Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Sad Tale of Stem Cell Conflicts?

By now we all know about the Korean egg flap, but Bloomberg News offers a special insight about previously unreported possible conflicts of interest involving the scientist whose actions precipitated the disclosure of the Korean matter.

Here is what the report by John Lauerman and Heejin Koo says:

"The public furor arose after former colleague Gerald Schatten, a University of Pittsburgh stem cell researcher, ended his 20-month collaboration with Hwang. Schatten said he had learned there might be truth to charges Hwang had used egg cells that were unethically obtained.
"Schatten asked Hwang for a half share in the patent for patient-specific stem cell cloning six weeks before his withdrawal from the project, South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported yesterday. Hwang's World Stem Cell Hub spokesman Sung Myung Whun declined to confirm or deny the report.
"'We feel that it is inappropriate to comment on the report at this time,' Sung said at a press conference held at the institute in Seoul today."

The article continued, "Michele Baum, a University of Pittsburgh spokeswoman, said she didn't have any information about the patent issue. Schatten wasn't immediately available for comment."

This is a sad business. We assume all involved are well-meaning individuals, but perhaps they are not. Nonetheless, it reflects poorly on stem cell research wherever it occurs.

What it means for the California stem cell agency is disclosure, disclosure, disclosure and more disclosure. If that is uncomfortable for some in the scientific community, so what? CIRM is the single largest source of stem cell funding research funding in the world. If the activities of some researchers can't stand the light of day, they should move on. The California stem cell agency does not have to play the good-old-boy game.

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