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  • Writer's pictureHoward McLeod

Moffitt execs were made aware of Howard McLeod’s China activities, ousted researcher’s attorney says

By Matthew Bin Han Ong

Howard McLeod, one of the six researchers ousted at Moffitt Cancer Center under allegations of undisclosed conflicts of interest stemming from their work in China, is publicly disputing his former employer’s characterization of his involvement with academic institutions there.

McLeod did disclose his activities in China to Moffitt, a Florida attorney who represents him said in a detailed statement shared with The Cancer Letter.

“Many of the allegations relating to Dr. McLeod in the [Moffitt] summary are simply wrong,” Theresa Van Vliet, the Florida attorney who represents McLeod, said to The Cancer Letter. “His research in China has no overlap with NIH grants in which he participated.”

The Moffitt “summary” mentioned by Van Vliet refers to the final report of the institution’s internal investigation, which was delivered to the Florida legislature Jan. 17. The Moffitt document alleges that the jettisoned top leaders and researchers at the cancer center had opened personal bank accounts in China and received unreported personal payments and other research support, including from the state-sponsored Thousand Talents Program (The Cancer Letter, Jan. 24, 2020; Dec. 20, 2019).

The implications of Moffitt’s allegations seem particularly severe for McLeod, who, before his separation from the cancer center, was the medical director of the DeBartolo Family Personalized Medicine Institute and a senior member in the Department of Cancer Epidemiology.

On Feb. 7, Moffitt returned more than $1 million to the state of Florida, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. Officials said they were unable to determine whether the money—originally used …

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