Fake research claims could be internal feud

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Fake research claims could be internal feud

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Leading stem cell researchers in Korea are once again embroiled in controversy over their ethics following recent allegations of renowned Seoul National University professors manipulating data in papers submitted to international journals.

Academic insiders, however, say the recent accusations were raised out of the blue but were intentional.

This week, an anonymous person raised suspicions on an online Web site managed by the Pohang University of Science and Technology’s Biological Research Information Center (BRIC) that SNU Prof. Kang Kyung-sun, 49, manipulated data in a stem cell research paper submitted to a renowned scientific journal called Antioxidants & Redox Signaling (ARS) last month.

Last week, an anonymous person posting on the BRIC Web site claimed that SNU Prof. Kang Soo-kyung, 46, a close friend of the other Kang, had used images in a stem cell research paper that were published early last month in ARS.

The two professors belong to the same veterinary medicine department at SNU and have co-authored papers.

For both accusations, the source posted a 70-page presentation file explaining which images had been duplicated. The person also sent the file to ARS.

Insiders in academic circles speculate that the anonymous person is also a stem cell researcher because of the technical knowledge displayed, and the accusations may be part of a feud between Kang Kyung-sun and Hwang Woo-suk, the stem cell researcher who was disgraced in 2006 for faking his research. Or it could be a feud between Kang and Ra Jung-chan, chief executive of a local biotechnology firm called RNL Bio.

Hwang and Kang, who worked alongside each other at SNU, fell out during Hwang’s disgrace in 2006. Kang told the media at the time, “I knew this would happen to him [Hwang].” Kang’s friend and colleague Kang Soo-kyung is also known to have sent messages to her acquaintances saying, “All this has been manipulated by Hwang’s followers.”

In the case of RNL Bio’s Ra, Kang worked as an advisor to the company until he left to establish his own stem cell start-up

“When Kang left RNL Bio and set up his own company, Ra was really angry,” said an industry official who is an acquaintance of both Kang and Ra.

In 2010, Kang started Kang Stem Holdings Company and has attracted 7 billion won ($5.9 million) in investments.


By Park Bang-ju, Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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