South Korea Revokes Hwang Woo-Suk’s Stem Cell Research License

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 16, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Revokes Hwang Woo-Suk’s Stem Cell Research License Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 16, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — The South Korean government Thursday stripped disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk of his license to conduct embryonic stem cell research. The decision comes after months of investigations and revelations about his team’s fabricating the results of embryonic stem cell research studies supposedly showing major advances.

The Health Ministry revoked Hwang’s license even though it is still conducting its own investigation into whether Hwang embezzled millions of dollars in public and private funds meant for the research.

As a result of the decision, there is no research lab in the country that is now allowed to conduct embryonic stem cell research — Hwang had received the only license to do so.

South Korea had pinned its hopes on Hwang to propel the country to international prominence in the research community and an international stem cell bank had been planned.

The government indicated Hwang would not be allowed to use human eggs for research and could not conduct experiments on human embryos.

"This is an inevitable measure as a clear defect has arisen in the requirement for research permission under the life ethics law due to the cancellation of the 2004 paper," the health ministry said, according to an AP report.

Hwang’s team claimed in two papers published in the medical journal Science to have cloned a human embryo and created patient-specific embryonic stem cells that would overcome a patient’s immune system rejecting implants of them.

Both claims would have taken embryonic stem cell research to a new height. Instead, the unethical research is still many years away from ever helping any patients, if ever. On the other hand, adult stem cells have already been used to derive 80 treatments for various diseases and conditions.

The government said because Hwang did not publish any credible medical journal articles, he should not be allowed to keep his license.

"With the withdrawal of the (2004) paper by Science, a legal deficiency arose, and the revocation of the research license was inevitable," the health ministry said.

The government said the nature of the extensiveness of the scandal and fraud made it so Hwang would not likely ever be allowed to published in any respectable medical journal.