Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Fired Pfizer cancer researcher loses final two of five papers pegged for retraction

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PLOS ONE has retracted the last of five papers by a former employee of Pfizer, who the company fired after determining she had duplicated data.

After its investigation, Pfizer asked journals to retract five papers co-authored by Min-Jean Yin. Last week, PLOS ONE retracted the final two remaining papers. Both notices cite image duplications; Yin contacted the journal about one paper, but did not comment on the other retraction.

Here’s the notice for “miR-221 Promotes Tumorigenesis in Human Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells:”

The authors Min-Jean Yin and Rounak Nassirpour and a Pfizer representative contacted the editorial office to raise that there are image duplications in Figure 4B of this article. Pfizer has undertaken a review and deemed that important conclusions in the manuscript cannot be verified, as original images cannot be located.

In light of the concerns identified, the authors and the PLOS ONE Editors retract this article. We did not receive any response or comment from Pramod Mehta.

The 2013 paper has been cited 40 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

And here’s the full notice for “Targeting 3-Phosphoinoside-Dependent Kinase-1 to Inhibit Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I Induced AKT and p70 S6 Kinase Activation in Breast Cancer Cells:”

The author Sangita Baxi and a Pfizer representative contacted the editorial office to raise that there are image duplications in this article. Pfizer has undertaken a review and determined that there are duplications in Fig 1 and Fig 2 of the article and that part of the experiments cannot be verified.

In light of the concerns identified, the authors and the PLOS ONE Editors retract this article. We did not receive any response or comment from Min-Jean Yin, Wei Tan, or Tod Smeal.

That paper has been cited eight times since it was published in 2012.

After the investigation, Pfizer issued this statement about the five problematic papers:

We have been able to confirm that all or nearly all of the images in these five articles that were flagged as potential duplicates on PubPeer.com indeed appear to be duplicates.  Based on the findings from the investigation, Pfizer is recommending to the journals that all five articles be retracted, and Pfizer also has encouraged the first and corresponding/senior authors of each of the five papers to request that their article be retracted.  The senior and corresponding author of each paper, Min-Jean Yin, Ph.D., has agreed with Pfizer’s recommendation to request retraction of each article.  Each of the three scientists who served as first authors of these five papers, Pramod Mehta, Sangita Baxi, and Rounak Nassirpour, Ph.D., has also agreed to request retraction of the article or articles for which he or she served as first author.  Pfizer has attempted to communicate with all remaining co-authors across the five papers to inform them of the investigative findings and has succeeded in reaching the vast majority of them.  All co-authors who have responded to our attempts to contact them have concurred with the decision to seek a retraction of their article or articles.

Yin’s LinkedIn profile used to list her at biotech startup Diagnologix, but the link is no longer active.

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