Glaxo Dismisses Employee over Fabricated Data

GlaxoSmithKline dismisses Jingwu Zang, senior VP and head of R&D in Shanghai, one of key authors of a paper based on fabricated data, about the role of a protein called interleukin-7 in autoimmune disease.

“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.”

According to the paper protein interleukin-7 has a unique, and not previously described role in cell survival and expansion, having implication in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. 

In addition to Zang, three other employees have been put on administrative leave until the investigation is complete, and a fifth one resigned, while the company awaits a comment from Nature, a highly cited journal in which the paper was published. So far, the publisher refused to issue a statement on the matter, saying that it is against their policy to discuss papers that may or may not be retracted, and that once the decision has been made, a public announcement (accessible also to those without a subscription) will be made on the journal’s website. It should be noted that this isn’t the first time Zang is subject to consequences of questionable ethics. In 1999, the FDA issued him a warning letter for administering experimental treatments to patients without filing an Independent New Drug application

When the investigation first started, three GSK scientists, John Elliot,  VP of chemistry at the R&D center in China, and Min Irwin, VP of medicine development, and Marina Zvartau-Hind, the head of neuroscience development, issued a memo in response to the speculation that sprouted with the reports of suspicion over research integrity at GSK.

“We can acknowledge that we are carrying out an internal investigation into alleged issues related to a scientific paper. As you know, we take such matters very seriously – the integrity of our research is critical to our work and we are doing whatever is required to investigate these matters fully,” they wrote in their memo.

The GSK scandal follows an investigation into one of their employees launched recently by Novartis, which recently admitted that two employees in Japan had varying levels of involvement in clinical trials for its Diovan heart drug, which were initiated by investigators but were supposed to have been independent.

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