The Scientist discusses scientific fraud. IPBiz notes implications for patents.
Recent years have seen a spate of scientific scandals. Whether this is due to an increase in dishonesty or foul play in the lab or simply closer attention to the issue, research misconduct is now squarely in the public eye.
Scientific scandals come in all shapes and sizes and can result from the actions of lab members at any level. While misconduct cases involving principal investigators garner the most attention, lab heads are not the only ones engaging in wrongdoing; sometimes technicians, research assistants, postdocs, or even students in their laboratory are to blame. Despite the variety of research misconduct cases, similarities exist across these scandals, and upon closer examination it may be possible to identify patterns that provide clues for how to recognize and prevent misconduct in the future.
The author, John Reed Thomas, did not mention the the South Korean stem cell fraud involving Hwang Woo Suk (see the paper by LBE, Analyzing Innovation the Right Way, 88 JPTOS 239), but did mention the Japanese problem at Riken-->
One of the most significant scientific scandals of 2014 was the unraveling of the groundbreaking stem cell research of Haruko Obokata at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan. She had claimed to have discovered that stimulus-triggered activation of pluripotency (STAP) could endow mature mouse cells with some of the characteristics of embryonic stem cells. Upon closer examination, however, a review committee at RIKEN began to uncover problems. Obokata had swapped one gel lane in a figure for another, and a separate image was swapped from a different experiment entirely. Obokata’s lab notebooks were also missing dates and other basic information. Several reports published in Nature this fall appeared to confirm that the STAP phenomenon was bogus.
As IPBiz had noted, patents were involved in the RIKEN fraud:
According to a RIKEN representative cited in Science, patent applications pertaining to the STAP technique may be withdrawn, and research funds accepted by RIKEN may be returned to the Japanese government. RIKEN, which has already announced reorganization plans in the scandal’s wake, may countenance additional administrative changes to curb scientific misconduct.
As to patent applications, note PCT/US2013/037996 , with inventors Charles A. Vacanti, Martin P. Vacanti, Koji Kojima, Haruko OBOKATA, Teruhiko Wakayama, Yoshiki Sasai, Masayuki Yamato, .
A few weeks later [after the retraction in July], one of the paper’s co-authors, Yoshiki Sasai, took his own life. "
see IPBiz post titled GEN mentions possible withdrawal of patent applications in STAP controversy
The topic of patents in the Hwang Woo-Suk fraud received a flutter of notice from the New York Times in 2014 in
the post Disgraced Scientist Granted U.S. Patent for Work Found to be Fraudulent
The patent, No. 8,647,872, which was issued Tuesday, covers a human embryonic cell line derived through cloning and the methods for creating that line. It appears to be the cell line that was the subject of the first Science paper.
As IPBiz noted, the claims of the patent were directed to Hwang Woo-Suk's specific cell line. See for example:
As a second point, the first claim of US 8,647,872, with second named inventor Woo-Suk Hwang, recites
An embryonic stem cell line derived from a nucleus-transferred oocyte prepared by transferring a nucleus of a human somatic cell into an enucleated human oocyte, which is a cell line deposited under the accession number KCLRF-BP-00092.
The claim requires that the embryonic cell line be derived from the cell line deposited under accession number KCLRF-BP-00092. A cell line not so derived does not fall within the literal scope of claim 1. If someone wants to claim stem cell lines derived from a fraudulent stem line, and pay for the prosecution, that's up to them.
Now that Hwang's US patent has issued, the cell line is available to the public for investigation.
This issue of The Scientist also contains the article titled Self Correction
What to do when you realize your publication is fatally flawed