Hellinga Retraction Update

Latest Discussion can be read/joined here.

I wanted to thank David for his many comments in the ongoing discussion of the Dwyer et al. retractions, including his pointing out that the 2007 Journal of Molecular Biology article from this group was also formally retracted and, most recently, two enlightening electronic letters to Science (particularly the one from Dr. Richard at SUNY Buffalo) on this case.

And yet another update via David in the main thread on this retraction:

“One very interesting section of Andrea’s [Gawrylewski, The Scientist] blog entry that has not appeared online before is that “Shortly after the original paper appeared in Science in 2004, Hellinga went to give a seminar in Berkeley to present his new findings. [Jack] Kirsch said he brought up the issue with the Km and asked to see Hellinga’s data but never received it.” Yet another lesson to learn from this whole fiasco.”



  1. David said

    There is a recent article in Chemical & Engineering News that summarizes the Hellinga retraction controversy. It requires a subscription to read, but an interesting point was raised by Dr. Richard at SUNY Buffalo that should be central to the discussion. The response to that criticism by Hellinga is included in the article.

    Chemical & Engineering News
    May 5, 2008 Volume 86, Number 18 pp. 40-41
    Enzyme Design Papers Retracted
    Retractions set off controversy but seem unlikely to stymie progress in the field
    Celia Henry Arnaud

    In a letter to Hellinga, Richard explained the situation in more detail: “Any protein designed to catalyze suprafacial transfer of the pro-S hydrogen of DHAP via a cis-enediol[ate] intermediate would form L-GAP and would, therefore, not show activity using the standard enzymatic assay for isomerization of DHAP. This is because L-GAP is not a substrate for the coupling enzyme [glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase] used in the assay for isomerization of DHAP.” Therefore, even if the designed protein had worked, the assays shouldn’t have given a positive response.

    Hellinga tells C&EN that he decided not to address such questions because he believes the fact that the designed enzyme ultimately didn’t show TIM activity made many other points moot. “I didn’t see a reason to go into the design methodology because the experiment clearly didn’t work,” he says. “By inference, obviously the design was wrong.”

  2. David said

    Nature has now published an Editorial and a News Feature about the whole Hellinga retraction story. The article has input from many sources on all sides of the story.

    Nature 453, 258 [15 May 2008] | doi:10.1038/453258b
    Published online 14 May 2008
    Negative results
    Retracted papers require a thorough explanation of what went wrong in the experiments.


    News Feature
    Published online 9 May 2008 | Nature | doi:10.1038/453275a
    Chemistry: Designer debacle
    A high-profile scientist, a graduate student and two major retractions.
    Erika Check Hayden reports on a case that has rocked the chemistry community.


  3. Federale said

    Office of Research Integrity. Director is a Duke Alum. I’m sure a few phone calls inquiring why ORI has not decided to open an investigation wouldn’t hurt. Likewise, a phone call to NIH in the Office of the Director, as well as to the Office of the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) might help.

    Additionally, one could go for the jugular – the money. A call placed into the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to their health division could be in order if someone felt there was a failure to comply in here..

    Office Phone FAX
    Office of the Director 240-453-8200 301-443-5351
    Division of Investigative Oversight 240-453-8800 301-594-0043
    Division of Education and Integrity 240-453-8400 301-443-5351
    Assurance Program 240-453-8400 301-594-0042
    Research Integrity Team/Office of the General Counsel 301-443-3466 301-594-0041

    P R O F E S S I O N A L S T A F F

    Office of the Director

    Chris B. Pascal, Director, J.D. from Duke University

    Division of Investigative Oversight

    John E. Dahlberg, Director, Ph.D. in Virology from Purdue University

    Nancy M. Davidian, Deputy Director, Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

    Peter H. Abbrecht, Medical Expert, M.D. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan

    Kay L. Fields, Scientist-Investigator, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Susan Garfinkel, Scientist-Investigator, Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from George Washington University

    John W. Krueger, Scientist-Investigator, Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Iowa State University

    Linda D. Youngman, Scientist-Investigator, Ph.D. in Toxicology from Cornell University

    Division of Education and Integrity

    Sandra L. Titus, Director, Intramural Research Program, Ph.D. in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota

    Cynthia S. Ricard, Director, Extramural Research Program, Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the Albany Medical College

    Loc Nguyen-Khoa, Director, Online Education & Communication, Ph.D. candidate in Public Health at the University of Maryland

    Robin Parker, Assurance Program Manager

    Research Oversight Legal Team/Office of the General Counsel

    Christian C. Mahler, Research Integrity Team Leader, J.D. from the University of Maryland

    Jo An Rochez, Senior Attorney, J.D. from the University of Maryland

    Alice Tayman, Senior Attorney, J.D. from the University of Maryland

  4. Former Hellinga Graduate Student said

    Federale said:”Office of Research Integrity. Director is a Duke Alum. I’m sure a few phone calls inquiring why ORI has not decided to open an investigation wouldn’t hurt. Likewise, a phone call to NIH in the Office of the Director, as well as to the Office of the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) might help.”
    This sounds great, and as a former graduate student in Hellinga lab at the time the designs were made I could testify (and so could other former lab members) about many wrongdoings on Homme’s part that were not just unethical and unprofessional, but just plain wrong from a human perspective. He treated his students as some data collecting monkeys, who were supposed to train themselves to be able to collect the vast amount of groundbreaking data in the first place. And those multi million dollar grants received for which absolutely no work had been done in the lab. Ever. And why would science fiction type research proposals be funded and never worked on? Without any preliminary experimental work? I wonder how much those phone calls could change the reality. ( Forgive my cynicism, but its all about money he brought in.)

  5. noblesse d'epee said

    Former Hellinga Graduate Student:

    You should re-post your comment in the more active thread:


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