Ousted scientist fires back at GSK's high-pressure R&D strategy in China

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) wasn't the only Big Pharma company to set up R&D operations in China. But a feature in Bloomberg today highlights GSK's unusual decision to give its China research division the lead in its neuroscience drug development effort. And a researcher who left the company under a cloud after allegations were raised of data manipulation in a study blamed a high-pressure corporate culture that insists on quick results for much of what went wrong.

"It was extremely tough, we were all very tired and everyone was competing to be first," Liu Xuebin told Bloomberg in an interview last week. "Everyone had many projects. The more you do, the more likely you will make mistakes." 

Liu quit GlaxoSmithKline as executives terminated their R&D chief in China. The scientist worked with a team of investigators who GSK officials say clearly manipulated the data on a preclinical study titled "Crucial role of interleukin-7 in T helper type 17 survival and expansion in autoimmune disease." 

"This was my first job in industry and there was a very different culture," Liu, who had returned to China after a stint in the U.S., recalled. He cited GSK's policy of creating DPUs to direct research projects, with 3-year timelines to complete projects. "I was also not experienced with compliance back then, and we didn't pay enough attention to things such as recording of reports from our collaborators."

Liu added that the problems with the report were an "honest mistake," asserting that he could reproduce the results in another lab.

Today GlaxoSmithKline finds itself at the center of a widening police probe into corruption in China. And just as its sales force has come into the spotlight for allegedly bribing doctors to use its products--what's been described as standard operating procedure in China--there's new scrutiny of the R&D work being performed in the booming country as well. Only with R&D the implications spill over international borders as doubts are raised about the integrity of data being used for drugs designed for global use.

That's another migraine that GlaxoSmithKline can live without.  

- here's the feature from Bloomberg