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WSJ: Scientist Who Led XMRV Research Team Let Go

Discussion in 'Media, Interviews, Blogs, Talks, Events about XMRV' started by Firestormm, Oct 3, 2011.

  1. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    3 October 2011: http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2011/10/03/scientist-who-led-xmrv-research-team-let-go/

    By Amy Dockser Marcus


    Judy A. Mikovits, the embattled scientist who led the research team that found a possible link between the retrovirus XMRV and patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, has been terminated from her job as director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nev.

    The controversial finding, published in a 2009 Science paper, excited patients and researchers who have long been searching for a cause for chronic fatigue syndrome, which has an array of debilitating symptoms that include cognitive difficulties, severe pain, and overwhelming fatigue. On Sept. 22, the authors of the paper, including Mikovits, published a partial retraction of the findings in Science, after two of the 13 study authors found contamination in blood samples from patients.

    A week later, Mikovits was fired, she told Health Blog.

    In a letter from Whittemore Peterson President Annette Whittemore to Mikovits, which was reviewed by Health Blog, Mikovits was terminated after refusing Whittemores direct request that cell lines be turned over to another scientist at the institute who wanted to do research on them.

    In a letter of response, Mikovits said that the cells were for use in a specific NIH-funded project and that it would be inappropriate to use them for another purpose without her knowledge and consent.


    Mikovits is a principal investigator on an ongoing NIH-funded study that will test CFS patients and healthy controls for XMRV or related viruses, and she said that she plans to take her grant with her to a new institution where she wants to continue her work on CFS.

    But like many things in the long-running XMRV saga, this may not be simple. Institutions must agree to relinquish grants, and at this writing, it was not clear that the Whittemore-Peterson institute is willing to let the XMRV project go.

    Weve reached out to the Institute for comment, and will provide an update when we hear back.
     
  2. Kina

    Kina Moderation Team Lead

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    Okay, I feel really stupid right now because I don't understand the bolded statement re; Mikovits. If Whittemore asked her directly for permission for another WPI scientist to use the cells, then, if she agreed, they would be used with her knowledge and consent. I just can't figure this out. Can somebody help me out here. Thanks.
     
  3. FancyMyBlood

    FancyMyBlood Senior Member

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    It seems the WPI asked her to turn over cell lines to another scientist and she refused because they were (needed)for the Lipkin study. But this article doesn't make me any wiser.... Why would the WPI want those cell lines and who is 'wrong' in this case?
     
  4. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    It seems different (or perhaps more detail has now come out) from what Jamie Deckoff-Jones was saying earlier today.

    Sounds to me (non-scientist) like it might be about ownership and perhaps even patent rights. But I don't know. Am as clueless as the next person.

    Interesting that it specifically says Dr Mikovits and no other and yet Annette has (purportedly) closed the facility.

    And I wonder if the 'other scientist' could be Lombardi? He is in charge of Unevx (owned by WPI). I can't imagine the cells going outside of WPI. Anyway, that's just me speculating - sorry.

    Why the WPI and Annette are so darn quiet I don't understand. Patients must want to know what on earth is happening surely?
     
  5. Cort

    Cort Phoenix Rising Founder

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    I can't imagine this is all about the cell lines. I believe this was the tip of the iceberg - the straw that broke the camels back - Dr. Mikovits has made a long series of mistakes....I have heard that she refused to share data in the team, she was apparently the one that refused to have Dr. Peterson's name on the original paper, her many statements that had no backing behind them, her aspersions against other researchers - all of this must have added up. In my opinion Dr. Mikovits torpedoed the WPI and damaged its credibility probably irrevocably.

    In one of the science articles she talked about what sounded like 100's of healthy controls that had tested negative for XMRV - which was obviously in retrospect not true. You can go on and on - the statements that the problems were caused by storage issues, then it was freezing the samples, before that it was culturing, then it was the antibody tests.....when last I talked to her - the BWG samples had been compromised by people taking antiviral and immunomodulators......

    I think the WPI had to do this to survive honestly
     
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  6. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    So she walks and takes the cells (whatever) with her? Long legal case and no more research... Yeah I know - who really knows anything?

    Well I guess we will await the WPI statement apparently due later. Though we will probably never get the whole deal.
     
  7. floydguy

    floydguy Senior Member

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    If this is the case the CEO and Board should be held responsible. WPI allowed Mikovits (one person) to define the institution; one of the worst things management can do. Now the essence of WPI is no longer there. In effect, the WPI is done or must start over.
     
  8. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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  9. floydguy

    floydguy Senior Member

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    If that's the case, they will need new management, new board and the perfect person to replace Mikovits. They will also need a near term big break in research/confirmation for what they've been doing. Their road ahead is not an easy one. If theydon't act fast with conviction, their chances of making it aren't good.
     
  10. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Can't say the statement was very informative. Rather goes against what Dr Jamie was saying before though...
     
  11. Cort

    Cort Phoenix Rising Founder

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    That's absolutely true....I think many people know my thoughts; I think the XMRV situation was mishandled horribly by Dr. Mikovits. Annette was in a tough position - getting rid of her researcher would have been really tough - perhaps impossible in the middle of the XMRV fray... but honestly once Dr. Mikovits said "XMRV is worse than HIV/AIDS in Africa" to a reporter I would have felt compelled to find someone else. That statement damaged her and by inference their credibility enormously. It made things so much harder.
     
  12. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Of course the big question for some remains over the validity of those patient test results and I suppose whether the WPI and/or Unevx will continue with research into XMRV/HGRVs/Whatever.
     
  13. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Looks like more from Amy Dockser-Marcus:

    Added to article:

    'Whittemore told the Health Blog that she and Mikovits were not seeing eye-to-eye on who controlled the cells. Research on retroviruses and their possible connection to CFS as well as other diseases continues, she said. We will keep going down that path as long as it continues to show promise, Whittemore says.'

    http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2011/10...-xmrv-research-team-let-go/?KEYWORDS=mikovits
     
  14. floydguy

    floydguy Senior Member

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    This was handled very poorly. There should have been a "Separation" Agreement that covered how this would play out in the press. Now it's a "he" said/"she" said, which may ultimately mean litigation and more of a mess for everyone.
     
  15. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    I agree. It sounded like that when Deckoff-Jones began all this yesterday and none of this will help the WPI or research. Still many questions remain and more information is required from the WPI.
     
  16. Daffodil

    Daffodil Senior Member

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    mikovits is still going to sequence the HGRV's and drugs will be found.
     
  17. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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    FWIW, I am not drawn to take one one person's side over another. I think Mikovits and Whittemore are trying to do their best for us according to what they believe is best, and of course, both handicapped by their own human limitations.

    I believe that if Mikovits had not met Peterson, and Whittemore had not funded this, we would be no further ahead than we were 4 years ago. And I think that because the three came together for a short time, their activities attracted some good scientists, who want to solve this regardless of the controversy.
     
  18. redo

    redo Senior Member

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    I agree Annette must have had a hard time making the decision. She must have felt like she was between a rock and a hard place. There's a storm around both of them now, so I hope they are fine, emotionally.

    About the Africa thing. She did write it in future tense and not present tense. I agree it was't wise, but it's a distinction I felt needed to be made.

     
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  19. pamb

    pamb Senior Member

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    Thank you Andrew, for so eloquently stating how I feel. I truly believe all have tried to do their best for science and for us, and yup, all involved are just as human as we are. Clearly we are much further ahead than four years ago, and while this may cause a bit of a slowdown, it may in the not too distant future actually speed progress up a bit. How I can't speculate, but if a relationship is not working I do know everyone is better off to make a break and go their own way. I remain confident good research will continue and eventually the mists will clear. Being selfish I sure hope it is sooner than later.
     

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