Monday, January 09, 2006

Philadelphia Inquirer on Schatten: Jan. 9, 2006

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an article on Hwang co-author Schatten in the Jan. 9, 2006 issue. The Inquirer does not note that reporters for MBC were aggressively questioning a Hwang co-author (who went to Schatten's group in Pittsburgh) about fraud in the May 2005 paper on October 20, 2005. The Inquirer does not note that Schatten had filed a US patent application in 2004, acknowledging federal funding support.

Schatten has declined to comment until later this month, when a Pitt panel completes its own investigation, a university spokeswoman said.
Supporters and colleagues said they were confident that Schatten had had nothing to do with faking evidence. They contended he was deceived by researchers thousands of miles away. He has said previously that he did not conduct the experiments described in the paper.
But the controversy is nevertheless a bitter blow for the ambitious Pennsylvania scientist, an ever-churning dynamo who once said he had trouble relaxing on a beach.
He is best known among colleagues as a tireless networker who thrives on bringing together scientists of all ages and nationalities.
Perhaps his highest-profile bond was forged with the disputed paper's lead author, Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk - a man idolized by everyday citizens on the streets of Seoul.
The two seemed like family in October at the announcement of an international stem-cell research partnership, said Laurie S. Zoloth, cochair of the ethics committee of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
"They would hug each other and say, 'We are brothers,' and they both seemed to genuinely mean it," said Zoloth, a Northwestern University bioethicist. "They would call each other 'My best friend.' "
His relationships with colleagues haven't always been friendly. Before he was lured to Pitt in 2001, Schatten tried to work with cloning expert Don Wolf at Oregon Health & Science University. The partnership fell apart after several months, and the two began working on separate floors, at times duplicating efforts in their quest to clone monkeys.
Pitt officials wanted Schatten because his monkey research was a less controversial way to enter a politically charged field, said former associate vice chancellor Ronald Herberman, who helped recruit him.
President Bush had said no federal research funds could be spent on studying human embryonic stem cells, other than the handful already in existence. There were no such restrictions, on the other hand, with monkeys.
"This seemed to be a very attractive way for the institution to get heavily involved in this area without needing to worry or be impeded by the controversy," said Herberman, now director of Pitt's cancer institute. [IPBiz note: the Inquirer does not note that the scope of Schatten's patent application extends to humans and is NOT limited to monkeys.]
Schatten arrived with a research team of 24 and $13 million in funding, and was named head of a new research center specializing in reproductive biology.
But still, he struggled to clone monkeys. The techniques that had worked with livestock, such as those that produced Dolly the sheep, were proving difficult to duplicate with primates.
In early 2003, a company affiliated with the quasireligious group called the Raelians claimed to have cloned human babies, and Schatten was among many scientists who scoffed at the claim.
Then, in early 2004, Schatten started collaborating with Hwang, who claimed to be able to clone human cells.
"As soon as he met Dr. Hwang and heard about what he was doing, or claimed to be doing, in Seoul," Herberman said, "it's easy for me to see that he would be very attracted to trying to understand what differences in technology or approach had been working."
Barely a year later, he and Hwang submitted their paper to Science, describing how cloned embryos had been created by putting the DNA from 11 human patients into unfertilized eggs.
While Schatten has said he did not do the experiments, a Pitt news release at the time suggests that he played a significant role - calling him "an advisor to the Korean lab for the purposes of data analysis, interpretation and preparation of an English-language manuscript." [IPBiz note: see also Note 32 of the paper in Science, 308 Science at page 1783.]
Several months later, the two joined in announcing the world's first cloned dog, in the British journal Nature.
Things began to unravel in November, when junior Korean researchers said they had donated eggs for Hwang's research, a practice that is considered an ethics violation. Schatten announced that he was severing ties with Hwang.

The Inquirer also notes:

While one of the Korean coauthors, Roh Sung Il, has told Korean news media that Schatten was involved in the fabrication, his U.S. colleagues say otherwise.
Tanja Dominko, a cell biologist who worked with Schatten in Oregon, said it was easy to imagine how he could be unaware of any deception.
"When you really don't have daily or weekly involvement in what's going on in the lab, you really rely on the honesty and straightforwardness of the scientists you are working with," she said.

IPBiz note: Roh Sung Il has said that ONLY Hwang and Schatten wrote the paper submitted to Science on March 15, 2005. At that time, as Hwang has admitted, ONLY 8 (not the 11 of the paper) cell lines existed. Schatten was the middleman between Hwang and Science dealing with the figure problem. The journal Science has acknowledged that there was a problem with the figures as they were submitted on March 15, 2005.


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