Scripps reaches $10M settlement with government over allegations NIH grants weren't properly accounted for
Scripps Research Institute has settled a case with the Justice Department alleging claims of misappropriated funds, the US attorney for the district of Maryland announced late last week.
Prosecutors said the institute improperly used NIH-funded research grants for non-grant related activities, including working on new grant applications, teaching activities and other administrative tasks. As part of the settlement, Scripps has agreed to pay $10 million.
Prosecutors noted that no determination of liability had been made in the case.
“The NIH has finite resources to support important research across the nation,” said government lawyer Jeffrey Clark in a statement on Sept. 11. “Today’s settlement demonstrates our commitment to protect those resources by ensuring that NIH grants funds are used for the purposes for which they were intended.”
According to the announcement, Scripps receives millions of dollars in NIH grant funding every year, and the settlement resolves allegations that occurred between 2008 and 2016. Scripps allegedly did not provide a proper accounting system for its researchers to keep track of time spent on non-grant projects. As such, the institute charged the time to the government rather than allocate it as indirect costs.
The alleged incidents were originally brought to light through a whistleblower claim from a former Scripps employee, who will receive $1.75 million as part of the agreement. While at Scripps, their salary was allegedly 100% charged to the government for at least two years, according to reporting by the Palm Beach Post.
A spokesperson for Scripps told Endpoints News that the charges stemmed from an “accounting discrepancy that averaged less than half of one percent per year of the institute’s annual federal grant funding.”
The institute’s statement continued:
Throughout the course of the inquiry the Institute fully cooperated with the federal government, providing all requested documentation and assisting government investigators. No questions were raised concerning the quality or conduct of our research or the contributions of our faculty to science, innovation, and the improvement of human health.
Scripps Research tremendously values the investment the federal government makes in scientific research, and we are deeply committed to using this support to its utmost to make discoveries and innovations that improve human health.
Scripps is one of the most prominent scientific institutions in the biomedical arena, with locations in La Jolla, CA and Jupiter, FL. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Scripps executive vice president Eric Topol has been one of the staunchest proponents of industry transparency, publicly pushing for vaccine makers to divulge information about their trials. Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the three companies conducting Phase III studies in the US, each released their safety blueprints within the last four days.