GSK fires China research head over ‘misrepresented’ data

GSK fires China research head over ‘misrepresented’ data

Tue, Jun 11 2013

LONDON (Reuters) – British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: QuoteProfileResearchStock Buzz) has fired its head of research and development in China after discovering that a study by some of its Chinese scientists contained misrepresentation of data. A company spokesman said on Tuesday that Jiangwu Zang had been dismissed and three other individuals had been placed on administrative leave, while a further employee had resigned. The decision follows an investigation into concerns about a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Medicine in 2010 involving pre-clinical research into multiple sclerosis. Zang was one of the authors of the paper. “Regretfully, our investigation has established that certain data in the paper were indeed misrepresented,” Britain’s biggest drugs group said in a statement.“We’ve shared our conclusion that the paper should be retracted and are in the process of asking all of the authors to sign a statement to that effect, according to Nature Medicine’s procedure.”

The study, which looked at the role of a protein in multiple sclerosis, involved early-stage research and did not directly involve patients, although some blood samples were used.

However, the work did inform GSK’s development of an experimental medicine for multiple sclerosis, known as GSK2618960, which has reached the stage of initial testing in healthy volunteers.

The early clinical tests of the product have now been suspended as a precaution, although there is no signal of a safety issue with the medicine, the spokesman added.

GSK, like many other large Western drug companies, is increasing its research presence in China. But its Chinese R&D centre is still small compared to operations in Europe and the United States.

Updated June 12, 2013, 7:00 a.m. ET

Glaxo Fires China R&D Chief, Citing Data in Paper

By JEANNE WHALEN

LONDON—U.K. drug maker GlaxoSmithKline GSK.LN +1.17% PLC said it has fired its head of R&D in China after discovering that a paper he helped write for the journal Nature Medicine contained data that had been “misrepresented.”

Glaxo has also placed three other employees on administrative leave pending a full review of the situation. Another employee has resigned, the company said.

Glaxo didn’t say who was responsible for misrepresenting the data. In a phone interview Wednesday, the fired head of R&D, Jiangwu Zang, denied any role in or knowledge of data manipulation. He said he learned of the problem only when Glaxo started investigating. Dr. Zang said his role as senior author of the paper was to design the framework of the study and to polish the draft, but not to compile or interpret data.

“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,” Dr. Zang said.

He added that Glaxo dismissed him because it accused him of trying to hamper a company investigation into the matter by coaching other scientists on what to tell investigators—an accusation he denies.

Glaxo declined to name the other employees. Glaxo’s Chinese R&D unit is a small but growing part of the firm’s research group, with 400 employees.

The company said it has concluded that the paper, published in 2010, should be retracted, and it has asked “all of the authors to sign a statement to that effect, according to Nature Medicine’s procedure.” Asked to comment, a Nature Publishing Group spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on retractions that may or may not be in the process of being considered.”

Retractions in scientific journals have surged in recent years amid higher scrutiny of research. Just 22 retractionsappeared in 2001, compared with 339 in 2010, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, an index of peer-reviewed journals world-wide.

The Nature Medicine paper in question was written by Glaxo scientists including Dr. Zang, whose last name is spelled Zhang on the paper but Zang within Glaxo’s systems, a company spokeswoman said.

The paper involved early-stage research into a human protein associated with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. The research, which didn’t involve an experimental drug, was carried out on blood samples from mice and humans, the spokeswoman said.

The company subsequently developed an experimental drug for autoimmune disease based in part on this research, the spokeswoman said, though she added that the Nature Medicine paper was not “pivotal” in that drug’s development.

As a precaution, Glaxo has for now suspended an early-stage trial of the drug, code-named GSK2618960, that was planned to be conducted in multiple sclerosis patients, she said, though she added that the now tarnished Nature Medicine paper “in no way impacts on our current understanding of the safety profile” of GSK2618960.

Glaxo said it and Nature Medicine “recently became aware of allegations” that data used in the paper had been “misrepresented.” The data “were wrongly characterized as the results of experiments conducted at Baylor Medical College with blood cells donated by multiple sclerosis patients when, in fact, the data reported were either the results of experiments conducted at R&D China with [healthy human blood] samples or cannot be documented at all,” the company said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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