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Are the Authors of Scientific Articles Protected Against Plagiarism? 27 Years of Experience Shows that Rather Plagiarists are Protected in the Peer Review System
Department of Organic Chemistry, Eötvös Loránd University , Budapest, Hungary
Submission: September 03, 2019; Published: October 23, 2019
*Corresponding author: Árpád Furka, Department of Organic Chemistry, Eötvös Loránd University, 1518 Budapest 112, Pf. 32, Budapest, Hungary
How to cite this article: Árpád Furka. Are the Authors of Scientific Articles Protected Against Plagiarism? 27 Years of Experience Shows that Rather
Plagiarists are Protected in the Peer Review System. Organic & Medicinal Chem IJ. 2019; 9(1): 555753. DOI: 10.19080/OMCIJ.2019.09.555753
The Author of this article in 1990 submitted for publishing a manuscript describing the split-mix combinatorial synthesis and the invention was expropriated and published by the Editor in Chief of International Journal of Peptide and Protein Research and all the three reviewers are suspected to do so. The Author tried to seek justice but it was refused by the Editor in chief of Nature (where the expropriated invention was published), by the Office of Research Integrity at NIH and by the by the Munksgaard International Publishers, Copenhagen, publisher of the International Journal of Peptide and Protein Research. Since the plagiarists continued to publish misleading papers the Author sent 10 correction letters to the journals but only three were published. The Committee on Ethics of the American Chemical Society also refrained from acting. In order to avoid happening again of the mentioned type of plagiarism, introduction of new rules is suggested by the Author.
Keywords: Split-Mix Combinatorial Synthesis Research Integrity Ethics Scientific Plagiarism Editors Combinatorial Chemistry Peptides Drug Research Reviewers
Wikipedia defines plagiarism as follows: “Plagiarism is the wrongful appropriation and stealing and publication of another author’s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions and the representation of them as one’s own original work. Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions such as penalties, suspension, and even expulsion from school or work” . By this definition one expects that the peer reviewing system is organized so to prevent plagiarism and if necessary, apply the sanctions. The scientific plagiarism may be committed by colleagues, other researchers and by those who have access to manuscripts: editors in chiefs of the journals and the reviewers of the manuscripts. The Author’s case will show that much remains to be done in this respect.
The Author in 1964/65 participated in elucidation of the amino acid sequence of a protein containing 245 amino acid residues . Later, wondered how many different sequences may have such a protein. The exact number proved to be enormous: 20245 (= 5.65 × 10318). The calculated number of peptides
in peptide families depending on their number of amino acidresidues of course proved much lower: dipeptides 400, tripeptides 8,000, tetrapeptides 160,000, pentepeptides 3,200,000 and so on. The Author began to speculate how all these peptides could be prepared. The solution (the “split-mix” method) was found in early 1982. The method was in two ways radically new:
i. It made possible to prepare millions of peptides in a single short process
ii. The peptides formed were available as mixtures
A patent attorney advised to describe the method and before publishing notarize it then publish it in steps. The document written in Hungarian was notarized on 15 June 1982. The English version of the original Hungarian text can be found in a later published article  (Figure 1). Since until that time the peptide drug researchers dealt only with single pure peptides, finding a biologically active peptide in a multicomponent mixture seemed to be like finding a needle in a haystack. For this reason, a deconvolution strategy was developed (named “back searching”) that ensured the identification of the active peptide if an assay method was at hand.
The synthetic method was first published on two international
congresses: 14th International Congress of Biochemistry, Prague,
1988  and 10th International Symposium of Medicinal
Chemistry, Budapest in the same year . Both publications were
posters. Their copies are shown in Figure 2. On 12 February 1990
our manuscript was sent to Professor Victor Hruby University of
Arizona, the Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Peptide
and Protein Research in order to publish the split-mix method in
print. On May 15 professor Hruby sent his decision: the article is
unacceptable without major revision. After doing the requested
HPLC experiments the manuscript was accepted on November 21
and finally, after nearly one and a half year of delay appeared in
print in June 1991 .
After taking appropriate precautions in the publishing process
to exclude the chance to expropriate the invention (notarization,
long period before the first publishing and additional two years
before the publishing in print) we felt safe so what happened in
the evaluation period of our manuscript was a very big surprise
and a source of much bitterness and hundreds of unslept nights.
Since the split-mix synthesis made possible to prepare a
practically unlimited number of peptides and other kinds of
organic compounds it gave rise to enormous expectations. Dozens
of new companies were founded to exploit the promises. It even
led to a new discipline in chemistry: combinatorial chemistry. Its
name comes from one of the properties of the split-mix synthesis.
In such a synthesis all structural combinations of compounds are
formed that can be deduced from the building blocks used in the
process. Although the original expectations were not immediately
fulfilled combinatorial chemistry remained one of the most
important technologies in drug research, material science and
other disciplines. In the recent years it is revitalized by using DNS
 for encoding that made possible to synthesize billion or even
trillion component libraries that are applied in drug research .
As described in detail in a recent article , in the evaluation
period of our manuscript sent to Professor Hruby, other articles
were published, patent applications were filed, and a company
was founded all based on the Author’s invention:
a. A A lecture of Dr. Kit S. Lam and his co-workers, including
the editor in chief of the Int. J. Peptide Protein Res. and S.
Salmon the founder of the Arizona Cancer Center, on the 12th
American Peptide Symposium, Boston, USA, 1991 .
b. A lecture of Dr. Richard A. Houghten on the Innovation &
Perspectives in Solid Phase Synthesis & Related Technologies,
Second International Symposium, Canterbury, 1991 .
c. An article of Lam et al. including professors Hruby and
Salmon among the authors in Nature .
d. An article of Houghten et al. in Nature .
e. A book chapter of Hruby et al. [ 14].
f. A patent application of Lam et al. including professor
Hruby among the authors .
g. A patent application of Houghten et al.  Torrey Pines
Institute for Molecular Studies, San Diego, Calif.
h. A patent application of Di Marchi and Geshellchen .
Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis Ind.
i. A patent application of Huebner and Santi . San
j. Foundation of the Selectide Corporation Tucson Arizona
What one can read above seems unbelievable, but the citations
prove its reality. A closer look into the documents convinced the
Author that what happened must have been a multi personal
intentional plagiarism. In the followings, evidences will support
Let’s mention first the patent applications. The content of the
four patent applications and patents prove that they are based on
our split-mix synthesis. The persons who had opportunity to read
our manuscript are the editor in chief of the journal, professor
Hruby and the three reviewers. Their number is four and exactly
four patent applications were filed. In the opinion of the Author
this can’t be incidental. In the applications (except the Huebner
and Santi application) one of our 1988 poster publications were
cited. This allows presuming that three applications were filed by
the reviewers since the posters were cited in our manuscript.
The fact that the patent applications were not filed earlier but
just after submitting our manuscript supports the supposition
that three of the patent applicants were reviewers. Concerning
the fourth application, no question professor Hruby also read
the manuscript. Later the Author asked professor Hruby about
the reviewers. He answered that he has forgotten the names. The
patent applications in which the 1988 publications were cited
substantially differ from the articles and conference papers of
the next paragraph. In the applications the original invention is
not expropriated but - if as supposed - the applicants that is the
reviewers, “only” violated the privacy of the manuscript and used
the information for their own purposes.
The inventions described in the Hruby-Salmon-Lam group and
Houghten et al. group in the above-mentioned conference papers
and Nature articles are neither original nor even independent
ones since the split-mix synthesis was published in 1988, three
years earlier than their Nature papers. As shown below they knew
about our 1988 publications well before their manuscripts were
submitted to Nature since they cited our 1988 publications in
their earlier filed patent applications
i. The patent application of Lam et al. was filed on July 2,
The manuscript of the Lam et al. Nature paper was submitted
nearly one year later May 30, 1991.
ii. The filing date of the patent application of Houghten at
al. is November 21, 1990.
Submission of the Houghten et al. Nature paper occurred on
July 31, 1991seven months later.
This supports the supposition that omission of the citation
our invention from their articles was intentional. Not even
mentioning the fact that professor Hruby certainly new about our
1988 publications from our submitted manuscript. It also seems
worthwhile to mention that the Author was invited by Selectide
Corporation to Tucson and on April 2, 1991 and gave a seminar in
the Arizona Cancer Center speaking about the split-mix synthesis
and the back searching deconvolution strategy in the presence
of the authors of the Lam article. This was also before the Lam
manuscript was submitted.
It also needs mentioning that the Selectide Corporation was
founded in 1990 in Tucson Arizona also in the evaluation period of
our manuscript. The company at present is a subsidiary of Aventis
Pharmaceuticals Inc. The Lam-Salmon-Hruby group also applied
for grants based on the invention of the split-mix synthesis. One of
their successful proposals to National Institutes of Health had the
title “Discovery of Peptide Anticancer Drugs,” grant No. CA57723.
This grant lasted from1992 to 1995 and brought more than 3
million dollars to the applicants. A copy of the grant application
was in the hands of the Author who saw no reference in it to our
The correction letter sent to Nature was shortly rejected by
Dr. Maddox the Editor in Chief of Nature at that time. The Author
does not thinks that the intention of Dr. Maddox was protection
of plagiarists, but the result was in fact a clear protection of the
committed plagiarism. What else can do a victim of plagiarism
than publishing about his complain? Or if he has a lot of money
can choose litigation.
The results of the protesting letter sent to Selectide were
apologetic letters written by Professor Hruby and Dr. Lam. The
letters stated that they included reference to our publication
in their original manuscript, but they had to shorten it and in
this process the reference was lost. Taking into consideration,
however, that the references to our earlier publications were also
omitted from Dr. Lam’s conference lecture, from Prof. Hruby’s
book chapter and from Lam-Salmon-Hruby’s grant application
the Hruby-Lam interpretation of the omission of the references
can be safely rejected. Nevertheless, both Prof. Hruby and Dr. Lam
promised to publish correction in Nature and that really appeared
in 1992 with the following content: 
“In this paper we inadvertently omitted to cite the work of
Fukura and colleagues (A. Fukura, F. Sebestyen, M. Asgedom and
G, Dibo 14th Int. Congr. Biochem. FR3,1988), who independently
described a similar synthetic method for producing multiple peptide
sequences (which we called „split synthesis”). However, Fukura et al.
did not describe the concept of ’one bead, one peptide’ which was
central to our approach”
The Author’s name is misprinted: Fukura instead of Furka.
There is good reason to believe that misprinting was intentional.
After a request the name was corrected . In addition to
misprinting the name there is an even bigger problem with the
above text. Lam says that “Fukura-Furka” described independently
a similar synthesis. The independent invention and description of
the split-mix synthesis by Furka does not need to be acknowledged
by Lam since it was notarized almost ten years earlier in 1982 and
published three years earlier in 1988. What is involved in the above
correction written by Lam et al. is, their independent inventor
status. This must be absolutely rejected since, as shown above, his
publication was 3 years late to be considered independent.
Protesting letter was also sent to Dr. Houghten and asked
to publish correction. He answered that he did not know about
our publication but citation of our 1988 poster in his earlier filed
patent application contradict this. He also promised to correct his
Nature article and even sent the content of his planned correction
but, as far as the Author is aware, it was never published.
The contact to the Office of Research Integrity resulted in
several exchange of letters with Dr. Alan Price of Investigations
Branch A, Division of Research Investigations at NIH. At the end he
saw no problems to solve.
Finally, the Munksgaard International Publishers, Copenhagen,
publisher of the International Journal of Peptide and Protein
Research was contacted with the hope that they help to solve
the problems caused by the editor in chief of the journal. This
action, however, led to disappointment: absolutely no action was
taken. Taking into consideration of all that is described above one
can ask: is it acceptable that the peer reviewing system can be
maintained if it is not capable to correct such a plagiarism?
In the later years the split-mix method was named by Dr.
Lam as Selectide Technology and the combinatorial libraries One
Bead One Compound (OBOC) libraries while in fact formation of
OBOC libraries is the intrinsic feature of our split-mix method.
Formation of such libraries in the synthetic process is not even
avoidable. Later the name Selectide technology was replaced by
OBOC Technology. This technology has two parts:
i. Synthesis of OBOC libraries.
ii. Screening the peptides while are attached to the solid
Although the OBOC name was probably created by Professor
Lam neither part is his invention. As mentioned, the synthetic
method is our split-mix procedure and screening of the peptides in
anchored form was pioneered by Smith et al. . Despite all these
Professor Lam referred to OBOC Technology as his invention and
placed himself among the inventors of combinatorial chemistry. At
the same time the Author was completely excluded. He wrote the
followings in 2017 in an article published in the Current Opinion
in Chemical Biology: 
“The concept of combinatorial chemistry was developed in the
mid 1980’s, with Geysen’s multi-pin technology  and Houghten’s
tea-bag technology  to synthesize hundreds of thousands
of peptides on solid support in parallel. In 1991, Lam et al. 
introduced the one-bead one-compound (OBOC) combinatorial
peptide libraries and Houghten et al.  described the solutionphase
mixtures of combinatorial peptide libraries.”
This was more than could be tolerated and steps were taken
to stop the untruthful statements and misleading references. It
was also considered that the attitude towards plagiarism must
have changed in the past 26 years. Since misleading statements
and citations were published in quite few articles appearing in
different journals corrections were prepared and sent to the
following journals in the form of Letter to Editor (publishers in
A. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology
B. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews
C. Cellular & Molecular Immunology
D. ACS Combinatorial Scienc 2
(Am. Chem. Soc.)
E. Analytical Chemistry
(Am. Chem. Soc.)
F. ACS Chemical Biology
(Am. Chem. Soc.)
G. Molecular Cancer Therapy 2
(Amer. Assoc. for Cancer Research)
At the first three journals took the Letters seriously, and after
considering the evidences published them [23-25]. As far as the
Author knows in the first two cases even the representative of the
publisher, Elsevier was involved in decision making.
Both letters sent to ACS Combinatorial Science were rejected
by the editor in chief professor M.G. FINN. The editor in chief of
Analytical Chemistry, professor Jonathan V. Sweedler as well as
the editor in chief of ACS Chemical Biology also refused to publish
the Letters. It seems that for the ACS journals is not important to
help the victim of plagiarism. The two letters sent to the Molecular
Cancer Therapy were not even answered.
This year a second correction letter was sent to Nature
shortly describing the evidences with the hope that the attitude
towards plagiarism has changed during the last 27 years. The sad
reality again was rejection of publishing the correction by Dr. Karl
Ziemelis the Physical Sciences Editor. At University of CaliforniaPark Davis Professor Lam has several web sites in which the OBOC
method is described as his invention. In one of them one can
Read: “Dr. Lam invented the “one-bead-one-compound” (OBOC)
combinatorial library method, filed the patents (the basic patents
on the OBOC technology was issued in 1996, 1997, and 1999 by the
US patent office), and published the technique in Nature in 1991.”
A request was sent to the vice provost Prof. Philip Kass asking
to remove the misleading content from the sites. He forwarded the
material to the Interim Dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine
but there was no answer and the content of the web sites
remained unchanged. Since all the correction letters submitted to
ACS journals were rejected a letter was sent to Ms. Judith Currano
chair of the Committee on Ethics of the American Chemical Society
describing the fate of the invention 27 years ago and attached all
documents proving the plagiarism including the Letters accepted
at other journals and the rejections at the ACS jounals. Ms. Currano
answered the followings:
“The best advice we can provide for authors in this situation
is to contact the editors of the journals in question to request a
correction, including the omitted citation. It sounds like you have
done this. Unfortunately, it is not within the purview of the ACS
Committee on Ethics to intervene under such circumstances (even
with ACS Publications); the committee is not an adjudicatory body
in any way, and it cannot force editors to change the scholarly
record. If you feel that your complaints to publishers have been
mishandled, you might want to consider contacting COPE (https://
publicationethics.org/), the Committee on Publications Ethics.”
Since the ACS Committee on Ethics proved to be impotent to
act the advice of Ms. Currano was followed and contacted COPE and
asked to help publishing the Letter to Editor at ACS Combinatorial
Science. The request is still under consideration
In 1990-91 when the Author’s manuscript was submitted and
was under consideration, Professor Hruby was Regents Professor
at University of Arizona, President of the American Peptide Society
and Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Peptide Protein
Research. At present he is Regents Professor emeritus and has a
long list of awards and honors. At present he is also member of the
ACS Committee on Ethics. Nothing else that this fact characterizes
the present relation of the peer review system to plagiarism.
In 1990-91 Dr. Lam belonged to the Arizona Cancer Center led
by Professor Sydney E. Salmon cooperation partner of Professor
Hruby. At present he is Professor and Chair at University of
California Davis and member of the Editorial Board of ACSCombinatorial Science!!! One can reasonably think that his career
is based on the expropriated invention.
In 1990-91 Dr. Houghten was and at present is the founder
and Chief Executive Officer of Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular
Studies San Diego CA and Port St. Lucie FL and recipient of
different awards. In 2007-2008 he was president of the American
If the researchers wish to share their results with the scientific
community the main possibility is to publish articles in scientific
journals. In order to do this, they must make available their results
to the editor in chief of the journal and to the reviewers. The
editor in chief decides about publishing or rejection. This ensures
the good scientific level of publications. The editor in chief is
designated by the publisher of the journal and the reviewers are
selected by the editor in chief. The content of the manuscript is
supposed to be kept confidential. The whole pear review system
is based on the honesty of the editor in chief and of the reviewers.
No question this works in many of the cases.
The above discussed case shows however, that exceptions
may occur. It is a highly aggravating circumstance that all those
are suspects who had access to the manuscript and the publishing
system at present has no means to protect the victim or do
appropriate correction. No question the main responsibility lies
on the publisher who failed to check up the case immediately after
the complaint. The editor in chief of Nature at that time is also
responsible because of rejecting the correction. This led to more
citation of the Lam and Houghten articles [12,13] than to that of
the Furka et al. paper  not mentioning the hundreds of unslept
nights. Since similar cases can’t be excluded in the future several
rules are needed to be implemented to avoid them and protect the
a. The editor in chief of a journal and the reviewers of a
manuscript are prohibited to submit their own manuscript for
publication before publishing date of the original article that
has the same subject as that of the original one or is based
on it except the authors of the original article give written
permission to do so.
b. The publisher is obliged to immediately investigate
complain or accusation for violating rule No 1.
c. If complain turns out to be true, the article of the editor
in chief or the reviewers must be retracted and let the original
author to publish his correction or complain.
Exclusion plagiarists from the scientific community and
showing them that they can’t escape punishing is very important.
Unveiling them will not erode but rather increase the prestige ofthe cooperating journals and publishers
Furka A, Sebestyén F, Asgedom M, Dibó G (1988) Cornucopia of Peptides by Synthesis. In Highlights of Modern Biochemistry, Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Biochemistry, VSP, Utrecht 5: p. 47.
Furka Á, Sebestyén F, Asgedom M, Dibó, G (1988) MORE PEPTIDES BY LESS LABOUR Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium of Medicinal Chemistry, Budapest, Hungary p. 288.
Lam KS, Salmon SE, Hersh EM, Al Obeidi F, Hruby VJ (1991) Rapid selection and structure determination of acceptor binding ligands from a large synthetic peptide library Abstr. 12th American Peptide Symposium, Boston, USA. LW3.
Houghten RA (1991) New approaches for peptide and peptide-mimetic biomedical drug discovery. Innovation & Perspectives in Solid Phase Synthesis & Related Technologies, Second International Symposium, Canterbury. 10c.1.
Hruby VJ, Sharma SD, Collins N, T Matsunaga TO, Russel KC (1992) Application of Peptides. In: Grant GA, editor. Synthetic Peptides A User's Guide, Freeman WH and Company, New York 270-272.
K S Lam, S E Salmon (1990) Random Bio-Oligomer Library, A Method of Synthesis Thereof, and a Method of use Thereof Filed: Continuation-in-part of Ser, 546-845. The original application was filed with different inventors: K S Lam, S E Salmon, V J Hruby, E M Hersh, F Al Obeidi Random bio-oligomer library, a method of synthesis thereof, and a method of use there of Second priority date.
R A Houghten, J H Cuervo, C Pinilla, J R Appel, S Blondelle (1990) Equimolar Multiple Oligomer Mixtures, Especially Oligopeptide Mixtures Filed: continuation-in-part of Ser, 617,023.
R D DiMarchi, P D Geshellchen, R A (1991) Owens RAPID synthesis and Screening of Peptide Mimetics Filed: Continuation of Ser. 717-184.
V D Huebner, D V Santi (1990) Controlled Synthesis of Peptide Mixtures Using Mixed Resins. Filed, May 15, 1990.