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Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne (Photo by Adam Fagen | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Stanford University has opened an investigation into Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne for allegations of scientific misconduct.

Scientific experts raised concerns about four papers that Tessier-Lavigne — a renowned neuroscience and former biotechnology executive — co-authored between 2001 to 2008, including two where he was the lead author. The investigations follow a report from the Stanford Daily that the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal was in the process of reviewing a 2008 paper co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne.

Public allegations raised in 2018 on PubPeer initially brought the 2008 paper to the EMBO’s attention.

According to biologist and science misconduct investigator Elisabeth Bik in a statement to The Stanford Daily, numerous visible errors are present in the papers, with some duplications suggesting an intent to mislead readers in other parts of the data.

The university told the Stanford Daily that Tessier-Lavigne was made aware of several errors in his papers beginning in late 2015 while he was being considered for his role as the university's president. 

Tessier-Lavigne alerted editors at [Science and Nature] about the three papers on the same day in 2015 that he was alerted to those issues, Spokesperson Dee Mostofi wrote to the Stanford Daily.

In the 2008 paper published by the EMBO Journal, an image of a “gel band” in protein analysis appears to be duplicated and then flipped, possibly to avoid detection, according to Bik. Tessier-Lavigne was the third author of this academic paper.

Published in 2001 by Science, Tessier-Lavigne’s second paper, with over 700 citations, contains figures that appear to have been altered with duplicated, identical gel bands, Bik told the Stanford Daily. 

A 2003 paper published by Nature shows images of blood vessels in embryos that are supposed to be different from one another, but at least two of the images are duplicates, only cropped and rotated differently, Bik said.

Finally, a 2001 paper also published in Science with Tessier-Lavigne as the lead author allegedly depicts a reused pair of gel bands.

According to the Stanford Daily, Tessier-Lavigne’s papers that contain these issues include some of his most cited neurobiology-related work, accumulating tens of thousands and downloads. 

In another statement issued by Stanford, Tessier-Lavigne said that “Scientific integrity is of the utmost importance both to the university and to me personally. I support this process and will fully cooperate with it, and I appreciate the oversight by the Board of Trustees.”

Tessier-Lavigne intensively studied brain development and repair, focusing his research on the causes and potential treatments of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's disease, in addition to therapies for spinal cord injuries. He gained recognition in biotechnology as a research executive at Genentech and as a co-founder of California-based Denali Therapeutics, which develops medicines for neurodegenerative disorders. 

“The university will assess the allegations presented in the Stanford Daily, consistent with its normal rigorous approach by which allegations of research misconduct are reviewed and investigated," Stanford University said in a press statement. 

Recently inaugurated Penn President Liz Magill worked closely with Tessier-Lavigne during her time at Stanford, with him being “proud” of her contributions to Stanford and of the “innovations the law school has pursued under her leadership.”