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Hwang resumes research

20 August 2006
Appeared in BioNews 372

Hwang Woo-Suk, the Korean scientist at the centre of the faked cloning scandal last year, has returned to the lab and resumed his research on animals. Hwang, who was sacked from his position at Seoul National University following the scandal, is thought to have secured private funding in order to continue his research.

As Hwang's licence to work with human embryonic cells has been revoked, he will only be able to restart the animal cloning side of his research. Hwang had success as the only person to have successfully cloned a dog - Snuppy - a technically difficult feat. The head of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Suh Nam-Pyo, is supporting Hwang's return. 'It is quite reasonable to give him another chance', he said, adding 'we should not block his comeback forever due to a one-off wrongdoing. I think he won't commit the same mistakes again'.

Hwang is currently involved in a court case after he was indicted in May 2006 accused of embezzling more than $850,000 of state and private funds intended for research. He has admitted in court that he was responsible for junior scientists who falsified data in two landmark papers that claimed to have made cloned human cell lines from patients. If convicted, Hwang faces at least three years in prison. Despite this Hwang commands loyalty amongst his supporters and has taken around thirty researchers with him to the new facility in southern Seoul. The new laboratory is off-limits to the media.

Hwang's lawyer Lee Geon-Haeng commented that Hwang would like to restart the work on human embryos but would have to reapply for a licence. 'Hwang appears to think he can establish patient-specific human embryonic stem cells in six months if he is allowed to take up the stem cell research again without barriers', he said. He added: 'But the problem is that Hwang is no longer authorised to conduct human embryonic stem cell research. Subsequently he has to gain fresh approval'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Disgraced S.Korean stem cell scientist back in lab
Reuters |  17 August 2006
Hwang Resumes Research
The Korea Times |  17 August 2006
KAIST Head Backs Dr. Hwang's Return
The Korea Times |  18 August 2006
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