Former Hwang Partner Wants to Patent Human Cloning Process

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Former Hwang Partner Wants to Patent Human Cloning Process Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 7, 2006

Pittsburgh, PA ( — A scientist who was the former top partner of Hwang Woo-suk and a member of the research team that fabricated its embryonic stem cell research is pressing for the U.S. government to approve a patient he’s applied for on human cloning.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Schatten wants to patent the process of cloning human embryos and embryonic stem cells without crediting his former research partners.

Hwang’s team made two key claims — that it had successfully cloned human embryos and that it had successfully cloned patient-specific embryonic stem cells that could overcome rejection issues.

The latter claim has proven false and Seoul National University is preparing to release the results of its investigation into the former.

Still, Schatten is pressing ahead and his application at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, which he filed in April 2004, is still pending.

According to a Pittsburgh Tribune Review article, Schatten and fellow scientists Calvin Simerly and Christopher Navara say their methods could make human cloning "a practical procedure," the application says. The methods could also be used to create embryonic stem cells.

Schatten was a co-author of the Science paper Hwang’s team authored that has now been revoked and he has also come under investigation from Pitt.

Neither Pitt nor Schatten would respond to the Pittsburgh newspaper for comment on the patent application. Simerly and Navara also declined comment, the Tribune Review reported.

Merrill Goozman, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group, told the Pittsburgh newspaper that the methods Schatten used to help Hwang’s team engage in human cloning were funded in part by the National Institutes of Health to the tune of $1.8 million.

"I think that it is outrageous that the University of Pittsburgh refuses to discuss its patent claims on a technology that was funded by the U.S. taxpayers," he said in response.

The patent request could spark international controversy. Hwang insists that the human embryo cloning process works despite the falsified data and he insists the rights to it belong to the South Korean team. The team filed for an international patent in December 2004 and Schatten is not listed on that patient, the Tribune Review indicated.