Congress Discusses Schatten’s Possible Fraudulent Stem Cell Research Grant

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 8, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congress Discusses Schatten’s Possible Fraudulent Stem Cell Research Grant

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 8, 2006

Washington, DC ( — During a Congressional subcommittee hearing on the fraudulent embryonic stem cell research promoted by a team of South Korean scientists, lawmakers discussed the possibility that an American member of the team used the work as a basis for a large federal research grant.

The committee was unable to determine if University of Pittsburgh scientist Gerald Schatten relied on the fake embryonic stem cell research to obtain a $16 million federal grant.

Chris Pascal, director of the Office of Research Integrity, told the panel he couldn’t comment on whether federal investigators are looking into the issue or not.

"Due to … confidentiality constraints, I cannot admit or deny specifics," he told the panel.

However, Marc Wheat, staff director and chief counsel of the House committee, said it is waiting for information it has requested from the National Institute of Health before deciding whether to take any action about the grant.

"If they gave a lot of money based on fraudulent research, that could be problematic," Wheat told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

In September, Schatten received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. He plans to use the federal money for a research program that will occupy four of the seven floors of the Magee-Womens Research Institute building.

The director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, Arthur Caplan, told the Tribune-Review that Pitt officials should question whether Schatten should still be eligible for grants, based upon the fact that Hwang, Schatten’s research partner, has been discredited.

A University of Pittsburgh panel has recommended that university officials discipline Schatten in connection with an article he published in the journal Science, based on Hwang’s falsified research. However, the panel did not accuse Schatten of misconduct.

The Pittsburgh newspaper said Schatten was unavailable for comment.

Schatten and his research team want to study federally approved human embryonic stem cell lines. However, a number of bioethicists say that such experiments are unethical, since they involve the killing of human embryos. Also, to date, embryonic stem cell research has resulted in no successful therapies for treating diseases.

In sharp contrast, adult stem cell research, which does not involve embryo killing, has been vastly successful in producing successful treatments.

Meanwhile, South Korean government officials are still trying to get Schatten to respond to a list of questions it wants answered as it investigates the fraudulent research and allegations that Hwang’s team embezzled millions of dollars in private and public funds.

The Korean Herald reported that the government sent a prosecutor, Park Eun seok, on Monday to make personal contact with Schatten since he has refused to respond to calls and emails.

"We haven’t yet received contact from the investigator, nor have we been able to reach Dr. Schatten," prosecutor Lee In gyu, told the Herald.

"If he doesn’t reply, there will be some insufficiencies in the probe, but I guess we will still have to wrap up the probe as it is," Lee added.