MU research director steps down after internal audit

Friday, July 3, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An internal audit of MU's Research Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, known as RADIL, prompted the lab's director, Lela Riley, to step down because of a conflict of interest.

According to a statement issued by the university, a conflict of interest arose because Riley was both the head of the research lab and the head of a “private venture company” called Impact Bio Labs LLC. The company and the lab do business together, and MU felt that management changes were necessary to absolve the conflict.

RADIL is staffed by nine faculty members of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and provides services related to research involving animals.

Eight members of the MU lab's faculty, including Riley, created Impact Bio Labs in 2005. The conflict of interest arose because the company acquires grants for research and then outsources some of the money to laboratories like the one at MU.

The last audit of RADIL was conducted around three years ago but did not highlight a conflict of interest, MU Provost Brian Foster said.

Foster said Riley had “done some amazing things with RADIL and been very successful.” However, the conflict of interest was “structurally difficult,” he said.

“That’s the big conflict,” Foster said. “We can’t do away with conflict of interest but it has to be managed. In this particular situation, we don’t think (it was) manageable.”

RADIL’s new interim director, Alex Bermudez, has “assumed control of day-to-day operations,” according to the statement. He will not be a part of the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine in order to avoid future conflicts of interest, Foster said.

"Riley will be on staff and will still be a professor," Foster said. "My understanding is (Riley) will also still be the CEO of Impact Bio Labs.” 

Riley could not be reached for comment.

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