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Science  21 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5772, pp. 345b
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5772.345b

Bad publicity has Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, backpedaling from an alliance it forged with a cosmetics company, New York-based Klinger Advanced Aesthetics. Johns Hopkins is mentioned in promotional material for a new line of skin-care products, sold at Sephora, an upscale chain of beauty stores. The Sephora Web site touted Cosmedicine products as “the only skin-care line” whose clinical testing was done “in consultation with Johns Hopkins Medicine.”

But after the agreement was revealed 2 weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal, Johns Hopkins announced that it would no longer take equity in Klinger or a seat on the company's board of directors as planned. The university is also forbidding use of its name except “on product packages and in previously printed promotional material.”

“The relationship evolved over several years” with “appropriate internal reviews,” says Johns Hopkins spokesperson Joann Rogers. “Hopkins did not and does not endorse the products.” However, she says, those reviews, which didn't cover conflicts of interest because no Johns Hopkins research is involved, “did not fully anticipate the public's perception” of the relationship. Mildred Cho, a bioethicist at Stanford University in California, says the changes are a “turnaround” but argues that any use of the Johns Hopkins name is “still implicit endorsement.” Johns Hopkins is getting consulting fees—it declines to name the amount—for suggesting study designs and reviewing results.

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