July 3, 2022

CALIFORNIA’S STEM CELL SCANDAL

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the tax-payer funded body which will dispense US$3 billion for stem cell research, is red-faced over a grant to a nearly unknown Los Angeles institute. Last month the Institute doled out $75 million in research grants, mainly to major universities. But it also awarded $2.6 million to Jang-Won Lee, of the CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute.

CHA was founded by a South Korean fertility speciality Kwang-Yul Cha. It turns out that Dr Cha is battling allegations of plagiarising a junior researcher’s doctorate and publishing it in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Another problem faced by CHA is that its medical director, Dr Thomas Kim, has been accused of seducing a patient. He is also accused of lying to her about the number of eggs which were extracted, which prompted her to go on for further unnecessary treatment.

The Sacramento Bee pointed out in an editorial that neither allegation directly affects the researcher who received the grant. Calls to rescind it should be resisted, it said. But as Marcy Darnovksy, of the Center for Genetics and Society, observed, “Being that the CHA conglomerate has both a fertility centre and this experimental research arm, how are you going to make sure there aren’t conflicts of interest there between the medical people who are actually extracting the eggs and giving the hormones and the researchers?”