientific officer at Genentech, and co-founded the biotech company Renovis.
—Times staff writer Christopher Goffard contributed to this report.
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