TOKYO, Japan - An eminent biologist linked to a discredited stem cell research project was found hanged at his workplace, police said Tuesday. The body of Yoshiki Sasai was discovered by security guards at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe City, Japan, shortly before 9 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Monday ET). Several letters addressed to his colleagues were found tucked in his briefcase, broadcaster NHK reported. "It's very, very unfortunate," Riken's deputy director Shigekazu Saito told reporters.
Sasai, 52, supervised a team of scientists, led by Haruko Obokata, that announced in the journal “Nature” in January that they had found a game-changing way to make stem cells using ordinary mouse cells. However, suspicions were raised over Obokata’s research and she was accused of falsifying data. In June, Obokata agreed to retract her findings. Although the Riken Center’s investigation cleared Sasai of wrongdoing, he was reprimanded for his failure to properly supervise Obokata's work. In April, he apologized for allowing an incident that might taint Japan’s reputation for scientific research.
- Arata Yamamoto