Glaxo asks Nature Medicine to retract paper by fired company scientist
In what could be a significant blow to a major pharmaceutical company, Nature Medicine is reportedly set to retract a 2010 article by a group of researchers affiliated with a Chinese arm of the drug giant GlaxoSmithKline.
We’re not the first to report the news — you can read coverage of it on In the Pipeline and Pharmalot, for starters — which includes the revelation that Glaxo has fired Jingwu Zang, a co-author of the suspect paper and former senior vice president and head of research and development at the Shanghai facility: in other words, a big fish. (Big enough to have a profile in, well, Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.)
Pharmalot has quoted a Glaxo spokeswoman:
“We’ve now established that certain data in the paper were, indeed, misrepresented. We’ve shared our conclusion that the paper should be retracted and are in the process of asking all the authors to sign a statement to that effect, which is the procedure the journal requires,” the spokeswoman writes us, adding the drugmaker “is committed to the highest ethical and scientific standards… in this instance, our standards were compromised.”
The site also notes that Zang received a warning from the FDA in 1999
for administering experimental treatments to patients without filing an IND, or Independent New Drug application (here is the letter).
has implications in the treatment of autoimmune disease…
IL-7 has been area of interest for Glaxo until this week, when, according to the Pink Sheet, it suspended its research program in this target. (Could that mean more studies, perhaps unpublished, are tainted, or is this a precautionary measure?)
The paper has been cited 66 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.
Glaxo launched the Shanghai center in 2005, with Zang at the helm, becoming, according to this Taiwainese report:
the first foreign-invested pharmaceutical company to carry out research and development in traditional Chinese medicine, Guangzhou’s 21st Century Economic Report says. …
Zang said GSK had provided its China center with plenty of resources and the power to decide on the direction of neuroscience research at the company. “China has made great progress in neuroscience research in the past 10 years; GSK hopes to catch up with its progress in this field,” Zang added.
We’re often asked whether drug company research is more or less likely to be retracted than work done in academia. We don’t have any data on that, although some limited studies have looked at this issue. We’ve reported on several retractions of Pfizer studies for serious errors, on a retraction for “unsolved legal reasons” of work by Bristol -Myers Squibb researchers, and on corrections to figures that included a senior Merck scientist as an author.
Update, 7 p.m. Eastern, 6/16/13: Zang told the Wall Street Journal (via FierceBiotech and Andrew Mallon):
I take a certain responsibility. I’m not trying to say I’m free of any responsibility. But what I’m really angry about is, I was dragged into this so-called data fabrication, which I’ve never been involved in.
Meantime, one of the other authors of the Nature paper in question has resigned from GSK and taken one for the team in the data fiasco. The researcher, Xuebin Liu, told the business newspaper that he made an honest mistake and never tried to dupe anyone.
Glaxo has also paused a phase I trial of the compound described in the Nature Medicine paper, FierceBiotech reports.