Posted September. 22, 2008 08:48,
Australian patent authorities will likely grant a patent to disgraced Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk for a cloned human embryonic stem cell.
Hwang announced his research on the stem cell in the American journal Science in 2004.
Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which he heads, said yesterday, The Australian patent office decided to accept Dr. Hwangs patent application for the cloned human embryonic stem cell May 18. Then it posted the decision on the Web June 12. Over the following three months, the office invited objections to the decision.
As of today, the main Australian patent office has received no objections. It will become clear whether its branch offices have received such objections or not by Tuesday.
The foundation added, Its very rare for a branch office to receive an objection. Thus we expect Australian authorities to soon issue the registration certificate. We have already paid the fees.
Australia has already issued a patent number (SN: 2004309300) for Hwangs patent on his embryonic stem cell line and production method. Eighteen other co-inventors are registered, but Hwang reportedly retains all of the patent rights.
Once the registration process is over, Dr. Hwang can collect royalties on the proceeds from the sales of new medicine developed with his technology. His technology will equal the patent on the cloned sheep Dolly, the foundation said.
Hwangs team has applied for patents on the same technology with 11 countries, including Korea in December 2003. His applications are in the final disposition stage in Canada, India, Russia and China. His team has submitted answers to the preliminary decisions.
When Hwang was exposed as a fraud in 2005, Seoul National University claimed his stem cells were created not through cloning, but through accidental parthenogenesis. Thus it is unclear how Korean scholars will react to the news.