U.S. awards patent for Hwang’s stem cell line

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U.S. awards patent for Hwang’s stem cell line

Hwang Woo-suk, a former Seoul National University professor whose fame as a pioneer in cloning and stem cell research turned to disgrace, seems to have laid the groundwork for a comeback.

On Feb. 11, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office accepted Hwang’s first human embryonic stem cell line called “SooamhES1,” or “NT-1,” which was created while he worked at the Korean university’s lab in the early 2000s.

The patent “Human embryonic stem [ES] cell line prepared by nuclear transfer of a human somatic cell into an enucleated human oocyte” was filed under No. 8,647,872.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer is used in cloning for reproductive or therapeutic purposes.

Canada’s patent office gave a patent to NT-1 in September 2011.

Although the professor claimed in 2004 and 2005 that NT-1 was the first stem cell line that was created through cloning somatic cells, that is still being questioned because parts of his research turned out to have been fabricated.

The professor admitted some misconduct, but he insisted the stem cell technology was real.

Hwang became a national hero for both his stem cell research and for successfully cloning the first dog, whom he named Snuppy. But he was accused of putting pressure on female research assistants to donate their ova and then was found to have falsified stem cell research.

In 2006, Seoul National University ousted the professor for falsifying research and embezzling funds.

In 2009, a court dropped charges of fraud, but Hwang was slapped with a two-year suspended prison term for violating bioethics. Hwang is still appealing the ruling.

In July 2006, Hwang started his own lab named Sooam Bioengineering Research Institute in Yongin, Gyeonggi, with funding from supporters.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]
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