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Image Investigation

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Cassava Sciences following reports that images in studies of its candidate Alzheimer's disease drug may have been manipulated, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In August, Retraction Watch reported that Labaton Sucharow, a law firm, submitted a citizen's petition to the US Food and Drug Administration about the company's drug, saying that its clients had concerns about the integrity of studies supporting the candidate drug, simufilam. It pointed to possible irregularities affecting western blot images.

Image manipulation experts tell the Journal that some of images do exhibit signs of potential manipulation. However, the Journal of Neuroscience, which published one of the studies, found no proof of image manipulation but did find a duplicated image, which it said did not affect the paper's conclusion and it issued a correction, the Journal adds.

The Journal reports that two physicians behind the petition, David Bredt, a biotech entrepreneur and former neuroscience research chief at Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly, and Geoffrey Pitt, a cardiologist Weill Cornell Medicine, have shorted Cassava's stock.

Cassava CEO Remi Barbier has said there is no evidence supporting their claims, according to the Journal, and adds that that short sellers have lodged "outlandish accusations."