Sat, Jan 28, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Prominent scientist in Japan may have fabricated findings

SICK SCIENCE In a case mirroring Seoul's cloning scandal, Kazunari Taira is suspected of fabricating results on a potential medical breakthrough

AFP , TOKYO

A panel at one of Japan's top universities said yesterday a prominent scientist likely fabricated papers on a potential medical breakthrough, in a case mirroring South Korea's cloning scandal.

Kazunari Taira, a professor at the University of Tokyo's Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, wrote that he succeeded in producing a human enzyme inside E.coli bacteria for the first time.

The research, published in journals including Britain's prestigious Nature, could open new possibilities for treatment of diseases.

But the panel in a final report on the allegations said it could not back up Taira's findings and decided to close his laboratory. The university plans a disciplinary committee to consider further action.

The panel said that the results in Taira's papers could not be reproduced during experiments.

"Professor Taira has damaged the trust and honor of the University of Tokyo," Kimihiko Hirao, head of the department, told a news conference with the panel members.

"We cannot deny the suspicion that he fabricated them," Hirao said. "It is frustrating to allow sick science to run rampant."

Taira, 53, denied the allegations. He has earlier published a correction to the methods section of his paper in Nature.

"There were some minor mistakes in the papers, but these were not significant enough to rock the results themselves," Taira said.

The allegations mirrored South Korea's science scandal embroiling Hwang Woo-suk, who had once been a national hero for his claims of pioneering cloning.

Hwang, who had published in the US journal Science, has sunk into disgrace with a panel finding last month that his research data was fabricated.

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