Hwang seeks to open world's stem cell bank in Korea

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Hwang seeks to open world's stem cell bank in Korea

June 17, 2005


Seoul National University professor Hwang Woo-suk looks to open a stem cell bank with a worldwide network in Korea. Hwang made the remarks on May 25 after a government meeting aimed at brewing up multipronged measures to support his cloning research.

"Many international offers have come in since we revealed the customized stem cell research. Included in the proposals is the establishment of a stem cell bank, and we are in consultation with the government on it," the 51-year-old Hwang said.

He added that the envisaged stem cell bank would be headquartered in Korea if his team decides to accept the offer. "After last week's announcement, the world recognizes our leadership in the stem cell sector and because of that, the head office of the stem cell bank would be situated here," he said.

Late last week, the journal Science published that Hwang's team had derived 11 customized stem cell batches from as many patients with spinal cord injuries or other diseases. Scientists said that the medical exploit significantly brightened the prospects of applying the stem cell studies to replacing damaged body tissues with off-the-peg ones.

The stem cell bank would play the role of the international supply sources of the versatile cells, which can develop into any type of cell, tissue and organ in the body. "The bank would store embryonic stem cells harvested from cloned and frozen embryos," Lee Byung-chun, one of Hwang's closest colleagues, said.

In addition, Hwang said he would seek further breakthroughs in his stem cell research via international collaboration with world-renowned teams. "We have already some globally organized research teams. After concluding the worldwide framework this year, we will push for more progress. I hope to lower the curtain of the first act (of the stem cell play) by as early as next autumn," Hwang said.

Asked to provide more details, Hwang refused to elaborate, saying with a smile, "You might be hurt if you try to know too much," a Korean joke blocking further questions

Government Support

Through the May 25 meeting among related ministries, the Korean government also vowed to back every aspect of Hwang's studies.

First, the government will increase the budget geared toward financially underpinning Hwang's stem cell research by 1 billion won to 3 billion won this year.

The construction of a new research facility inside Seoul National University will be continued by channeling 24.5 billion won into the project this year.

A support team will be set up by the state-backed Korea Science and Engineering Foundation to buttress Hwang's attempt to spearhead a global stem cell initiative.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will examine guidelines on stem cell clinical tests to help Hwang apply his potential-laden study to future tests.

In response, Hwang expressed his gratitude for the support package. "I am happy with this plan because it is better than we originally expected. We will recompense this broad-based support by making stem cell therapy practical under the name of Korea," Hwang said.

 

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