A tenured professor is charged with defrauding the National Institutes of Health of approximately $16 million in grants, including parts of five grants which went to pay his salary over a four-year period.

Hoau-Yan Wang, a medical professor at the CUNY School of Medicine, is facing charges of major fraud against the U.S., two counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements. Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, with major fraud carrying a maximum of 10 years and false statements five years.

Wang is accused of fabricating aspects of his research on a drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease when applying for federal grants, including making false or misleading statements to “enrich himself.”

The grants from NIH, based in Bethesda, from 2017 to 2021 also covered the salaries of his research assistants and the costs of his lab supplies and equipment to support his research at Cassava Sciences, an Austin, Texas-based company.

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The funding largely went to the early developmental phases of the proposed drug, referred to by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as Phase 1 and Phase 2.

Cassava Sciences said in a statement that Wang is not involved in Phase 3, the latest phase of clinical trials. But scientific journals have raised concerns over the drug treatment for years.

In 2021, some journals asked Wang to share the raw, uncropped copies of the images in his findings over concerns of data manipulation. A CUNY panel also found “evidence highly suggestive of deliberate scientific misconduct” by Wang on some of his papers that same year, including work co-authored with Lindsay Burns, a scientist at Cassava.

The indictment says the company sent the journals additional images on Wang’s behalf, but the images had been fabricated as well.

Wang, according to the indictment, did not keep the original, unaltered data. In 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “harshly criticized” his analysis of blood samples for the drug, according to Science magazine, raising new questions about the credibility of his and the company’s claims.

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Wang was working with Cassava Sciences — which the indictment says he has been an adviser for since at least 2005 — in developing Simufilam, the company’s lead drug for treatment of Alzheimer’s, working on securing federal grant funding related to the drug’s development.

Although the company said in a statement that Wang and his “former public university” are not involved with the research, it is unclear whether Wang is still employed at CUNY. The Baltimore Banner reached out to Wang and the university for comment.

A spokesperson for CUNY said the university learned of the indictment against Wang last year.

“The University has and will continue to cooperate to the fullest degree with the federal government’s investigation until the matter is resolved,” the spokesperson said.

Each year, the institute — the world’s largest public funder of biomedical research — sets aside funding to support small-business research like that being done by Cassava.

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When submitting proposals for grants, Wang had to include a research plan, site location, profiles of key personnel and budgets. From May 2015 to April 2023, when submitting grant proposals, Wang made “false, misleading and fraudulent” statements about how the drug was designed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, about the indicators associated with the disease in patients that would have shown improvement, how the company’s test was designed to detect Alzheimer’s and the nature and scope of the experiment, according to the indictment.

He also manipulated data and images of Western blots, a technique used to detect change in a biological sample.

In each image, there is a band whose thickness and darkness correspond to the amount of protein present in the sample. He artificially added and subtracted bands and changed their thickness or darkness in images and drew conclusions from it, according to the indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Much of the work he submitted to scientific journal articles was later cited in his grant application to the institute.

Wang did not have an attorney listed in court records as of Wednesday afternoon.