Following an investigation, GlaxoSmithKline has dismissed Jingwu Zang, head of its R&D operations in China, and placed others on leave concerning allegations of misrepresentation of data in a research paper.

The paper was written by scientists at GSK’s China research centre in Shanghai and published in Nature Medicine in 2010. It dealt with the role of interleukin-7 in autoimmune disease and focused on preclinical, early-stage research.

The company says it acted after becoming aware of allegations in China and contacted Nature "to tell them that we were taking the charges seriously and would be investigating thoroughly". It adds that "regretfully, our investigation has established that certain data in the paper were indeed misrepresented".

GSK went on to say that "we’ve shared our conclusion that the paper should be retracted and are in the process of asking all of the authors to sign a statement to that effect", according to Nature’s procedure". Dr Zang has been fired, another employee has submitted his resignation and three others have been placed on administrative leave, pending a final review.

Concluding that "the integrity of our research is critical to our work", GSK said that "we are committed to the highest ethical and scientific standards".