Thursday, October 13, 2011

University of Washington researcher Stephan Guyenet withdraws 'Food Reward Trial' after complaint to school's Human Subjects Division re: lack of institutional review board (IRB) oversight

Last month I was contacted by a chum who has followed my efforts to bring to public attention the Heimlich Institute's illicit (and apparently illegal) human experiments on AIDS patients in Africa.

My chum told me about an internet dust-up that had been going on at blogs and websites that follow nutrition science, a subject about which I have no expertise or interest. (Full disclosure: I consume food.)

According to said chum, a researcher at the University of Washington named Stephan Guyenet was planning a human study looking into what causes obesity, but it was apparently terminated for unknown reasons.

"Well," I responded. "If you want to learn more, since the school's a public institution, why not submit a public records request?"

The chum then presented the following reasoned response.

"I don't want to. Would you do it?"

Not a surprise. Chum has a history of trying to persuade me to do tasks. I usually don't bite, but this was a simple chore that might result in an easy blog item.

So I asked the U of W to provide "any and all related records including but not limited to the proposed study."

Here's what I received:

For ease of comprehension (there are a lot of duplicate e-mails), I copied and re-formatted them in chronological order. Some didn't have complete headers, but they were all dated so here's what I came up with. (I don't think I made any goofs, but if I did, send me an e-mail and I'll repair. Want copies with the full headers? Submit your own $%#@& records request. To download a pdf of both versions, click here.)

Long story short, on September 5, someone by the name of Francis Pomeroy e-mailed Wendy S. Brown RN, Assistant Director of U-Dub's Human Subjects Division.

Over the next few days, Ms. Brown engaged in a cordial e-mail exchange with Dr. Guyenet and Noella A. Rawlings who, according to this web page, is an attorney who represents the school in matters that include human subjects research.

On September 8, Dr. Guyenet informed Ms. Brown: 
I have decided to end my participation in this study and advise my collaborators not to undertake it. There is no way for me to obtain IRB approval without my mentor, who understandably is not interested in doing this study. In retrospect, there are a number of problems with this idea that I didn't understand at the time. As I said before, I am 100% committed to upholding my responsibilities to the UW and to the NIH. I appreciate you helping me with this.
Based on the e-mails, my understanding is that Dr. Guyenet's mentor is professor of medicine Michael W. Schwartz MD.

So who is Francis Pomeroy? A quick Google of his name and e-mail address didn't yield any clues, so it may be a pseudonym.

No, it's not me. Years ago I used a pseud to drop a dime to UCLA's Office of Human Subjects Protection about the Heimlich AIDS experiments in China which resulted in a bunch of news reports, but I had nothing to do with this.

Anyway, in search of an easy follow-up, I'm e-mailing this item to Francis Pomeroy. If anything interesting comes back, I'll post an update.

UPDATE, 11am EST: 15 minutes ago I sent an e-mail to and this bounced back: