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Hwang suspended from University post

13 February 2006
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 345

Seoul National University (SNU) has suspended the discredited South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang and six other professors in his team from their teaching and research posts. The scientists have yet to be formally punished by SNU, for faking data and breaching ethical standards in their work on human embryonic stem cell (ES cell). They are also facing criminal charges of fraud and misuse of government funds, following the revelation that almost £1.5 million ($2.6 million) remains unaccounted for. Meanwhile, an investigation carried out by Pittsburgh University into Gerald Schatten, Hwang's former collaborator, has concluded that he played no part in the fraud.

The SNU scientists claimed in 2004 that they had created the world's first ES cell line from a cloned human embryo. But an investigation lead by SNU concluded last month that no such cell line exists. The finding completed Hwang's downfall, after a previous announcement that 11 ES cell lines genetically matched to patients, published last year, were also fabricated. A separate investigation carried out by Korea's National Bioethics Board (KNBB) reported last week that the work was ethically, as well as scientifically unsound - the human eggs used in the experiments were obtained from donors who were not given sufficient information about the possible side effects of the procedure. In addition, some donors worked for Hwang's team, and may have been pressured into providing eggs for the research.

The SNU committee is still considering whether to take further measures, such as dismissing Hwang and his six team members. 'The disciplinary committee is still following procedures to punish them. It is looking into their misconduct in research and their breach of ethical standards', said Byun Chang-ku, dean of academic affairs at the university.

Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh have concluded that Gerald Schatten 'likely did not intentionally falsify or fabricate experimental data', and found no evidence that he was aware of the fraudulent nature of the results produced by his collaborators. However, their report does accuse Schatten of 'research misbehaviour', by seeking personal, professional and financial gains from his collaboration with the South Korean team. It says he 'shirked' his responsibilities as senior author on two papers he published with Hwang's team.

The report also revealed that Schatten 'was not averse' to accepting payments from Hwang, which totalled $40,000 over a 15-month period. And when concerns were first raised over the veracity of the ES cell work, Schatten had been in the process of obtaining $200,000 from the Koreans to fund his laboratory work. The panel concluded that while his actions did not constitute research misconduct as defined by university policies, 'it would be an example of research misbehaviour'. Another US stem cell researcher, John Gearhart, told the Washington Post that Schatten 'took the title of senior author but really didn't know what was going on with the data'.

Investigations Document Still More Problems for Stem Cell Researchers
Science |  10 February 2006
S Korea cloning expert suspended
BBC News Online |  10 February 2006
U.S. Stem Cell Researcher Rebuked
The Washington Post |  11 February 2006
31 July 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
A controversial scheme to extend the practise of 'egg sharing' has been approved by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to provide greater numbers of eggs for embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The practise of egg-sharing is currently allowed where a woman may receive discounted...
15 May 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
At its open meeting held on 10 May in Belfast, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced that it will 'prepare a proper consultation programme' on oocyte (egg) donation so that it could assess the whole range of views and ethical issues that the...
30 April 2006 - by BioNews 
The World Stem Cell Hub - set up last year at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea - is the latest victim of the ongoing Korean stem cell and cloning saga. The hub, which was established to create 'a global network' of stem cell lines created in countries across the world...
27 March 2006 - by BioNews 
Seoul National University (SNU) has announced it will dismiss the discredited South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang, for his involvement in fabricating data during his work on human embryonic stem (ES) cells. Six other professors and co-authors on two Science papers published by the group - now formally retracted - will not...
17 February 2006 - by BioNews 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology and Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility treatment and embryo research in the UK, is considering allowing altruistic egg donation for therapeutic cloning research. According to a report in the Times newspaper, the authority may soon approve new rules that will allow women to donate eggs...
3 February 2006 - by BioNews 
South Korea's national bioethics committee has produced a report on the 'serious ethical problems' with the donated human eggs used in the recently discredited stem cell research carried out by Woo Suk Hwang and his team. Korea's National Bioethics Board (KNBB) says that the scientists, based at Seoul National University...
12 January 2006 - by BioNews 
The panel investigating the work of South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang has reported that further research published by his team was faked. The scientists, based at Seoul National University (SNU), claimed in 2004 that they had created the world's first embryonic stem (ES) cell line from a cloned human...
9 January 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
For those aiming to develop new, stem-cell based therapies for conditions such as spinal cord injury and diabetes, 2005 will be remembered as the year in which hopes were first raised beyond everyone's expectations - only to be dashed, when apparently groundbreaking research was revealed to be an audacious hoax. The...
7 January 2006 - by BioNews 
An investigation into the work of South Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang and his team has concluded that they did not create any cloned embryo stem (ES) cell-lines genetically-matched to patients, as reported in their much-feted Science paper of last year. The revelations have sent shockwaves through the...
9 December 2005 - by BioNews 
The University of Pittsburgh has begun an investigation into research carried out by Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang and his former collaborator Gerald Schatten. The celebrated paper, published by Science earlier this year, described the derivation of 11 cloned human embryonic stem (ES) cell-lines from patients with diabetes...
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