The Angelides Affair

A dispute over research fraud has split the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine, and could jeopardize the way universities police scientific misconduct

And if there is to be a trial of Angelides's suit, Baylor and its allies argue, it should be held in federal court. At one point, Baylor had the case removed to federal court in Houston. But then a ruling by U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt early last year sent it back to state court. Angelides's attorney Pianelli says that his client should be able to pursue his litigation at the state level, arguing Baylor shouldn't be immune for harming his client.

Those points are now being argued in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Attorneys for both Angelides and Baylor have filed legal briefs with the appellate court. Baylor is supported by friend-of-the-court briefs by the federal government and the Association of American Medical Colleges. Oral arguments are expected in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Angelides's lawsuit has moved forward -- albeit at a slower pace, because of the federal criminal inquiry -- toward a state court trial. Various parties are investigating Angelides's past. And Angelides is spending his second winter on the cold northeast coast of England.

Originally from Sacramento, California, Angelides is a first generation Greek-American. His father is a retired mechanical engineer, his mother a former teacher's aide. Kim, as he is known, got his doctorate in chemistry in 1977 at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Afterward, the NIH funded a fellowship -- a combination learning and research position -- for him at Cornell University in New York.

In the effort to fight neurological disease, Angelides held a coveted position on the 12-member advisory committee that recommends which promising young scientists should be awarded research grants by the New York-based National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Angelides's lab had received grants of $30,000 to $65,000 a year from the society in the past.

Kim's younger brother, Philip Angelides, has been even more successful. Philip, 43, is a millionaire housing developer in the Sacramento region, a big fundraiser for Bill Clinton and a Democratic Party heavyweight with political ambitions. While attending Harvard, Philip ran in 1973 for a seat on the Sacramento City Council. He lost that year, but has continued his ascendancy in Democratic politics.

In 1992, Philip chaired the California Democratic Party. His work is widely seen as helping Clinton carry the state in 1992. In 1994, Angelides was narrowly defeated in a run for treasurer of California. For the last two years, Philip has hosted big-dollar fundraisers for Clinton at his Sacramento home when the president visited during the summers. And Philip hobnobs with some of the most powerful Democratic members of Congress.

Kim is known to brag about his brother's political successes. And despite Kim's own accomplishments, there are hints of a sibling rivalry. The suggestions arose in 1980 -- when Kim falsely claimed that he went to Harvard.

At the time, Kim was at McGill University in Montreal. It was his first research appointment after years of scientific training. This is a key period for a young researcher, when he must move beyond the discoveries of his doctoral thesis. New findings must be published in scientific journals, and the more prestigious the journal the better. It truly is a publish-or-perish proposition.

Publications of articles in scientific journals are needed to get funds to operate a laboratory. A typical lab needs about $250,000 a year to cover expenses, salaries and overhead. The most ambitious researchers can bring more to a university, directing multiple laboratory projects at the same time. Much of a researcher's success in this milieu involves his or her grantsmanship: the ability to fashion a grant application so it will be funded.

In 1980, Rose M. Johnstone was chairwoman of McGill's biochemistry department, where Angelides was then conducting research. Something about Angelides's academic record on his curriculum vitae caught her eye. "It was a fluke," recalls Johnstone, now a professor emeritus. Angelides had said on the CV that he had earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard in Slavic languages in 1974. "When I called Harvard, they denied he was a graduate," says Johnstone. "But they told me his brother was."

Angelides also wrote on the CV that he had received an undergraduate degree in 1973 from Lawrence University, a small institution in Appleton, Wisconsin. He did get that degree.

The false entry on Angelides's CV prompted Johnstone to delve more deeply into his record. At the time, she didn't know a lot about him, because he had come to McGill just before she was appointed biochemistry chairwoman. While people commonly use resumes for jobs, a scientist's CV has extra meaning. It is a badge of honor. A CV listing publications of original research articles in major journals opens doors for academic jobs, appointments to prestigious professional societies and grant funding.

Johnstone found Angelides had padded his CV with five articles that hadn't been published -- including one purportedly published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal of the nation's most august professional society. When confronted about the unpublished articles, Johnstone says, Angelides called it "a terrible mistake."

"He said he had the manuscripts in hand," Johnstone recalls. "I said, that means nothing. I want letters from the publishers showing they were printed."

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