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Cloning scientist Hwang fired from university

Disgraced cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk was fired on Monday from South Korea's most prestigious university.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 10:38 IST

Disgraced cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk was fired on Monday from South Korea's most prestigious university -- a professional death-blow to the academic who first stunned the medical world with his groundbreaking research -- and then stunned the world again when his results were found to have been faked.

Seoul National University said it had decided to fire the 53-year-old scientist following a disciplinary meeting, saying he and his co-workers caused the school to lose honor. Six other professors who worked with Hwang were either suspended or had their salaries cut, the school said.

Last month, the school suspended Hwang from teaching and conducting research as an interim disciplinary measure, but he had remained a professor.

"The professors fundamentally abandoned honesty and sincerity ... and caused the fall in the school's honour and the country's international confidence," the university said in a statement. Hwang has been a professor at the school's Veterinary College since 1986.

Hwang rarely appears in public and he could not be reached for comment. He has changed his mobile phone number.

Hwang's reputation as a pioneer in stem cell research was shattered when his university concluded in January that his claims of research breakthroughs were fake.

The scientist had claimed in two papers published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005 that he created the world's first cloned human embryos and extracting stem cells from them, including those matched to patients, raising hopes of finding new cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

The journal has since retracted both articles. Hwang publicly apologized for inflating data for the paper, but accused other researchers of deceiving him with falsified research results.

Still, Hwang argues he has the technology to do what he claimed, but South Korea's Health Ministry withdrew Hwang's research license last week, preventing him from cloning human embryos or receiving eggs for such work.

Hwang may also face criminal charges as prosecutors have been investigating the scandal.

His possible charges include misusing government funds. The Board of Audit and Inspection said last month it was unclear how the researcher spent $2.6 million he received in government funds and private donations.

Through last year, Hwang received $31.8 million in government funds for his research as well as $6.2 million in private donations, the audit board said.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 17:15 IST