LOCAL SCIENTISTS DEFEND THEIR WORK AT CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE
HEARING

Author: By Judy Foreman, Globe Staff

Date: 05/05/1989 Page: 5
Section: NATIONAL/FOREIGN

WASHINGTON -- Nobel laureate David Baltimore of Cambridge and his colleague, Thereza Imanishi-Kari, defended themselves yesterday before an all- day congressional hearing focusing on questions raised about a research paper they and others wrote three years ago in the journal Cell.

Imanishi-Kari, whose laboratory notebooks were a major subject of the hearing before the investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, is a pathologist at the Tufts University School of Medicine. Baltimore is director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Rep. John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the subcommittee, said a forensic examination of the notebooks showed that entries purported to have been recorded in 1984 and 1985 were actually made in the spring of 1986 -- after the paper had been published.

Secret Service officials testified, based on analysis of ink, paper and writing indentations, that on several pages dates had been deliberately changed "with intent to conceal." All together, they said, the dates on about 19 percent of the 134 pages were "questionable."

Imanishi-Kari said she had been too busy with other experiments to log all her data properly as the experiments were going on. Instead, she said, ''At a later time, when I reviewed those data once again, compared it to subsequent data, or reviewed the overall history of the series of experiments, I pulled the original printouts from the files in which they were kept and recorded the data from them into my laboratory notes.

"I am very bad at dates," she said. "I sometimes make mistakes in writing dates. Of that I am guilty."

She added that she had no motive for fabricating data and that she hopes her research on genetic control of the immune system, which she and the other authors insist is basically correct, will someday help people suffering from diseases like lupus, which she has and which she says killed her sister.

Baltimore, director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, passionately defended the team of which he was a part. "There is nothing in the Secret Service investigation," he said, "that causes me to doubt the validity of the Cell paper." He did acknowledge that Imanishi- Kari's style of record-keeping "is not a form of data handling I would recommend."

After about eight hours of testimony, Dingell said he was still not satisified the committee's questions had been answered. He will continue the hearings next Tuesday.

Some of the questions raised yesterday were about a letter written by Baltimore several months after the paper was published in April 1986, in which he himself raised serious questions about portions of the disputed paper. According to testimony yesterday, the letter had been in the hands of a National Institutes of Health staff member for nearly a year, but was first shown to NIH head Dr. James Wyngaarden and a review panel several weeks ago. Wyngaarden had appointed the panel to review the Cell paper.

Baltimore yesterday characterized as "unfortunate" his September 1986 letter, in which he said a certain test used in the experiment had not worked as described in the paper. He also wrote that he did not think a formal acknowledgment of the error was necessary.

"This is not a suggestion of which I am proud," Baltimore testified yesterday. "This was bad judgment, and I'm confident that if I had thought about it a little longer, I would have wanted to write a letter to Cell."

Last modified: Wed Sep 20 20:38:18 EDT 2000