Mikovits is the author on a now-retracted Science paper suggesting a link between a virus known as XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome, which has no known cause. She alleged that she was fired from the Whittemore-Peterson Institute for blowing the whistle on her former colleague’s activities, and that the defendants then colluded to imprison and defame her.
The court dismissed her case last Wednesday. According to the court minutes,
Chronic fatigue syndrome researcher Judy Mikovits was scheduled to head is heading to court today, where a California judge will would decide whether or not to dismiss her lawsuit against fourteen people and two Nevada corporations.
(Note: This story has been updated. See below.)
Among the defendants: the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada where Mikovits used to work; the institute’s cofounders, Annette and Harvey Whittemore; a colleague with whom she shares a retracted Science paper; and several members of California and Nevada law enforcement.
The complaint does not check the box next to “Money Demanded in Complaint”, but also lists $750,000 in the associated field:
A case filed by chronic fatigue syndrome researcher Judy Mikovits — and about to be dismissed on technical grounds — reveals that Mikovits believes her firing from a research institute was in retaliation for blowing the whistle on activities there.
As we reported in November, Mikovits was arrested in Ventura County, California on an “out of county warrant” from Washoe County, Nevada, for allegedly taking lab notebooks, a computer, and other material from the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada, after the WPI fired her in September.
Science is fully retracting the Report “Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV, in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome” (1). Multiple laboratories, including those of the original authors (2), have failed to reliably detect xenotropic murine leukemia virus–related virus (XMRV) or other murine leukemia virus (MLV)–related viruses in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients. In addition, there is evidence of poor quality control in a number of specific experiments in the Report. Fig. 1, table S1, and fig. S2 have been retracted by the authors (3).
Breaking news. The entire WPI research program has been closed by the institute’s CEO, and the facility is now locked down. It’s former principle investigator, Dr. Judy Mikovits, is in active discussions concerning institutions to which she may move to continue her grant-funded research.
In an excellent blow-by-blow account in Science of the nearly 20-year-long saga, also out today, Jon Cohen and Martin Enserink review the unusual circumstances of that Expression of Concern. Science editor-in-chief Bruce
Alberts and Science Executive Editor Monica Bradford had first suggested that Mikovits and her co-authors retract the paper voluntarily. “Science feels it would be in the best interest of the scientific community,” they wrote in a 26 May letter. Mikovits was livid and questioned Alberts’s motives. “Who wrote that letter? I don’t think it was Science,” she says. The co-authors thought the retraction request was premature, too. “What if we walk away from this based on contamination and it’s not contamination?” Lombardi asked. “You’ve got to give us time to figure this out.”
Alberts stresses that they floated the retraction idea because Science already planned to publish the Expression of Concern. “It wasn’t a public call for retraction,” he notes, emphasizing that the recipients shared it with the media. He also does not think it would have been premature, although he says it’s often a tough call whether to retract a paper. “Ultimately, it requires expert judgment and a lot of sensitivity to the issues,” he says. “We had lost confidence in the results.”