A group of researchers at Washington State University has received four expressions of concern for papers whose findings underpin a publicly traded company founded by two of the most senior authors on the articles.
The studies, all of which appeared in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, came from the labs of Joseph Harding, a medical chemist at Washington State, and his colleague Jay Wright. Published between 2011 and 2014, the four articles report on a molecule called angiotensin IV, work which Harding and Wright leveraged to spin-off Athira, a Seattle-based biotech firm developing treatments for conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The CEO of Athira, formerly known as M3 Biotechnology, is Leen Kawas, once a PhD student at Washington State whose 2011 doctoral dissertation provided figures for this fraught 2011 article in JPET, which earned a correction in 2014. Earlier this year, as STAT reported, Kawas was forced to take a leave of absence from the company over concerns that she altered images in several papers. And there has been other scrutiny of the company.
The expressions of concern for all four papers read:
The editors wish to express concern about the article by … of possible image manipulation after reviewing information received from several sources. They have shared these concerns with the corresponding author and their institution, Washington State University, and will await the results of an inquiry to determine appropriate next steps.