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STAP cells department faces radical reform

16 June 2014

By Dr Greg Ball

Appeared in BioNews 758

The controversy surrounding the creation of so-called stimulus-triggered acquisition pluripotency, STAP cells (see BioNews 757) continues with a report recommending the closure of the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology (CDB), the institute where the research was carried out.

Professor Teruo Kishi, the chair of the committee behind the report, said (as relayed by The Asahi Shimbun): 'The CDB should be dismantled within the year. People in Japan and abroad are watching closely to see if RIKEN will take the scandal seriously and take preventive steps'.

The report was presented by the RIKEN reform committee, set up in April in the wake of the STAP cell controversy. The committee extended blame for the papers' shortcomings to other CDB scientists than Haruko Obokata, who has been the focus of misconduct allegations so far. In this report, Obokata's superiors were found to have accepted primary data without sufficient scrutiny.

However, The Japan Times reports that Professor Kishi confirms that 'Obokata was the only individual found to have committed research misconduct by RIKEN's investigative panel. We concluded she should be given severe punishment'.

The report also details structural problems within the CDB and recommends a complete reorganisation, perhaps to form a new institute. Professor Kishi emphasises that 'this has to be more than just changing the nameplate', the Asahi Shimbun reports.

Dr Masahiro Kami, a researcher in medical and research governance at the University of Tokyo, told The Yomiuri Shimbun the proposals are 'quite harsh', but 'well thought-out and reasonable'.

'Drastic reform is the only way to reform a RIKEN that makes poor information disclosure and has a weak system for independent external checks', he continued. 'RIKEN will be put to the test now, to demonstrate sincerity in enacting the proposal'.

The director of the CDB, Dr Masatoshi Takeichi, who was criticised in the report said he would 'seriously think about what should be done, but [...] would like to take time to consider the recommendations', ScienceInsider reports.


09 November 2015 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
In the aftermath of the STAP stem-cell controversy, Waseda University has revoked the doctorate degree of the stem-cell scientist Haruko Obokata...
01 September 2014 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
Efforts to replicate the STAP cell findings have not been successful so far, the RIKEN Institute has reported...
11 August 2014 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A leading Japanese scientist who was embroiled in the STAP cell controversy has been found dead in an apparent suicide....
07 July 2014 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
Nature has retracted two papers published in January on the creation of so-called 'STAP' cells, after all co-authors agreed to the retractions....
07 July 2014 - by Dr Dusko Ilic 
Two papers published back to back in Nature took our breath away earlier this year, but the research community soon became sceptical and the published work was subjected to unprecedented scrutiny. How is it possible that something like this could happen?...

09 June 2014 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
The lead author of a controversial study describing a new type of stem cell - stimulus-triggered acquisition pluripotency (STAP) cells - has agreed to retract two research papers published in the journal Nature in January 2014...
12 May 2014 - by Purvi Shah 
Japan's RIKEN Center has announced that an appeal by stem-cell scientist, Dr Haruko Obokata, found guilty of research misconduct in relation to her claims of converting blood cells to stem cells using an 'acid bath', has been rejected...
14 April 2014 - by Dr Greg Ball 
Dr Haruko Obokata, the lead author of two controversial stem cell papers that reported discovery of so-called STAP cells, has apologised for errors in her work...
07 April 2014 - by Dr Greg Ball 
An investigation has found that the lead author of the widely reported 'breakthrough' stem cell papers is guilty of misconduct...

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