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South Korea rejects Hwang's application to continue human stem cell research

4 August 2008
Appeared in BioNews 469

The South Korean Health Ministry has rejected a licence application to carry out stem cell research made by the company owned by disgraced stem cell scientist, Hwang Woo-Suk, citing 'ethical problems'. The Suam Biotech Research Foundation had requested approval last December to resume its research on human stem cells following the scandal surrounding Hwang after he misled the international scientific community by claiming to be the first scientist in the world to successfully extract stem cells from a cloned human embryo. Hwang remains on trial in South Korean on allegations of fraud and embezzlement of state and private funds donated to his research.

'We have decided not to approve the request by the Suam Biotechnology Institute (SBI) to begin research on human embryonic stem cells (ES cells) for medical treatment purposes,' the ministry said in a statement: 'The decision was made as Hwang still stands on trial on charges that he violated the nation's bioethical laws and was fired from his school for paper fabrication and other unethical problems in obtaining eggs in relation to his research on stem cells in 2006.' The ministry followed the opinion of South Korea's National Bioethics Committee, which said it disapproved of allowing Hwang to resume stem cell research.

In 2004, Hwang's team at the Seoul National University announced the creation of the world's first cloned human embryonic stem (ES) cell-line and, in 2005, reported, in the journal Science, the derivation of a further 11 cell-lines from 31 cloned embryos, using just 185 eggs. Hwang became internationally acclaimed and on the back of his success the World Stem Cell Hub was set up by an international consortium. In November 2005, allegations were made suggesting that Hwang had used eggs donated by a junior researcher to create his 11 ES cell lines. Subsequently, an investigation found that the 11 ES cell lines reported in Science had been 'faked'. Later, the panel investigating Hwang's work reported that research showing that Hwang's team had created the world's first ES cell line from a cloned human embryo was also faked - an investigation lead by SNU found that no such cell line exists.

Hwang's journals, previously published in the publication Science, were withdrawn, his findings discredited and the reputation of the once-revered South Korean national hero was shattered. Hwang also came under intense criticism for recruiting one of his female staff to act as the egg donor, breaching bioethical research guidelines. Of the discredited research carried out by Hwang at 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. He recently teamed up with US firm, BioArts International to offer dog cloning services to the public.

Disgraced SKorean scientist won't resume cell work
Associated Press |  1 August 2008
Gov't Bans Stem Cell Research Attempt
KBS |  1 August 2008
Seoul Bans Hwang's Stem Cell Research
Korea Times |  1 August 2008
South Korea rejects disgraced clone scientist's license
Reuters |  1 August 2008
10 October 2011 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
US scientists have for the first time created 'personalised' human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) using a form of cloning. The result is a significant milestone on the route to using stem cell-based therapies but the researchers stress more work is to be done as genetic errors in the cells means they are not yet suitable for therapeutic use....
8 November 2010 - by Dr Jay Stone 
International journal Nature has found no sign of fraud in a 2009 paper published by Professor Konrad Hochedlinger and colleagues. The allegations came from a group calling itself 'Stem Cell Watch' which has made a series of accusations of fraud against a number of leading stem cell scientists, including Professor Hochedlinger, citing repetition and the manipulation of images among its reasons for concern....
27 September 2010 - by Dr Jay Stone 
Questions continue to be asked after Dr Savio Woo, a gene therapist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, was forced to retract two more of his papers last week. Dr Woo has retracted six papers this year after two of his post-docs, Li Chen and Zhiyu Li, were accused of scientific misconduct....
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....
27 May 2008 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
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...
6 August 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The disgraced South Korean stem cell scientist, Woo Suk Hwang, whose spectacular fall from grace dominated the newspaper headlines early last year, has been credited with 'accidentally' creating the world's fisrt stem cells produced from an unfertilised human egg. An international collaboration of scientists last week published...
20 August 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
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...
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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