What Was a Disgraced Korean Cloning Scientist Doing in Libya?

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Woo Suk Hwang is one of the more disgraced scientists of our times. First, he admitted to using his graduate students' eggs in an attempt to create a stem cell line from a human embryo. Then he admitted that he'd actually faked his research.

But for some reason, as Nature reports, some people in far-flung nations still wanted to work with him. It turns out that he'd been trying to get together a nine-figure biotech research facility in the country. Something's weird here, and we expect to hear more soon.

Now, in the latest twist of the Hwang tale, Korean media is reporting that Libya was trying to nail down a W153 billion (US$1=W1,127) collaboration with Hwang. According to the Korea Times, Hwang traveled to Libya on 10 February to discuss the collaboration.

According to Yonhap news, Hwang has traveled there some 10 times since 2004 and received a retainer of 600,000 euros for collaborating on stem cell research aimed at incurable diseases. The current deal was supposed to include a research center in Libya and the transfer of cloning-related technology from Hwang.

According to the Chosun Ilbo, Hyun Sang-hwan, who directs the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation founded by Hwang, Hwang was to sign a collaborative agreement with a company called DANA Bioscience and Medical Service recently established by Libya. The signing was reportedly canceled and the agreement thrown into jeopardy by the protests there. Reporters spotted Hwang at the Tripoli airport, one of 198 being evacuated by the Korean government.

No doubt this is not the end of the story.

Read the full story at Nature.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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