The paper tries to explain how Epstein-Barr virus blocks the immune system’s attempts to destroy it. According to the notice, the three “nonexperimentalist authors” – identified in the paper as two P.I.’s from University of Texas at Austin and one from the University of California, San Francisco – didn’t know the figures “were not reflective of original Northern blot and immunoblot data.”
That leaves UT Austin PhD student Jennifer Cox under the bus. Her LinkedIn says she pursued a PhD from 2010-2015, though it’s unclear if she’s received a degree. Cox’s name is at the top of P.I. Christopher Sullivan’s list of past lab members, and she’s the only one on the page whose name doesn’t hyperlink to additional information, such as a contact.
The school issued a press release about the study that quoted Cox, which has been removed from the UT site but is still available on Science Daily:
“While this work does not immediately identify new drugs, the fact that such different tumor viruses have converged on the same strategy makes this an exciting pursuit for future therapies against viral cancers.”
Here’s most of the notice for “Pan-viral-microRNA screening identifies interferon inhibition as a common function of diverse viruses”:
The authors wish to note the following: “After publication, we were alerted to anomalous and duplicated immunoblot bands in Figs. 3D and 4C, for which we immediately contacted PNAS. Further investigation revealed additional band irregularities in both the immunoblots and Northern blots presented, including those in Figs. 3E, 4D, 5 A, B, and D and Figs. S1 and S4B. When asked, the experimentalist could not provide key original non-computer-manipulated immunoblot and Northern blot data that were consistent with the experimental results being obtained as claimed in the paper. We note that the three nonexperimentalist authors were unaware that the data presented were not reflective of original Northern blot and immunoblot data. We continue to investigate how this occurred and whether any of the remaining data are credible. For these reasons, all conclusions in the work must be viewed with skepticism unless independently validated.
Accordingly, we are retracting this paper. We deeply regret publishing with these deficiencies and apologize to the readers for not catching these problems sooner, and for all the wasted effort this has caused.”
We contacted Cox via LinkedIn and emailed Sullivan and the journal. We’ll update if we hear back.
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