Stem cell ‘pioneer’ sues Nobel assembly in California court

AFP-JIJI

In the first lawsuit of its kind, a man is suing the entity that awards the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine over claims it made about this year’s joint winners, Shinya Yamanaka and Britain’s John Gurdon, arguing he was the first to create regenerative medicine via stem cells, a spokeswoman announced.

Rongxiang Xu, the self-proclaimed founder of “human body regenerative restoration science,” argues he made a key discovery credited to Yamanaka and Gurdon a decade before the two Nobel winners, the spokeswoman said Thursday.

The Los Angeles-based Xu filed the lawsuit in an Orange County court this week against the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, which awarded this year’s prize to Yamanaka and Gurdon for their pioneering work in induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

The two scientists were awarded the prize — and a 50-50 share of the $1.2 million award money — in October for their revolutionary work in cell programming, a research area that has nourished dreams of creating replacement tissue for people crippled by diseases that remain incurable at present.

Specifically, Yamanaka and Gurdon discovered that adult cells can be transformed back to an infant state called stem cells — the key ingredient in future visions of regenerative medicine.

“Their findings have revolutionized our understanding of how cells and organisms develop . . . (and) created new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy,” the Nobel jury said in awarding them the prize.

Describing his lawsuit as the first to be slapped against the Sweden-based assembly, Xu claims to have discovered “regenerative” cells in 1984 while studying treatments that have benefited 20 million burn victims in 73 countries.

Alleging libel and unfair competition, the suit filed in Orange County argues Xu’s good reputation was defamed by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.

Xu claims its statement in handing out this year’s award “is false, as he was the scientist who made the discovery a decade earlier, therefore defaming his exemplary reputation,” according to a statement announcing the lawsuit.

“My main priority for filing this suit was to clarify the Academy’s mistaken and misleading statements for the preservation of humanity and future generations,” he was cited as saying.