Seoul National University (SNU), which is investigating the authenticity of Dr. Hwang Woo-suks research, revealed yesterday that Hwangs team fabricated data for its paper published in Science magazine this year.
Immediately after the official announcement by SNU, Hwang said he would resign as a professor of the school.
Roe Jung-hye, an SNU research affairs dean, said in the announcement of the schools interim investigation result that day, Hwangs team said it produced 11 patient-specific stem cell lines. However, there were only two stem cells as of March 15 when the team submitted its paper to the journal Science.
Among the remaining nine stem cells that Hwangs team claimed to have produced, four died from contamination, three were at the stage of colony (a lump of cells), and two had no record of production even on the experiment log.
Roe said, DNA fingerprinting of the nine stem cells was actually the analysis of a somatic cell from a patient by dividing it into two, adding, It is inevitable to consider the data in the paper as a deliberate fabrication, rather than a simple mistake.
As to whether Hwang directed his team members to fabricate the data, Roe said, Hwang partly admitted that, and statements from his researchers also support that, adding, It is hard for Hwang to avoid grave responsibilities.
The SNU commissioned DNA fingerprinting on December 22 to three independent institutions to confirm whether or not the two existing stem cells are patient-tailored stem cells. The outcome of the analyses will determine if Hwangs argument that his team owns the source technology is true.
The school is planning to launch an investigation into all suspicions surrounding Hwangs research, including his 2004 paper on the worlds first cloned dog, Snuppy, the number of human eggs used in his research and Hwangs claim of replacement of stem cells.
In a press conference held that afternoon, Hwang said, I sincerely offer my apology to my fellow people. I will resign as an SNU professor immediately. He also added, I assure you once again that patient-specific embryonic stem cells are a technology of the Republic of Korea. You will confirm that fact.
SNU will make a decision regarding Hwangs resignation and its level of disciplinary measures against him.
SNU Professors Association released a statement that demanded the dismissal of those associated in fabricating the paper, including Hwang, and their removal from the academic community, while professors at the schools veterinary college offered an apologetic statement.
The Ministry of Science and Technology said that day that it was considering discontinuing the funding of Hwangs research and cancelling his appointment as the first top scientist.
The ruling Uri Party released a commentary which stated, We need to wait and see, while the Grand National Party and the Democratic Labor Party demanded censure of those associated in the case and an investigation in relation to the government.