Gregg L. Semenza, a professor of genetic medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2019 for his discoveries on how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability, has retracted seven studies he coauthored.
The latest study to be pulled was published by the Nature-family journal Oncogene in 2011. It was retracted on May 23 due to “multiple image irregularities,” according to the retraction notice. The irregularities include duplications, in which the same results are used and presented for multiple experiments.
The retraction note says that eight coauthors of the Oncogene study—including Semenza—agree to the retraction. Three didn’t respond to correspondence about the retraction, and the journal editor couldn’t find current email addresses for the four other authors. Only one coauthor, Daniele Marie Gilkes, an oncologist also at Johns Hopkins, disagreed with the retraction. Gilkes didn’t reply to a request for comment.
In September 2022, the research integrity blog Retraction Watch reported that Semenza and his colleagues had retracted four papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), also due to image-related problems.
Dozens of papers coauthored by Semenza are being discussed on PubPeer, an online platform where academics parse research papers. In October 2022, Nature reported that several other of Semenza’s papers have been corrected or had notices of concern issued for them.
Semenza didn’t reply to requests for comment.
“I think the widespread issues in many of his papers point to serious problems in his lab,” says Fredrik Jutfelt, an animal physiologist at Norwegian University of Science and Technology who has followed the case. “Many more papers of his have the same issues and should also be retracted, and I’m sure they are in the process of being retracted.”
Jutfelt says all authors of the concerned manuscripts have some degree of responsibility, but Semenza, being the senior author on many of the papers, has an added responsibility to ensure the work is solid and legitimate. “Semenza has repeatedly failed in this important task,” he says.