Zavos cloning article pulled

article, but editor is unmoved

By | September 20, 2004

The most recent flap over an announcement by Panayiotis Zavos has resulted in a previously accepted paper by Zavos and colleagues having been pulled from publication by the editor of a journal. But Zavos insists that he has done nothing untoward.

The trouble started at a press conference on August 30 during which Zavos told reporters he'd created cloned embryos from cow oocytes and the genetic material of dead people.

Media reports cited Zavos as saying that a paper on the subject had been accepted for publication. His Web site listed a paper entitled "Development of an interspecies-specific bioassay using the bovine oocyte model to evaluate the potential of SCNT in humans," with authors K. Illmensee, I. Pfeiffer, B. Brenig, M. Levanduski, and P.M. Zavos, which was in press with the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics (JARG).

The day after the press conference, after hearing from media outlets, JARG editor Norbert Gleicher contacted Karl Illmensee and threatened to stop publication unless he received assurances within 48 hours that no material was "pre-published" through the media and that no incorrect representations about the paper had been made.

"We were advised of [unauthorized] pre-publication publicity surrounding this manuscript by one of its coauthors. We were advised that some of this pre-publication publicity allegedly misrepresented the material that the paper in our journal contained, [and] our attempts to contact the senior author for this manuscript with a request for clarification [went] unanswered for a 48-hour grace period," Gleicher told The Scientist.

More than a week later, Gleicher had still heard nothing, and pulled the paper.

Then, last Thursday (September 16), Illmensee wrote to Gleicher explaining that he and his secretary had both been on vacation and he had only just been able to reply, according to E-mail correspondence seen by The Scientist. Zavos did not discuss the details of the paper, he said.

Zavos himself, contacted by The Scientist on Friday (September 17), said he'd offered to send video footage of the press conference to Gleicher to prove he hadn't talked about the results of the paper. He mentioned four papers purely as evidence that he'd been publishing in the field, he said: "I did not describe what was in [the JARG paper]."

Jan Helfeld, an attorney representing Zavos, also told The Scientist: "I was at the press conference… that Dr. Zavos gave in London, and I must tell you that the professor never insinuated that the manuscript that is in press in the JARG journal… ever [had] anything to do with the post-mortem work that he covered during the press conference."

In fact, Zavos "is in the process of submitting the post-mortem effort to a journal that already requested it," Helfeld said.

But Gleicher was steadfast. He had received the E-mails from Zavos and Illmensee, he told The Scientist on Friday, but "our decision is final." The journal does have a process to appeal the decision he said, if that's what the authors want to do.

Meanwhile, as of September 20, the JARG article was still listed as "in press" on the Zavos Organization Web site.

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