Joining the public denouncement of discredited geneticist Hwang Woo-suk, a prominent Korean bioengineer has asked that Dr. Hwang not be permitted to use his creations without prior approval.
Kim Yoon Berm is the creator of the aseptic pig, an animal engineered to accept human organ transplants. Dr. Kim sent a letter asking Lee Wang-jae and Wang Kyu-chang, heads of the research department at Seoul National University¡¯s College of Medicine, to ban Dr. Hwang from using aseptic pigs for research without prior permission.
Dr. Kim, a graduate of Seoul National University and currently a professor at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, had previously donated aseptic pigs to Dr. Hwang for his studies on growing human organs in pigs. In March of 2003, Dr. Kim invited Dr. Hwang¡¯s colleague Professor Lee Byung-cheon to the United States and gave him 40 somatic cells from aseptic pig embryos.
In 2004, Dr. Kim donated 24 complete aseptic pigs. Currently Seoul National University¡¯s bioengineering lab under Dr. Hwang has about 80 aseptic pigs. The pigs weigh about 100 kilograms (220 pounds).
Recent revelations have caused him to doubt that the pigs would be used for a ¡°good purpose,¡± Dr. Kim wrote, and he asked to be informed in writing about how Dr. Hwang would use the pigs in the future, whether for research or mating.
Meanwhile, the Board of Audit and Inspection said it would expand its investigation into government support of Dr. Hwang¡¯s research to include all of the Seoul National veterinarian¡¯s grants. Previously the investigation had only concerned grant money for stem cell research. The research subsidies included 2 billion won ($2 million) for studies on cloning cows with genes for high milk production and 4.3 billion won toward the development of cows resistant to mad cow disease.
The special investigative team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office also said yesterday that it would summon for questioning six key researchers from Dr. Hwang¡¯s team at Seoul National University and from MizMedi Hospital sometime today.
by Wohn Dong-hee for JD