Glaxo's dismissed China R&D chief fires back

GlaxoSmithKline fired Jingwu Zang after allegations that the R&D shop he helmed in China published falsified data. Yet Zang has fired back in a report from The Wall Street Journal, saying that he played a supervisory role and had no part in the actual misrepresentations that appeared in a 2010 issue of Nature Medicine.

Within days of reports about the data scandal, London-based Glaxo ($GSK) took rapid action in dismissing Zang (which was apparently misspelled as "Zhang" in the Nature paper) and put other researchers from his former operation in Shanghai on administrative leave. The company acknowledged that data from an autoimmune study were misrepresented and has taken steps to retract the study.

Glaxo announced the opening of the R&D shop in Shanghai in 2007 and appointed Zang to lead the operation, which the drug giant saw as an evolution in its strategy in China to conduct novel research on top of mounting sales and other efforts in the fast-growing market. Company CEO Andrew Witty has invested significant time and resources in China, where drug sales have increased swiftly as European markets remain relatively stagnant.

In firing Zang, GSK made a statement about its commitment to securing the integrity of its data and holding research in China to the same standards as studies in the West. But Zang denies any wrongdoing.

"I take a certain responsibility," Zang said, as quoted by the WSJ. "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."

Meantime, one of the other authors of the Nature paper in question has resigned from GSK and taken one for the team in the data fiasco. The researcher, Xuebin Liu, told the business newspaper that he made an honest mistake and never tried to dupe anyone.

- check out the Wall Street Journal's article (sub. req.)