South Korean scientists lead by Professor Woo Suk Hwang announced the creation of World Stem Cell Foundation. It will be headquartered at Seoul National University with satellite laboratories in Oxford and San Francisco.

Professor Hwang is considered the leading authority in somatic cell nuclear transfer or therapeutic cloning. His laboratory was first to clone a dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy. He and his colleagues also successfully cloned human stem cells and created disease specific embryonic stem cell lines without fertilised embryos.

The new venture is intended to accelerate international progress in in stem cell research by bypassing ethical and regulatory constraints in the United States, according to Dr. Susan Okie.

“Korea is being very entrepreneurial, not just in creating novel stem cells but in how they’re marketing and doing business,” added Paul Sanberg, director of the Center for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. “The [Korean] government is putting significant amounts of money into it. I think Korea sees that it can be a global player.”

All three sites will harvest ova from local donors and do therapeutic cloning at the satellite laboratories. They will then take the cells to the main laboratory in Seoul for development into embryonic stem cell lines.

The foundation expects to develop as many as 100 cell lines each year. The lines will not be patented.

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