LONDON British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) has fired its head of research and development in China after discovering that a study by some of its Chinese scientists contained misrepresentation of data.
A company spokesman said on Tuesday that Jiangwu Zang had been dismissed and three other individuals had been placed on administrative leave, while a further employee had resigned.
The decision follows an investigation into concerns about a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Medicine in 2010 involving pre-clinical research into multiple sclerosis. Zang was one of the authors of the paper.
"Regretfully, our investigation has established that certain data in the paper were indeed misrepresented," Britain's biggest drugs group said in a statement.
"We've shared our conclusion that the paper should be retracted and are in the process of asking all of the authors to sign a statement to that effect, according to Nature Medicine's procedure."
The study, which looked at the role of a protein in multiple sclerosis, involved early-stage research and did not directly involve patients, although some blood samples were used.
However, the work did inform GSK's development of an experimental medicine for multiple sclerosis, known as GSK2618960, which has reached the stage of initial testing in healthy volunteers.
The early clinical tests of the product have now been suspended as a precaution, although there is no signal of a safety issue with the medicine, the spokesman added.
GSK, like many other large Western drug companies, is increasing its research presence in China. But its Chinese R&D centre is still small compared to operations in Europe and the United States.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Bernard Orr)