Author: By Cassandra Burrell, Associated Press

Date: 11/26/1994 Page: 1

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 particular result.

Forensic analysis conducted by the Secret Service also revealed when certain notations in laboratory notes were made, investigators said.

Last modified: Wed Sep 20 20:21:34 EDT 2000