The secretary general of the Nobel Assembly, the body responsible for choosing the Nobel Prizes, has resigned from his post because “he may be involved” in the Karolinska Institutet investigation of trachea surgeon Paolo Macchiarini.
Urban Lendahl, professor of genetics at the Karolinska, has also resigned as secretary general of the Nobel Committee in Physiology or Medicine. Here’s a statement released yesterday by the Nobel Assembly:
Today, Professor Urban Lendahl has announced that he resigns effective immediately and at his own request, from his position as Secretary General of the Nobel Assembly and the Nobel Committee in Physiology or Medicine at Karolinska Institutet. The Board of Karolinska Institutet has initiated an external investigation concerning the Macchiarini case. As Professor Lendahl anticipates that he may be involved in this investigation, he resigns from his position as Secretary General out of respect for the integrity of the Nobel Prize work. Any questions should be addressed to the Chairman of the Nobel Assembly, Professor Rune Toftgård, or the Chairman of the Nobel Committee, Professor Thomas Perlmann.
The Nobel Assembly is independent of the Karolinska Institutet and consists of 50 elected Professors from the Karolinska Institutet.
The Karolinska announced Friday that it was ordering a new external investigation of the case, prompted by new revelations in the media. A previous inquiry concluded that Macchiarini, whose contract at the Karolinska has not been renewed, acted in some cases “without due care,” but that his behavior “does not qualify as scientific misconduct.”
Lendahl advocated for Macchiarini’s hire by the Karolinska, according to Svenska Dagbladet, although the Nobel Assembly was not involved in the appointment, Nobel General Assembly chair Rune Toftgård told the newspaper.
Lendahl has been a member of the Nobel General Assembly since 2000, and was elected secretary general in late 2014. In an interview with Elsevier, one of whose journals Lendahl edits, he explained what the secretary general does:
On January 1, 2015, I started as the new Secretary-General for the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. The role of the Secretary-General is to see to that the process of selecting the Nobel Laureates runs smoothly and that the Nobel Assembly and Committee get all the necessary material and support so they can conduct their work.
The Nobel Assembly “has 50 voting members and is composed of professors in medical subjects at Karolinska Institutet,” according to the official website of the Nobels.
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