ICR London is a venerated British cancer research institute. It cured every kind of cancer already, in Photoshop. Both its previous presidents, Alan Ashworth and Paul Workman, have impressive records of data fakery on PubPeer. When trouble arise for the mighty men of ICR, they are usually tasked with investigating themselves.
So which qualification did the new CEO had to bring to beat the competition for the job as ICR London leader? A string of papers with falsified data, of course!
Congratulations, Kristian Helin!
The perfect candidate
It must have been an amazing selection process. I envision the ICR board of directors cross-referencing every prospective applicant on PubPeer and then shredding their applications when little or worse, nothing, turns up. When a shortlist was drawn, I imagine Paul Workman with his Photoshop-experienced ICR colleagues Udai Banerji, Ann Jackman and of course Chris Lord going through each fake gel and each recycled microscopy image in Helin’s papers, with Lord’s patron and partner in data fudging, Alan Ashworth, tuning in via Zoom from California. All of them jointly browsing through each PubPeer thread to check that the research data was indeed intentionally fabricated and duly faked in Photoshop, comparing those forgeries with their own, and then going “tsk tsk” when the fraud was not fraudulent enough. Bonus points awarded for avoiding not only retractions but even corrections, which proves that the cheater still has all his friends and networks in place. His, because this is ICR London, where men rule and women are guilty.
Which amazing Photoshop artists did the Great Dane Helin beat at the end? I would love to see the competition. Helin’s PubPeer record stands currently at around 20 papers, and includes collaborations with the grandmasters of research fraud, Alfredo Fusco and Carlo Croce. Behold:
Monica Fedele, Rosa Visone, Ivana De Martino, Giancarlo Troncone, Dario Palmieri, Sabrina Battista, Andrea Ciarmiello, Pierlorenzo Pallante, Claudio Arra, Rosa Marina Melillo, Kristian Helin, Carlo Maria Croce, Alfredo Fusco HMGA2 induces pituitary tumorigenesis by enhancing E2F1 activity Cancer Cell (2006) doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.04.024
Maybe Helin submitted this PubPeed thread as a cover page to his application to ICR London? In that case, Workman, Ashworth, Lord and other white English men of ICR (all of them fully acquitted of all charges of research misconduct, read here) would have exclaimed: WOW! Never retracted! Not even an editorial note! And look at his collaborators! We found the winner! This man will be the right leader for ICR to continue our proud tradition of fake science while scamming those sad gormless charity pillocks who donate to us their life savings! Look at these donors and our junior scientists, running marathons so we get rich off charitable donations for our Photoshop trouble! Little do they know that should one of them blow the whistle on our research fraud, the dirty little rat will regret having been born!
The men of ICR are namely tough and merciless. The ICR alumnus and professional bully Richard Marais now rules Manchester and the melanoma research field with an iron fist, nobody will ever dare complaining about reproducibility issues. Is Helin also able crack down hard on troublemakers? It seems he can!
But of course tough talk and piggy-backing on Fusco’s and Croce’s fraud is not enough to impress ICR’s charity embezzlement experts. A scientist must always prove his own track record of independent data fudgery to qualify for a leadership position of an English research institution. It is a matter of national pride, the secret of the English science supremacy.
Of course Helin was able to beat the competition there, hands down. His oldest paper criticised on PubPeer is from 1998 (Hataboer et al 1998), already as last author, from the time where many promising young scientists of today were still a spark in some professor’s wandering eye. That, children, was even before Photoshop took hold, back in the days scientists still used glue, scissors and paper to fudge their results.
Most of Helin’s scientific achievements were reported on PubPeer by Clare Francis, recently Cheshire and Aneurus Inconstans joined the treasure hunt. Here an example flagged by Elisabeth Bik:
Cristina Morales Torres, Anne Laugesen, Kristian Helin Utx is required for proper induction of ectoderm and mesoderm during differentiation of embryonic stem cells PLoS ONE (2013) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060020
These forgeries demonstrate the necessary “no f***s given” attitude an ICR leader needs. Helin proved his qualifications to lead the London institute, which main business model is charity scamming via falsified cancer research. I imagine Helin’s job application to have had chapters of “Artwork from Milan” and “Artwork from Copenhagen”. Let’s browse through the impressive files.
Artwork from in Milan
From 1995 till 2007, Helin was group leader at the European Institute of Oncology (IEO) in Milan, Italy. IEO is the one half of the densely packed IFOM-IEO-Campus, its other half being the IFOM institute where I myself worked as postdoc 2008-2012. Thus, I never met Helin, but I know some his coauthors on these papers.
Here a very old one, never corrected, the PubPeer evidence is 7 years old.
Magdalena Koziczak, Heiko Müller, Kristian Helin, Yoshikuni Nagamine E2F1-mediated transcriptional inhibition of the plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 gene European Journal of Biochemistry (2001) doi: 10.1046/j.0014-2956.2001.02428.x
You see, the images are differently bright. That’s because they are not copies, but likely different exposures of the same gel, now standing for two different experiments. This next paper from IEO is much worse.
Claire Attwooll, Sergio Oddi, Peter Cartwright, Elena Prosperini, Karl Agger, Peter Steensgaard, Christian Wagener, Claude Sardet, M. Cristina Moroni, Kristian Helin A novel repressive E2F6 complex containing the polycomb group protein, EPC1, that interacts with EZH2 in a proliferation-specific manner Journal of Biological Chemistry (2005) doi: 10.1074/jbc.m412509200
There are more issues in that paper, more spliced and duplicated gel bands. It should be retracted.
I wrote about problematic papers by IFOM-IEO scientists before, and also mentioned Helin and some of his publications, in this article. Several papers were done in collaboration with the IEO leader, and one of Italy’s cancer research dons, Pier Giuseppe Pelicci. I won’t list those papers again here, as you can imagine, there is enough other stuff. Even freshly discovered stuff, like this:
Emanuela Colombo, Paola Bonetti, Eros Lazzerini Denchi, Paola Martinelli, Raffaella Zamponi, Jean-Christophe Marine, Kristian Helin, Brunangelo Falini, Pier Giuseppe Pelicci Nucleophosmin is required for DNA integrity and p19Arf protein stability Molecular and Cellular Biology (2005) doi: 10.1128/mcb.25.20.8874-8886.2005
It seems, some bands were re-used, and reappear spliced-on in Fig 5D. The rest of the blot is different. But it’s just controls, right, who needs those anyway? The next paper is very impressive:
Just two authors, whom to blame here? The first one, Eros Lazzerini Denchi, is now senior investigator at NIH National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Another paper of his (Lazzerini Denchi et al Genes & Development 2006), as postdoc with Titia De Lange at Rockefeller University, has similar issues. The Lazzerini Denchi lab at NCI is studying “Genome Integrity” using research dis-integrity he learned as PhD student under Helin in Milan. Like this:
Eros Lazzerini Denchi, Claire Attwooll, Diego Pasini, Kristian Helin Deregulated E2F activity induces hyperplasia and senescence-like features in the mouse pituitary gland Molecular and Cellular Biology (2005) doi: 10.1128/mcb.25.7.2660-2672.2005
The paper contains more recycled images, with adjusted brightness and even flips to avoid detection:
Now, how about some discretely duplicated gel bands? The plan was probably that inside a big gel figure, nobody will notice. But in any case, nobody ever minded, the EMBO J paper was not even corrected:
Adrian P Bracken, Diego Pasini, Maria Capra, Elena Prosperini, Elena Colli, Kristian Helin EZH2 is downstream of the pRB-E2F pathway, essential for proliferation and amplified in cancer The EMBO Journal (2003) doi: 10.1093/emboj/cdg542
FIG 1B, look closely at SUZ12 blot
Of course, Adrian Braken (who now runs his own lab at Trinity College Dublin) and Helin are perfectly able to clone more than just one gel band.
Adrian P Bracken, Daniela Kleine-Kohlbrecher, Nikolaj Dietrich, Diego Pasini, Gaetano Gargiulo, Chantal Beekman, Kim Theilgaard-Mönch, Saverio Minucci, B. T. Porse, Jean-Christophe Marine, Klaus H Hansen, Kristian Helin The Polycomb group proteins bind throughout the INK4A-ARF locus and are disassociated in senescent cells Genes & Development (2007) doi: 10.1101/gad.415507
This collaborative study is impressively fraudulent:
Lovorka Stojic, Zuzana Jasencakova, Carolina Prezioso, Alexandra Stützer, Beatrice Bodega, Diego Pasini, Rebecca Klingberg, Chiara Mozzetta, Raphael Margueron, Pier Lorenzo Puri, Dirk Schwarzer, Kristian Helin, Wolfgang Fischle, Valerio Orlando Chromatin regulated interchange between polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2)-Ezh2 and PRC2-Ezh1 complexes controls myogenin activation in skeletal muscle cells Epigenetics & chromatin (2011) doi: 10.1186/1756-8935-4-16
Can you see what was done to Figure 6B? Undesired gel bands were covered up with grey boxes, probably in Microsoft PowerPoint. This is such blatant research fraud that the only consequence here is…., oh well, never mind, do nothing and give all authors several huge grants and a promotion. Because the conclusion, namely that cancer research and regenerative medicine are all about defrauding the public and bullshitting desperate patients, are definitely not affected here. Here another collaboration, but better handiwork:
Masamitsu Negishi, Atsunori Saraya, Shinobu Mochizuki, Kristian Helin, Haruhiko Koseki, Atsushi Iwama A novel zinc finger protein Zfp277 mediates transcriptional repression of the Ink4a/arf locus through polycomb repressive complex 1 PLoS ONE (2010) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012373
The highlighted band in Fig 1A was digitally stitched on. The 4-lane Jmjd3 blot in Fig 3B is a composite (arrow), and so is possibly Ezh2, other blots may have anything between 4 or 5 lanes, while the 5-lane tubulin blot in that figure doesn’t really fit, its middle lane seems to be covered up by a blank field.
The following IEO paper features the team of two Czech scientists, Jiri Lukas and Jiri Bartek (both back then in Copenhagen, Denmark, Bartek is now at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden), whom I once met when interviewing for an EMBO fellowship (which I got). It is a pity Lukas and Bartek could not convince Helin to correct or better to retract that paper. It is namely worse than initially thought, when some undisclosed splicing was flagged 7 years ago.
Marina Melixetian, Andrea Ballabeni, Laura Masiero, Patrizia Gasparini, Raffaella Zamponi, Jiri Bartek, Jiri Lukas, Kristian Helin Loss of Geminin induces rereplication in the presence of functional p53 The Journal of Cell Biology (2004) doi: 10.1083/jcb.200403106
This copy-pasted flaw cytometry in Figures 2B and 5A was flagged by Clare Francis very recently, and hints that the paper may be utterly unreliable.
If you enjoyed cloned FACS plots, here a Helin classic, with some recurrent names you will recognise:
B O Petersen, C Wagener, F Marinoni, E R Kramer, M Melixetian, E Lazzerini Denchi, C Gieffers, C Matteucci, J M Peters, K Helin Cell cycle- and cell growth-regulated proteolysis of mammalian CDC6 is dependent on APC-CDH1 Genes Dev. (2000) doi: 10.1101/gad.832500.
Artwork from Copenhagen
In around 2006, the native Dane Helin moved to Copenhagen, where he eventually became director of BRIC, the Copenhagen cancer research institute, which now hosts another Photoshop artist, Janine Erler. Helin was also interim Vice Dean for Research at the University of Copehagen, thus in charge of all research integrity in the town. In this capacity and as BRIC director, Helin was personally accused of silencing whistleblowers in the Erler affair, and even of being involved in the massive-scale destruction of the whistleblowers’ research material.
This is what Helin himself produced back at that period:
Marina Melixetian, Ditte Kjaersgaard Klein, Claus Storgaard Sørensen, Kristian Helin NEK11 regulates CDC25A degradation and the IR-induced G2/M checkpoint Nature Cell Biology (2009) doi: 10.1038/ncb1969
Here a lazy one:
Susanne Marije Kooistra, Lise Christine Rudkjær Nørgaard, Michael James Lees, Cornelia Steinhauer, Jens Vilstrup Johansen, Kristian Helin A screen identifies the oncogenic micro-RNA miR-378a-5p as a negative regulator of oncogene-induced senescence PLoS ONE (2014) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091034
“Figure S2 appears to have a repeated image (green box). Red box in original.”
Another lazy approach to generating scientific results:
Diego Pasini, Martina Malatesta, Hye Ryung Jung, Julian Walfridsson, Anton Willer, Linda Olsson, Julie Skotte, Anton Wutz, Bo Porse, Ole Nørregaard Jensen, Kristian Helin Characterization of an antagonistic switch between histone H3 lysine 27 methylation and acetylation in the transcriptional regulation of Polycomb group target genes Nucleic Acids Research (2010) doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq244
Diego Pasini, who inherited Helin’s lab in IEO, Milan, and first author on this and co-author on several other problematic papers replied on PubPeer 7 years ago:
“We must have copied by mistake one of the panels during figure editing.“
There was no correction ever since.
In 2018, BRIC decided to appoint a new director, and Helin announced to concentrate on his new job at MSKCC in New York, though he retained his professorship in Copenhagen. Now he goes back to Europe, to the Brexited England, liberated from all petty laws and regulations. Helin’s appointment can only become a success, he will lead a crack team of bum-lickers and cheaters.
Helin did not reply to my email asking for comment about his PubPeer record. ICR London announced to reply, silence so far.
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