Scientist Gets Prison for Falsifying HIV Vaccine Results



Iowa – This summer it was reported that a former Iowa State University researcher, Dong-Pyou Han, 58, was sentence to almost five years for faking the results of an HIV vaccine experiment in a favorable light, ultimately leading to millions of dollars in grants.


Dong-Pyou Han
Dong-Pyou Han. Photo courtesy AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File.


According to RT’s report, Han, whose research was considered groundbreaking at the time, spent millions of dollars in research funds while colleagues questioned his “miraculous” findings. He eventually admitted that he had been mixing human antibodies with the blood of rabbits to make it seem his vaccine was more effective, and in 2013, he was forced to resign from his position.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) eventually caught word of the scandal, and shocked at the amount of funds wasted, decided to take action. In a 2014 letter from Grassley to the investigatory office that deals with this particular type of misconduct, he noted:

This seems like a very light penalty [Han being forced to resign] for a doctor who purposefully tampered with a research trial and directly caused millions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted on fraudulent studies.”


Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. Photograph by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg.


Han was eventually ordered to pay $7 million to the National Institutes of Health, and was sentenced in July to four years, nine months (57 months total) in prison. Joseph Herrold, Han’s attorney, claims the initial sample Han made was an accident, and afterwards he had been too embarrassed to admit his mistake, so instead continued to falsify his samples. The attorney asked that Han be put on probation instead.

Prosecutors disagreed, of course. In this statement from Nicholas Kleinfeldt, U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa:

Just because somebody has a PhD, just because someone’s involved in the scientific community, doesn’t mean they’re going to necessarily be treated differently than anyone else who’s committed a criminal offense.”


Some are saying Han’s punishment might seem excessive when compared to other scientific cheaters. Apparently, prosecution of scientists for misconduct is rare, and jail time even more so. In The Des Moines Register’s report, it was stated that since 2012, around three dozen researchers have been “found by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity to have committed misconduct of federal grants.” So far, only Han has been sent to prison for abusing tax payer’s money.

While the U.S. government doesn’t seem to mind these abuses committed by scientists who steal grant money, we can only hope that Han’s case is evidence that the judiciary is at least paying attention. These people may not be hardcore criminals, but as was pointed out in The Des Moines Register’s report, that doesn’t give them a free ticket to break the law. Some are hoping that Han’s punishment for knowingly wasting millions of tax payer’s dollars will deter other “would-be fraudsters.”


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Marcus, Adam and Oransky, Ivan. The Des Moines Register. Jul 1, 2015. (

  1. RT. Jul 2, 2015. (


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