The editors of Nature Biotechnology praised the process. “[I]t is the wider research community that tests methods, identifies potential sources of error, validates reagents and optimizes assays,” they wrote in an editorial. “In this case, it took dozens of dedicated individuals to work through the details of the published protocol and produce well-documented and controlled refutation studies.”
The original study claimed to have found a competitor for CRISPR genome editing. NgAgo, an Argonaut protein from archaea, could precisely disrupt specified sequences in the human genome, Chunyu Han of Hebei University of Science and Technology in Shijiazhuang, China, and colleagues reported. But replication attempts failed.
“We are therefore retracting our initial report at this time to maintain the integrity of the scientific record,” Han’s team wrote in the retraction notice. “We nevertheless continue to investigate the reasons for this lack of reproducibility with the aim of providing an optimized protocol.”
As Nature points out, Danish biomedical company Novozymes paid an undisclosed amount of money to partner with Hebei. “Scientific research takes time and we’ll continue to look for any technological advances, NgAgo included, that can have a positive impact on our work,” Dongyi Chen, Novozymes’s press manager, tells Nature.