Rioji Noyori in 2013.

Rioji Noyori in 2013.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

In Japan, embattled RIKEN chief to step down

TOKYO—Ryoji Noyori plans to resign as president of RIKEN, the network of Japanese national labs that has spent much of the past year embroiled in a fraud scandal, news outlets here report. A search for a successor is apparently already under way.

Noyori, 76, won a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2001 and became head of RIKEN in October 2003. He has 3 years remaining in his third 5-year term as president. Various news reports said he was retiring because of his age. But some also mentioned his desire to bring to a close a drawn-out drama over fraudulent papers on stem cells.

In January 2014, a group led by Haruko Obokata of RIKEN's Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe reported in two papers in Nature to have found a new and simple way to make pluripotent stem cells. The method was dubbed STAP. Little by little over the past year the claims unraveled, as a succession of committees found the papers riddled with manipulated images and plagiarized text and lacking supporting data. Obokata was found guilty of research misconduct. The papers were retracted in July. In December, investigators finally concluded that the so-called STAP cells had never existed. By then, Obokata had resigned and one of the senior authors had committed suicide.

The news reports say Noyori will step down by the end of this month.