Cloning pioneer disgraced / GM crops chief suspended in job row (24/11/2005)

Earlier this week we had yet more question marks raised over how the biotech business Powederject had been run by Blair crony, and now government minister, Paul Drayson. Here's some more rows from the biotech sector, 2 from today's news:

1.Cloning pioneer disgraced
2.GM crops chief suspended in job row
3.Gene Therapy Pioneer Charged with Child Molestation

FuturaGene - the biotech company at the centre of the second row - although UK based, was formed to protect patents over a series of gene discoveries arising out of work of at three US ag research institutions at the universities of Purdue, Arizona, and Illinois.

1.S Korea cloning pioneer disgraced
Dr Hwang admitted he had misled the magazine Nature
BBC News, 24 November 2005

A cloning pioneer regarded as a hero in his South Korean homeland has resigned and apologised for using human eggs from his own researchers.

Professor Hwang Woo-suk was chairman of the World Stem Cell Hub, which opened this month, based in Seoul.

"I am very sorry that I have to tell the public words that are too shameful and horrible," he announced publicly.

International medical standards warn against using eggs from researchers who may be vulnerable to pressure.

However, the health ministry in Seoul insists that he is not guilty of any moral or legal wrongdoing, as the eggs were given voluntarily, without the professor's knowledge, and before South Korea introduced a bioethics law in January.

Dr Hwang, 52, gained worldwide fame after producing the world's first cloned human embryos and stem cells tailored to be used on individuals.

Human cloning science offers the possibility that stem cells harvested from cloned embryos could be used to treat diseases like Parkinson's, diabetes and heart disease.

Dr Hwang's breakthrough was seen as particularly important as the stem cells he created were a perfect match for the patient, which could mean treatments without the risk of the body rejecting them.

However, opponents argue that creating and experimenting with human embryos is unethical.

Paid for eggs

Earlier this month Gerald Schatten, a prominent American colleague of Dr Hwang, broke off their collaboration saying he was concerned by the way the group procured human eggs.

When the medical journal Nature pressed Dr Hwang in 2004 about the origin of the eggs, he denied they had been donated by his own researchers.

At a press conference on Thursday he admitted he had not told the truth.

Dr Hwang said when two women on his team offered their own eggs he turned them down.

Later, the women donated their eggs under false names, without his permission.

When asked about this he investigated, and was told about the provenance of the eggs, but lied to Nature because of a "strong request by the researchers to protect their privacy", he said.

South Korea's health ministry also admitted that other women were paid thousands of dollars for their eggs, though this took place without Dr Hwang's knowledge and before a new law outlawed trading in human eggs.

Egg shortage

The professor said he was resigning from all public posts, including his chairmanship of the World Stem Cell Hub, which is designed to produce stem cell lines for disease research worldwide.

"It is my way of seeking repentance," he said.

Dr Hwang led the project that led to the creation of cloned dog Snuppy.

He added he would continue his research at Seoul National University.

"I again sincerely apologise for having stirred concern at home and abroad," he said.

"Being too focused on scientific development, I may not have seen all the ethical issues related to my research.

"We needed a lot of ova [eggs] for the research but there were not enough ova around," Dr Hwang said, explaining why standards may have slipped.

The research conducted by his team requires large numbers of human eggs, which are difficult to obtain.


The revelations have shaken fellow scientists.

"We are saddened by the confusion that has arisen in Korea and the distress that has been caused to those concerned," said British professors Ian Wilmut and Christopher Shaw.

There are no international laws governing the use of cells and embryos, but scientists said a tough regulatory climate - like that in force in the UK - could prevent such abuses or misunderstandings.

"The excellent research carried out by Hwang and his team must continue, but in a way that considers the ethics in an appropriate way," said Prof Robin Lovell-Badge of the UK's National Institute for Medical Research.

2.GM crops chief suspended in job row
By Stephen Foley
The Independent, 24 November 2005

The chief executive of FuturaGene, the genetically modified crops group, was suspended yesterday after refusing to accept a demotion.

Non-executives at a highly charged board meeting suggested Bruno Ruggiero, the Italian biologist who founded FuturaGene in 2001, should move to a new post of chief scientific officer because of concerns raised about corporate governance.

Dr Ruggiero refused to agree to the move, and the company announced instead he "has been suspended with immediate effect pending an internal review".

FuturaGene has developed modified tomatoes and rice which, by boosting the expression of certain genes, can be made to better withstand environmental stress, including extreme temperatures, drought and build-ups of salt in the soil. Its shares fell 11 per cent on investor concerns about what the review might uncover, but the company's advisers insisted there was no suggestion of financial or scientific impropriety.

"Bruno is an entrepreneur who has run the company entrepreneurially," one source said. "It is an internal communications issue. The non-executives are uncomfortable with the information flows they were receiving."

The company gave no guidance on how long the investigation may continue, but warned that the Thanksgiving holiday would delay its start. Its shares fell 11.5p to 92.5p.

FuturaGene shares have halved since the start of the year, as investors await technology licensing deals that could bring in cash to mitigate its start-up losses. University trials of its super-crops have been positive, the company has said, but it is likely to be five years until produce is cleared for human use.

3.Gene Therapy Pioneer Charged with Child Molestation
July 30, 2004
Contacts: Joe Scott, Director of Communications
Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer
Jane Robison, News Secretary
(213) 974-3525

LOS ANGELES – The District Attorney’s office has filed a criminal complaint against a nationally-known gene therapy scientist accused of molesting a young girl over a four-year period starting in early 1997, it was announced today.

The felony complaint for arrest warrant was announced after today’s arrest of William French Anderson, 67 (dob 12-31-1936). It was filed yesterday.

Anderson was taken into custody when search warrants were served at his San Marino home and his office in the Gene Therapy Laboratories at USC. Anderson is the director of the Gene Therapy Laboratories at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

Anderson remains in custody on $6 million bail and is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Department D of Pasadena Superior Court. He is charged in case No. GA 058249 with one count of continuous sexual abuse (Section 288.5(a) of the California Penal Code) of a child under the age of 14 and five counts of lewd act upon a child (Section 288 (a)) under the age of 14. The victim, a girl, is now 17, authorities said.

The complaint alleged the continuous sexual abuse occurred between March 1 and Sept. 30, 1999. The other crimes, according to the complaint, occurred variously between January 1997 and December 2001. Deputy District Attorney Catherine Brougham, who is prosecuting the case, said the alleged crimes occurred at Anderson’s home.

Authorities said he coached the child in Karate.

The case was investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and deputies made the arrest today at the defendant’s home. Anderson faces possible maximum sentence of 56 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He remains in custody.


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