Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process
A 2018 study in PNAS that claimed to show a biotech company’s platform for creating immunotherapies was better than existing methods has earned an expression of concern over the reproducibility of some of its findings.
When the article appeared, STAT called “Cell engineering with microfluidic squeezing preserves functionality of primary immune cells in vivo,” a “major paper that showed more clearly why companies like Roche are so interested in using its technique.”
The technique was developed by SQZ Biotech, which was founded by MIT’s Robert Langer, a founder or co-founder of numerous biotechs including Moderna, and with whom Roche partnered in 2015.
The paper has been cited 55 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. According to a press release announcing the work:
“At SQZ, we believe in the enormous potential of cell-based therapies. The work put forth in this paper demonstrates that electroporation, the widely used technology behind many gene edited cell therapies, such as modified T cell treatments, can lead to unintended long-term biological consequences that could severely limit the therapeutic potential of engineered cells. Strikingly, the SQZ cell therapy platform does not lead to these negative functional changes,” said Armon Sharei, PhD, chief executive officer and founder of SQZ Biotech and the senior author on the paper. “These data deepen our conviction that the SQZ platform has unique potential to disrupt today’s engineered cell therapies and transform the lives of patients suffering from a range of debilitating diseases.”
But last week, the editor in chief of PNAS, May Berenbaum, added this notice to the paper:
The editors express concern about the reproducibility of some of the results reported in Fig. 2D and Fig. 3 in this study. We will update readers as more information becomes available.
Berenbaum told Retraction Watch that “Unfortunately, PNAS isn’t able to share any information beyond what was published in the EOC.”
SQZ CEO Sharei did not respond to a request for comment. We could not find contact information for corresponding author Tia DiTomasso, who left SQZ in 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile.
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LinkedIn: Tia DiTommaso, PhD –
Preclinical Pharmacology, Arbor Biotechnologies, Cambridge MA
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