Widespread Double Dipping in NIH Program

  • Joshua Bauml, a University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) oncologist won a coveted spot in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) aimed to keep promising young biomedical scientists in academic research by helping repay school loans.
  • A Science investigation has revealed that many LRP participants are taking money from the government to repay their loans, while at the same time taking payments from pharmaceutical companies.
  • Bauml who will get $75,000 in tax-free loan repayments during his first two LRP years also accepted more than $28,000 in pharmaceutical industry money, mostly for consulting or speaking at pharma events, during his first 6 months in the program.
  • Over its history, the program has at times allowed recipients to accept industry support either by direct payments or research funding in unlimited amounts. As a result, the LRP in effect subsidizes some young scientists as they build strong ties to pharma.
  • The practice was allowed until 2017, but the latest program rules banned it, placing Bauml, who was shocked to learn from Science that he had broken LRP rules, in violation. ¬†Bauml says he disclosed everything to NIH and heard no objection.
  • Some say the LRP’s permissive approach is “ethically problematic.” The program should be more vigilant about industry payments to the researchers it helps.