Ricky Malhotra

The Main Quadrangles at the University of Chicago. Ricky Malhotra worked at both the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. (Michael Barera/Wikimedia commons.org photo)

A cardiovascular researcher has admitted to faking 74 experiments, and more than 100 images, according to a recent report released by the Office of Research Integrity.

Ricky Malhotra – an Indian American who worked as an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan from 2001 to 2007, and then joined the University of Chicago as a research assistant professor until 2011 – admitted to falsifying data at both institutions. According to the ORI report, Malhotra falsified data in three grant applications for the National Institutes of Health. He also falsified data in an NIH progress report, one academic paper, and seven presentations.

He claimed to have conducted 74 experiments which never happened and also falsified 100 Western blots, which are used to identify specific amino-acid sequences in proteins. Malhotra reused and falsely labeled Western blot gel images.

The ORI – a federal watchdog agency – released its findings in two separate actions on May 24 and June 1. The University of Chicago said it became aware of the allegations through a letter from the Division of Investigative Oversight at ORI.

Malhotra was not the principal investigator on either of the awarded grants named in the ORI report. One of the grants was for $130,000 per year during 2007, 2008, and 2009; the other was for $390,000 in 2011. Both of those grants were awarded while Malhotra was employed at the University of Chicago.

After retracting a paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry last year, Malhotra told the ORI “he had no intention in applying for or engaging in U.S. Public Health Service-supported research.” PHS is the parent agency of the NIH. If he does apply for any NIH grants in the next five years, his work will have to be supervised, and he will have to report to the ORI every six months.

After leaving the University of Chicago in 2011, Malhotra worked as a senior scientist in translational biology at Secretory IgA in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2013, Malhotra joined PicoCal as the principal consultant for biological applications, but left after a year. He is now an independent consultant in Boston, Mass.

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