I first saw the story break in a retraction notice published in PNAS.
The authors wish to note the following: "After a re-examination of key findings underlying the reported conclusions that B7-DCXAb is an immune modulatory reagent, we no longer believe this is the case. Using blinded protocols we re-examined experiments purported to demonstrate the activation of dendritic cells, activation of cytotoxic T cells, induction of tumor immunity, modulation of allergic responses, breaking tolerance in the RIP-OVA diabetes model, and the reprogramming of Th2 and T regulatory cells. Some of these repeated studies were direct attempts to reproduce key findings in the manuscript cited above. In no case did these repeat studies reveal any evidence that the B7-DCXAb reagent had the previously reported activity. In the course of this re-examination, we were able to study all the antibodies used in the various phases of our work spanning the last 10 years. None of these antibodies appears to be active in any of our repeat assays. We do not believe something has happened recently to the reagent changing its potency. Therefore, the authors seek to retract this work."
Although curious as to who was the bad apple, given that all authors signed the PNAS retraction, I have to admit that "10 years" thing really got my attention. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop...turns out it was a closet full of shoes.
In the course of investigating suspicious patterns of experimental results in the laboratory, a systematic and in-depth study of key findings in this article was carried out using blinded protocols. In these repeat studies, no evidence was found to support our original conclusions that B7-DC XAb modulates dendritic cell functions. We do not believe our failure to reproduce our earlier findings is the result of a technical problem. A member of the B7-DC XAb investigative team, Dr. Suresh Radhakrishnan, who was involved in or had access to all the work on this subject, was found in a formal investigation to have engaged in scientific misconduct in unpublished experiments involving the B7-DC XAb reagent. This finding of misconduct and our inability to reproduce key findings using blinded protocols has undermined our confidence in our published report. We seek, therefore, to retract this body of work.
Retraction number 8 is in PLoS One. It tells a similar story..
An investigation by the Mayo Clinic has determined that one of the researchers in Professor Pease's laboratory at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Suresh Radhakrishnan, tampered with another investigator's experiment with the intent to mislead toward the conclusion that the B7-DCXAb reagent has cell activating properties. Using blinded protocols, experiments were done to see if the results based on this reagent could be replicated. Specifically, the repeat experiments examined the activation of dendritic cells, activation of cytotoxic T cells, induction of tumor immunity, modulation of allergic responses, breaking tolerance in the RIP-OVA diabetes model, and the reprogramming of Th2 and T regulatory cells. In no case did these repeat studies reveal any evidence that the B7-DCXAb reagent had the previously reported activity. The authors of this paper therefore wish to retract this paper because of the inability to reproduce key aspects of the studies and hence the results in them cannot be considered reliable.
It all boils down to one fake assay, right? That's what I'd assume. One scientist had the useful assay in the lab and was the go-to dude to add this to any story at need. Why would anyone else try to repeat his studies, he was da man.
update: via writedit, Radhakrishnan's patents.
update 2: As you might expect, my next question was about the grants. Let's check on the PI, shall we? A RePORTER search for Pease, Larry turns up
POTENTIATING DC FUNCTION THROUGH B7-DC (Aug 03 - Jul 06)
PROMOTING TUMOR IMMUNITY BY CROSS-LINKING B7-DC (Feb 04 - Jan 08). R56 Bridge (2008), Competing continuation ( ends Nov 13).
BLOCKING AIRWAY INFLAMMATION WITH B7-DC CROSS-LINKING AB (Jan 06 - Dec 09)
A RePORTER search for "B7-DCXAb" pulls 25 projects in the 2010 Fiscal Year.
Okay, okay, I'm starting to get the picture. The statement in PNAS
"that B7-DCXAb is an immune modulatory reagent, we no longer believe this is the case. ..In no case did these repeat studies reveal any evidence that the B7-DCXAb reagent had the previously reported activity."
is a big, big, big thing.
Update 3: Number nine...