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Korean clone scientist to face criminal probe

The scientist has already received over $12 million and was due to receive six million more.

tech reviews Updated: Jan 10, 2006 11:29 IST

South Korean cloning expert Hwang Woo-Suk is set to face criminalinvestigation for fabrication of his stem cell research that won him millions of dollars and international fame.

The charge was put on him by a panel of experts at Seoul National University.

"We will take over relevant evidence from the Seoul National University and decide on who will take up this case," Park Young-Soo, a top prosecutor of the prosecutor general's office, told journalists.

"There are tonnes of material including transcripts of interviews, notes of experiments and computer files," he said.

Prosecution authorities have already imposed a ban on overseas trips by Hwang and 10 others associated with his research.

The investigation is expected to focus on Hwang's huge research funds and any evidence of misuse or embezzlement.

As the country's 'Supreme Scientist,' Hwang received three billion won (three million dollars) in annual funding for his research.

Separately, the health and welfare ministry has funelled some $9.5 million to Hwang since 2003, and the Seoul National University was to spend $6 million to build a 'world stem cell hub' to be led by Hwang.

The prosecution authorities are also expected to investigate whether Hwang breached a law on bioengineering ethics in the course of securing human eggs for experiments.

Hwang has used a total of 2,061 eggs from 129 women over the space of three years between November 2002 and November 2005, the university panel said.

Hwang claimed he had used 185 eggs to produce 11 patient-tailored stem cell lines in the 2005 study but the panel said that at least 273 eggs had been used.

He was also involved in collecting human eggs from his junior researchers in a breach of ethics, the panel said.

First Published: Jan 10, 2006 11:22 IST