Disgraced Cloning Pioneer Could Keep His Patents  
1/18/2006 12:51:55 PM

A patent application, filed by disgraced stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang and colleagues and based on work now admitted to be fabricated, may nevertheless be granted, a New Scientist investigation has found. Furthermore, the filing of the application could present a substantial obstacle to anyone seeking future patents in the same field. The application was filed on 30 December 2003 by Hwang, along with 19 other researchers at Seoul National University. SNU has publicly apologised for Hwang’s misconduct, but it has not said whether it will voluntarily abandon all patents. University president Un-Chan Chung had not responded to New Scientist’s question on this at the time of publication. Hwang's patent submission (in pdf format) stakes a claim in over 120 countries for a legal monopoly on the broad concept of “an embryonic stem cell (ESC) line derived from a nucleus-transferred oocyte prepared by transferring a nucleus of a human somatic cell into an enucleated human oocyte”. Or, in simple terms, an ESC line derived from a cloned human embryo – a technique which, if achieved, could prove crucial to future therapeutic cloning methods. In support of the claim, the application details experimental methods and cites a sample ESC line deposited with the Korean Cell Line Research Foundation. The sample, number KCLRF-BP-00092, has since been discredited by the SNU Investigation Committee set up to investigate Hwang's work. The committee's report was published on 10 January.