Aussies may back up alleged cloning technology

Australia’s intellectual property protection organization is on the brink of granting a patent to disgraced stem cell scientist Woo-suk Hwang on his alleged technology of cloning human embryos.

IP Australia is currently reviewing the patent; its original deadline of approval was 25 Sept., but announced on 24 Sept. that the government agency postponed the deadline.

Although the agency is not elaborating on details of the backtrack, it says that information relating to the falsification of research results involving Hwang were related to “issues of utiliy” and not matter that could be objected to.

“There is statutory basis to refuse to grant a patent on the basis that the scientific data in a patent application is a misrepresentation or fraudulently obtained,” said David Johnson, Acting Commissioner of Patents. “However, it is a ground for revocation by the Court. In accepting the application in question, IP Australia is not endorsing the research that underpins the application.”

The patent application relates to a human embryonic stem cell line generated by the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer. Seoul National University Industry Foundation applied for the patent and Hwang is one of the 18 inventors.

Hwang claimed breakthroughs in embryonic stem cell cloning and later customization of the technology for patient-specific research, but they were found to be based on fraud data in 2005. While admitting to the forgery of data, Hwang insisted that the technology was real and later applied for patents in ten countries, none of which have been granted yet.

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