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Disgraced stem cell scientist to offer dog cloning services

27 May 2008
Appeared in BioNews 459

US company BioArts International has teamed up with disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk to offer dog cloning services to the public. Five dog owners will be given the opportunity to have their pet cloned in a worldwide auction on 18 June this year, where bidding will start at $100,000.

BioArts chief executive, Lou Hawthorne, had previously attempted to commercially exploit cloning technology by offering customers the chance to clone their pet cats for $50,000, through a company named Genetic Savings. The project failed and Genetic Savings ceased operations in 2006, but Hawthorne says the technology for the dog cloning project - named 'Best Friends Again' - has since improved. BioArts claims it is the only company with the legal rights to clone dogs, using a technique pioneered by researchers at the Roslin Institute in the UK, used to create Dolly the sheep. To do this, it has enlisted the help of the SooAm Biotech Research Foundation, headed by Hwang.

The decision is controversial, however, as Hwang is currently on trial in South Korea for fraud and embezzlement, after his claim to have created the world's first cloned human embryonic stem cell line was revealed to be fraudulent. It is also alleged that he used eggs obtained from a junior researcher working on his team, breaching international ethical codes of practice. 'I know the association with Dr. Hwang is going to be controversial,' said Hawthorne, adding 'one of the contradictions of Dr Hwang is that he made mistakes on his human stem-cell research, and he's the first to admit that.'

Of the discredited research carried out by Hwang at Seoul National University (SNU) only the creation of a cloned dog named Snuppy, a male Afghan hound, was found to be genuine. Since then Hwang has successfully cloned three female Afghan hounds, and the cloning of grey wolves by his team at the SNU has also been upheld as genuine. 'Our main concern is simply he's the best when it comes to dog cloning,' said Hawthorne, 'and for that reason it behooves us to work with him'.

Although the dogs will be genetically identical, the cloned animals will not behave in the same way as their twin, and bioethicist Arthur Caplan, of the University of Pennsylvania, said owners should not expect to get their old dog back. 'People believe they're going to get their pet back through cloning, but the new cloned dog won't know the old pet's tricks', he said. 'It's a false promise to say you can get your pet back', he warned.

It is likely that the successful bidders will be refunded if the cloning process is unsuccessful or if the cloned animal does not meet their expectations. BioArts has said it will not spend the money unless the dog has been 'signed off'. All the dogs will be examined by a veterinarian prior to delivery and come with one year's health warranty.

Biotech Company to Auction Chances to Clone a Dog
New York Times |  21 May 2008
Biotech Firm Works With Fake Embryonic Scientist to Sell Cloned Dogs
Life News |  21 May 2008
Offers over $100,000 invited for cloned dogs
The Guardian |  23 May 2008
South Korea Stem Cell Faker Hwang Will Clone Dogs for Cash
Bloomberg Press |  21 May 2008
US firm, disgraced SKorean researcher, to offer dog cloning service
AFP |  22 May 2008
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31 August 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for Medicine with James Watson and Francis Crick in 1962, for the pioneering work in deciphering the structure of the DNA helix. Files recently released to the National Archives now reveal that he was previously being investigated for being a potential communist sympathiser and betraying secrets from his work on the first nuclear bomb...
26 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A South Korean court has convicted disgraced stem cell scientist, Hwang Woo-Suk, of embezzling funds and purchasing human eggs for research, after a trial lasting over three years. Hwang was given a two-year sentence suspended for three years by the Seoul Central District Court last week...
1 September 2009 - by Nishat Hyder 
Disgraced scientist, Hwang Woo-suk found last Monday that he faces a possible four year jail term for alleged embezzlement, and the violation of Korean bioethics law....
6 October 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
The Australian Patent Office, IP Australia, are expected to grant a patent to internationally disgraced South Korean Scientist Hwang Woo-Suk for his human cloning technology which he fraudulently claimed led to false scientific achievements in 2005. Hwang is one of 18 researchers named on the patent application...
9 May 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The cloned grey wolves created by scientists at Seoul National University (SNU) are genuine, independent tests have shown. Questions over the animals were raised following the withdrawal of the scientific paper describing the achievement from the journal Cloning and Stem Cells. SNU launched an investigation of...
7 January 2007 - by Heidi Nicholl 
A member of disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk's team has successfully cloned three female Afghan hounds. The three puppies, named Bona (Latin for blessings), Peace and Hope, were created following the scandal in which Hwang's reported breakthrough in creating cloned human cell lines was discredited...
18 May 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
South Korean stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang has been formally prosecuted on charges of fraud and embezzlement - if convicted he could spend up to 10 years in prison. He was charged with accepting two billion won (about $2.1 million) in private donations based on his...
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