Abbott, Allison. "University ‘Failed to Acknowledge Exoneration,'" Nature 387 (19 June 1997,

 

Abbott, Allison. "University ‘Failed to Acknowledge Exoneration,'" Nature 387 (19 June 1997,
p. 750.

[Munich] A former professor of developmental biology at the University of Geneva, where he
was accused of fraud in the early 1980s (see Nature 307, 673, 1984).

The University of Geneva set up an international commission of experts to investigate allegations
by his younger co-workers that Karl Illmensee fabricated (unpublished) data in nuclear-transfer
experiments; such experiments are important in the development of mammalian cloning
technology. The commission found no evidence in his research protocols to support or refute the
accusation, and suggested that the experiments by repeated in an international collaboration.

The suggestion was followed through by Illmensee and results were published in the
peer-reviewed journals Naturwissenschaft (1989) and Development (1990). Two members of the
commission, Richard Gardner, a professor at Oxford University and Anne McLauren, a principal
scientist at the Wellcome Research Institute in Cambridge, wrote to the University of Geneva in
1991 explaining that the papers reproduced the "essential findings" in Illmansee's earlier
experiments, despite the use in later experiments of a different cell line for practical reasons.
"We consider it appropriate the University of Geneva should inform the scientific community
that these controversial findings have now been confirmed under the conditions specified by the
commission," they wrote. They received no answer.

Illmensee says he left Geneva because of the bad feeling generated by the affair and now works
at at the University of Salzburg.

The current rector of the University of Geneva, Bernard Falpius, says that as he has been in office
for only two years, he is not familiar with the details of the affair. But he says that he plans to
reply to Illmensee's most recent letter, which was sent in May, later this month.