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Cloning Pioneer Indicted for Fraud

Posted May. 13, 2006 06:54,   


Prosecutors concluded that former Seoul National University Professor Hwang Woo-suk’s research team never developed patient-specific stem cells and that researcher Kim Sun-jong smuggled in vitro-fertilized stem cells into the lab to make it look like stem cells customized for individual patients.

They also said that the veterinary professor instructed data fabrication in person for his papers in the U.S. Science magazine in 2004 and 2005. Hwang even embezzled state and private sponsorship and illegally purchased ova for research.

Releasing its final report on the stem-cell research investigation, the special investigative team of Seoul Prosecutors’ Office arrested Hwang without physical detention on charges of fraud, embezzlement, and bioethics law violations.

Prosecutors said that they did not charge Hwang with obstruction of justice, given that there is no precedent punishing data fabrication in research papers, and the primary loss falls on the Science magazine.

The former SNU professor allegedly pocketed 640 million won from about 2.2 billion won worth of private sponsorship for personal use.

Prosecutors also arrested Kim Sun-jong without physical detention on charges of obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence, and SNU veterinary professors Lee Byong-cheon and Kang Seong-keun, and Hanyang University medical school professor Yun Hyun-soo on fraudulent charges. These professors were found to have appropriated tens of millions to hundreds of millions of won from research funds.

The prosecution also arrested Jang Sang-sik, chief of Hanna Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic, without detention for a breach of bioethics law and notified the National Institute of Scientific Investigation of its researcher Lee Yang-han’s charges on taking over two million won from Hwang for fingerprint analyses.

In the investigation report, the prosecution said that researcher Kim Sun-jong, out of psychological pressure and personal desire to establish stem-cell lines, smuggled fertilized eggs from Mizmedi hospital to the university lab and made them look like they were patient-specific stem cells.

Prosecutors also speculated that Hwang had first known about Kim’s swapping of stem-cells late last October, a month earlier than when Hwang claimed he first heard about it.

Meanwhile, the Seoul National University officially reprimanded veterinary professors Lee Byong-cheon and Kang Seong-keun involved in the fake stem-cell research by suspending professorship for two and three months, respectively.

Tae-Hoon Lee woogija@donga.com jefflee@donga.com