Korea cancels stem cell scientist's licence
South Korea revoked the research licence of disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk on Thursday, saying he had not published a credible paper on the subject within the allotted time frame to deserve one.Updated: Apr 04, 2006 13:31 IST
South Korea revoked the research licence of disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk on Thursday, saying he had not published a credible paper on the subject within the allotted time frame to deserve one.
The US periodical Science retracted two landmark papers from Hwang's team published in 2004 and 2005 after a Seoul National University investigation panel said their key findings were based on deliberately fabricated data.
The health ministry said in a statement that in order to receive a licence, a scientist must have researched in the field for more than three years and published a paper in a significant journal at least once during that time.
"With the withdrawal of the (2004) paper by Science, a legal deficiency arose, and the revocation of the research licence was inevitable," the ministry said adding Hwang had no other significant publications on stem cell research over the past three years.
The criteria was set in a new bioethics law that came into effect in January 2005.
With the loss of his licence, Hwang will not be able to obtain human ova for research, the ministry said.
Hwang's research had once raised hopes that it could hasten the day when embryonic stem cells could be transplanted into damaged bodies to repair ailments such as severe spinal cord injuries or Parkinson's disease.
Prosecutors are investigating Hwang and his team for criminal fraud for suspected misuse of state funds and violating the bioethics law through suspected illegal procurement of human ova.
The 2004 paper in Science from Hwang's team claimed they had produced the first cloned human embryos for research and the 2005 paper claimed they had produced patient-specific embryonic stem cells.
Hwang has said he is the victim of a conspiracy out to defame him, adding if he had more time, he could prove the claims made by his team.
"Professor Hwang requested on February 10 that the decision be withheld or delayed, citing the possibility of submitting a revised paper or a re-publication," the ministry said in a statement.
Science has rejected that possibility, it said. Researchers have said, given the scale of the fraud by Hwang's team, it would be nearly impossible for him to ever publish again in a respected journal.
Just months ago, Hwang was considered a hero in South Korea for bringing the country to the forefront of stem cell and cloning research. He still has many fervent supporters who hold regular rallies asking for Hwang to be given one more chance.
First Published: Mar 16, 2006 16:18 IST