by Steven Ertelt
May 30, 2006
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — Embattled scientist Hwang Woo-suk says he wants to resume embryonic stem cell research even though he became an international disgrace when his team’s research was found to be completely fraudulent. He still faces potential jail time as a result of allegations of widespread embezzlement of public and private research funds.
Still, one of Hwang’s attorneys, Lee Geon-haen, says Hwang has expressed hope in resuming his research someday.
"Hwang expressed the hope when he visited a ceremony marking the opening of a law firm Friday," Lee told the Yonhap news agency.
Asked about specifics of the kind of research Hwang might conduct, Lee said, "I cannot say because there is nothing specific."
Hwang and some of his top colleagues were indicted earlier this month by South Korean prosecutors and charged with fraud, embezzlement and violating bioethics rules. Five members of Hwang’s team were indicted, including one scientist who worked in the laboratory of University of Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Schatten, a former collaborator with Hwang.
Hwang was charged with accepting $2 million in donations after he knowingly falsified the embryonic stem cell research by claiming his team had produced a cloned human embryo and cloned patient-specific embryonic stem cells.
If convicted, Hwang could spend as much as 10 years in jail.
Prosecutor Lee In-kyu also said Hwang embezzled $900,000 in private and government donations to the research. After getting more than $35 billion in research funds from the government and private donors, South Korean prosecutors say Hwang misused much of the money by laundering it through 63 bank accounts set up under false names.
Lee indicated Hwang’s team also paid for human eggs for research, which is a violation of the nation’s bioethics laws.
Ultimately, Lee said the fraud and violations hurt those who were placing their hopes in the unproven research to find cures.
Hwang and his team "indelibly hurt the people as well as the families and patients of hard-to-cure diseases," Lee said. "Some scientists abused the people’s high expectations and a lack of peer reviews and disregarded ethics of research to attain their own goals."
Though prosecutors accepted Hwang’s claim that his junior researchers misled him into thinking the stem cells had been cloned, Hwang "fabricated most of the data" to exaggerate his research team’s success.
Lee reconfirmed the results of a Seoul National University study that indicated all of Hwang’s team’s claims about human cloning and embryonic stem cell research successes were false.
Other researchers were charged with fraud and tampering with research samples, and another with bioethics violations. Neither Hwang nor the other researchers were arrested.
Hwang’s team published the results of the research in two papers in the scientific journal Nature, which has since revoked them after learning they were fraudulent.