RESEARCHER FAKED DATA, AGENCY SAYS
Author: By Cassandra Burrell, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Federal investigators have concluded that a former MIT
researcher faked research on antibodies, raising false hope that she had
discovered a way to transfer resistance to disease, officials said yesterday.
The federal Office of Research Integrity said it found Thereza Imanishi-
Kari guilty of 19 allegations of misconduct, including charges she lied to
cover up her actions.
Imanishi-Kari has filed an appeal with the Department of Health and Human
Services, the office said. Investigators told Imanishi-Kari of their findings
three months ago and released them to the public yesterday.
If the appeal fails, Imanishi-Kari will be barred from receiving federal
grants or contract money for 10 years.
The research was financed by grants from the federal Public Health Service
while Imanishi-Kari worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her
results were published in the April 25, 1986, issue of the journal Cell in an
article co-authored by Nobel laureate David Baltimore.
The article purported "to show that a gene from one strain of mouse had
been transferred to another strain of mouse, resulting in the latter's
production of high levels of antibody molecules it would not normally produce
-- antibody molecules mimicking the antibody molecules produced by the
original strain," investigators said in a written statement.
Trouble began when a colleague, Margot O'Toole, reported that she could
not duplicate the results.
Prosecutors declined to file charges in July 1992, but the federal
officials continued to investigate.
After Imanishi-Kari's data were challenged, she lied to cover up her
fabrications, investigators said. "Further fabrications appeared in her letter
of correction, also published in Cell, and in two grant applications submitted
to the National Institutes of Health," they said.
The results had no immediate impact on human health, but they may have led
other scientists to waste time and resources, investigators said.
"Besides raising the false hope that a way had been found to transfer
resistance to disease, the research may have caused other researchers to
pursue unproductive studies," the statement said. "Other scientists have not
been able to reproduce the most significant findings claimed in Cell."
Investigators said they arrived at their conclusions after reviewing
scientific evidence and performing a computerized statistical analysis that
showed the false data were not chance errors, but deliberate ones aimed at a
Forensic analysis conducted by the Secret Service also revealed when
certain notations in laboratory notes were made, investigators said.