updated 3/20/2006 12:45:43 PM ET 2006-03-20T17:45:43

Disgraced cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk was fired Monday from South Korea’s most prestigious university — a professional death blow to the academic who stunned the medical world with groundbreaking research that later was found to have been faked.

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Seoul National University decided to fire the 53-year-old scientist following a disciplinary meeting, saying he and his co-workers caused the school to lose honor. Six other professors who worked with Hwang were either suspended or had their salaries cut, the school said.

Last month, the school suspended Hwang from teaching and conducting research as an interim disciplinary measure, but he had remained a professor.

“The professors fundamentally abandoned honesty and sincerity ... and caused the fall in the school’s honor and the country’s international confidence,” the university said Monday in a statement.

Byun Chang-ku, dean of the school’s academic affairs, said the committee decided to fire Hwang because he “took overall responsibility as the lead author and played a leading role in writing the papers with fake facts and data.”

Hwang rarely appears in public and he could not be reached for comment.

Hwang’s reputation as a pioneer in stem cell research was shattered when the university concluded in January that his claims of research breakthroughs were fake.

The scientist had claimed in two papers published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005 that he created the world’s first cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them, raising hopes of finding new cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The journal has since retracted both articles.

Hwang publicly apologized for inflating data for the paper, but accused other researchers of deceiving him with falsified research results.

Hwang maintains he has the technology to do what he claimed. But South Korea’s Health Ministry withdrew his research license last week, preventing him from cloning human embryos or receiving eggs for such work.

Hwang may also face criminal charges as prosecutors have been investigating the scandal. The Board of Audit and Inspection said last month it was unclear how he spent $2.6 million he received in government funds and private donations.

Through last year, Hwang received $31.8 million in government funds for his research, as well as $6.2 million in private donations, the audit board said.

A professorship at the university is a public post as the school is state-run, and Hwang is banned from taking any other public posts for five years as stipulated by law, Byun said.
He had been a professor at the school’s Veterinary College since 1986.

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