Another of our researchers once considered to be a pioneering expert in their field before committing career suicide is South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk.
Having already made a name for himself by cloning cows and pigs, Hwang partnered with obstetrician Moon Shin-Yong and turned the focus of his microscope onto human cloning. Within two years, Hwang and Moon reported they had succeeded in cloning human embryos, and that one of these embryos had yielded the holy grail of regenerative medicine, stem cells. A year later, it was announced that the prolific partnership had created 11 individual stem cell lines from cloned embryos.
The wheels of this particular research rollercoaster began to fall off when it was revealed that some of the eggs used had been donated by Hwang’s researchers, violating ethical codes and forcing him to step down from his directorship of the World Stem Cell Hub. Following a tip-off from one of Hwang’s colleagues, an investigation then found that none of the ‘cloned’ stem cells matched their donors and he was fired from Seoul National University.
Hwang’s descent continued. Charges of embezzlement and bioethical violations led to a suspended jail sentence, after which he completed a short stint with a biotech firm specialising in cloning dead pets, and entered into discussions with the Libyan government about building a stem cell research centre near Tripoli, the ‘Pride of Korea’ no longer.