by Steven Ertelt
June 26, 2006
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — Disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk is planning to resume animal cloning and possibly embryonic stem cell research work, according to his attorney. Hwang became the center of an international scandal when his research team was caught fabricating the entirety of its embryonic stem cell research and he is on trial for possibly embezzling research funds.
Hwang has not been in a laboratory since he left his position at Seoul National University in December.
Hwang’s team claimed to have cloned both a human embryo and patient-specific embryonic stem cells that could overcome rejection issues. They published their papers in the scientific journal Nature but both claims were found fraudulent and the papers revoked.
Despite the problems, Hwang has a strong following still in South Korea and his supporters have apparently fronted the money to get a new lab up and running, according to Lee Geon-haeng, Hwang’s lawyer.
"It is Dr. Hwang’s belief that the only way to reclaim his honor and repay the people who have helped him, and win their forgiveness, is to produce accomplishments in research," Lee told Reuters.
The new lab would be located in Seoul but Lee didn’t provide a more specific venue.
Lee indicated the lab will be funded with private dollars, since Hwang is ineligible to receive public funding thanks to the scandal. He also said some of the same researchers who worked with Hwang before may become a part of his new team.
However, Hwang may have a hard time coming up with enough funding to conduct any cloning or embryonic stem cell research and because of the previous fraud he won’t likely have much success in getting prestigious scientific journals to publish his work.
Yet, because of his international notoriety, Hwang would likely receive media attention on any research claims he makes.
But, first, Hwang has to overcome an indictment by the South Korean government on charges that he embezzled millions of public and private research dollars. If convicted, he could face years in jail.
Meanwhile, the South Korean government stripped Hwang of a national honor he had received. Hwang will lose his Order of Science and Technology Merit Changjo Medal in July, according to Min Jin-kee, a government official.
Last year the Asian nation passed a law stating criminals can be stripped of state honors.