Emory Report
October 20, 2008
Volume 61, Number 8



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October 20
, 2008
Financial disclosure in research heightened

from staff reports

Emory has created a University-wide, central office to oversee administration and enforcement of conflict-of-interest (COI) policies, and researchers are being informed about new financial disclosure requirements that will apply to investigators on new and pending National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants.

Earl Lewis, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Fred Sanfilippo, executive vice president for health affairs, said the oversight move has been discussed for months as the scale of research at the institution has grown dramatically. Last year, for the first time, sponsored research at Emory passed the $400 million mark.

“We understand the need for integrity in research. We believe creating oversight of conflict-of-interest issues in a new central office will help us ensure strong conflict-of-interest policies and procedures University-wide,” Lewis and Sanfilippo said. The new office will report to David Wynes, vice president for research administration at Emory.

Although the School of Medicine continues to have the most sponsored research of any division at Emory, growing numbers of studies are also found in Emory College, Rollins School of Public Health, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and elsewhere. COI administration has been based in the School of Medicine since the inception of such research protocols in the mid-1990s.

Meanwhile, Emory is continuing to investigate allegations against professor Charles Nemeroff. Nemeroff voluntarily stepped aside as chairman of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and principal or co-investigator on all NIH grants at Emory, pending resolution of COI questions recently raised about his financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Steven Levy has been appointed acting chair of the department. Levy, who began his Emory career in 1974, is professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and holds the Bernard C. Holland Chair of Psychiatry. He is also chief of psychiatry at Grady Memorial Hospital, head of the psychiatry section of The Emory Clinic, vice chair for clinical services and academic affairs in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of Emory’s Psychoanalytic Institute.

“Dr. Levy is a valued, long-standing excellent faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,” said School of Medicine Dean Thomas Lawley. “We look forward to his leadership as he serves as acting chair for the department.”

President Jim Wagner, in a letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Oct. 12, cited three key principles to keep in mind as the University’s investigation of the allegations concerning Nemeroff continues: Nemeroff deserves a full and fair review of the facts before final conclusions are drawn; well-managed collaborations between private industry and the academy have yielded many benefits to humanity that are worth the prudent investment of public funds; and the health of any scholarly community depends upon the intellectual honesty and personal trustworthiness of its members.

Emory is absolutely committed to these principles, Wagner stressed.

“I am confident that in the end we will determine whether these allegations are true. If they are, Emory has in place strong and proven procedures for dealing with their fallout,” Wagner wrote.

He continued: “Emory would not be true to our mission of creating, preserving, transmitting and applying knowledge in the service of humanity if the very foundation of that knowledge were called into question by lack of integrity in research. We owe it to every citizen of the world not to fail in that mission, and we will not fail.”

Nemeroff is cooperating with the investigation and has assured Emory officials that: “To the best of my knowledge, I have followed the appropriate University regulations concerning financial disclosures. I have dedicated my career to translating research findings into improvements in clinical practice in patients with severe mental illness. I will cooperate fully and work with Emory to respond to the alleged conflicts of interest issues raised by Senator Grassley and his staff.”