Japanese institute may pursue charges against disgraced biologist

Japanese institute may pursue charges against disgraced biologist
Haruko Obokata

OSAKA - The Riken research institute may file a criminal complaint against an ex-staffer accused of scientific misconduct and charge her for the expense of discredited stem cell studies.

Haruko Obokata resigned last December, but the government-backed institute said Tuesday that it was in effect firing her retroactively. The decision, handed down by an in-house disciplinary committee, carries no substantive penalties.

Obokata was notified of the action and has 10 days to request an appeal. But a lawyer representing her said that, generally speaking, such decisions are not appealed.

The research at issue purported to describe stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, under which some types of stress would make adult cells revert to an embryonic state. Teruhiko Wakayama, who co-authored papers on STAP with Obokata, was effectively put on retroactive leave by Riken for failing to properly verify data in the papers. Wakayama has told the University of Yamanashi that he intends to resign as head of the Advanced Biotechnology Center.

Masatoshi Takeichi, who led the research centre to which Obokata belonged, was reprimanded. Another co-author, Hitoshi Niwa, received a written warning.

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