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SNU drops bid for stem cell patent

Dec 31,2008

Seoul National University has decided to make no more efforts to obtain overseas patents for the controversial stem cell production technology of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk, school officials said yesterday.

Hwang, a former veterinary professor at Seoul National University, has been on trial since 2006 on charges of fraud and violation of bioethics laws after his team was found to have fabricated laboratory test results to claim success in the landmark study.

The university, which holds the rights to the studies conducted by Hwang’s team, said it will no longer continue the paperwork to obtain patents in 11 countries including the United States and Australia.

The patent was for the process used by Hwang’s team to create the cloned stem cell line, dubbed NT-1, announced in Hwang’s 2004 research. In a paper published with the U.S. journal Science, the team claimed to have established the first human embryonic stem cell line from a cloned blastocyst, an early stage embryo comprised of about 100 cells.

Although an SNU panel concluded in 2006 that Hwang’s research had contained a large amount of fabricated data, peer reviewers said the first stem cell line in question was authentic.

Despite revelations of data manipulation, Seoul National University had not withdrawn the patent applications until now, as most of Hwang’s work was subsidized by state funds.

Seo Jin-ho, head of the office of research affairs at SNU, said the university no longer wants to spend the money required to obtain a patent for this controversial research.

“We have already fired Hwang for fabricating data,” Seo said. “And most countries have raised issues about bioethics violations in the research, so we believe the patent, even if approved, will be very restricted.”

Since his dismissal from SNU, Hwang has continued his research at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]




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