Newsmakers

Science  27 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5760, pp. 467
  1. Misconduct

    CREDIT: LEE JAE-WON/REUTERS

    Grounded and canceled. With the unraveling of the Korean cloning scandal, stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang has lost his title as the country's “top scientist,” $3 million in government funding, and police protection. Now the Seoul National University professor is losing another privilege earned through his fraudulent research claims: free travel on the nation's flagship airline, Korean Air.

    Last June, after Hwang published his now-discredited paper in Science claiming that he'd cloned patient-specific embryonic stem cells, the company said he and his wife could fly first class, for free, for 10 years to promote his research (Science, 1 July 2005, p. 49). Although the offer hasn't been officially withdrawn, Korean Air spokesperson Seo Dong-il told The Korea Times last week that Hwang had effectively been grounded. “Because his stem cell research was found to be fabricated and there are no cloned stem cells at all, he will not be able to meet the preset conditions of research-purpose trips,” the newspaper quoted Dong-il as saying. Hwang isn't likely to need an overseas ticket anytime soon: Korean prosecutors have forbidden him from leaving the country.

    CREDIT: LEE JAE-WON/REUTERS

    To add to his ignominy, Korea's postal service has decided to end sales of stamps issued last year in honor of Hwang's achievements. The stamp shows a man springing out of his wheelchair, presumably after receiving cloned stem cells to treat his spinal cord injury.

  2. Awards

    CREDIT: GRACE GREGORIO
    CREDIT: JSTF

    Japan Prizes. Weather and cholesterol were on the minds of the Japan Prize judges this year.

    John Houghton (top), an atmospheric physicist at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter, U.K., was honored in the “Global Change” category for developing satellite-based remote-sensing techniques for mapping atmospheric temperatures in three dimensions and tracking the distribution and circulation of ozone, methane, and water vapor.

    For his role in discovering and developing statins, a key component of cholesterol-lowering drugs, Akira Endo (bottom) of Biopharm Research Laboratories in Tokyo won for “Development of Novel Therapeutic Concepts and Technologies.” The judges said Endo's work has helped those with atherosclerotic vascular diseases, a leading cause of death in developed countries. Each winner receives $450,000.

    European Honor. A Finnish cancer biologist and a French geneticist have been named winners of the 2006 medicine prize awarded by the Louis-Jeantet Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland. Kari Alitalo, a professor at the Finnish Academy of Sciences in Helsinki, receives the prize for his discovery of a growth factor involved in the formation of lymphatic vessels, and Christine Petit, a professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, wins the award for identifying the genes responsible for hereditary deafness. The two will share a research award of $1 million and take home an individual prize of $90,000 each.

    Public Service. Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., has been awarded the Public Welfare Medal by the National Academy of Sciences. The 70-year-old aeronautical engineer receives the honor for helping the U.S. government and industry understand the role of fundamental research in the country's “long-term security and economic prosperity.”

  3. Nonprofit World

    CREDIT: REUTERS

    Well-trod Path. John Boslego next week becomes the third senior vaccine developer at Merck & Co. to pack his bags and join a nonprofit. Boslego, who heads the company's clinical research on vaccines and other biologics, is going to direct vaccine development at PATH, a Seattle, Washington-based organization with close ties to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “It's an opportunity to do something broader in the vaccine arena,” says Boslego, 57.

    Boslego hopes to contract with biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop a much-needed vaccine for poor countries that protects against pneumococcus, a bacteria that causes severe pneumonia in children and kills as many as 1 million each year. Although a pneumococcal vaccine already exists for children, it's expensive, difficult to produce, and has limited effectiveness against bacterial strains in many poor countries.

    Boslego follows Emilio Emini, who stepped down as director of Merck's HIV vaccine effort in 2004 to work at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (which he subsequently left for Wyeth), and Jerald Sadoff, who gave up another top vaccine job at Merck in 2003 to head the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation.

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