Karolinska Institute: Two Nobel judges asked to leave

The Macchiarini scandal in one of Sweden’s top universities has spread to the Nobel Prizes, as two sacked principals have been asked to leave the Nobel Assembly that selects the Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Harriet Wallberg and Anders Hamsten served as principals of the Karolinska Institute, which has been heavily criticised for its recruiting of a now-discredited surgeon, Paolo Macchiarini. Yesterday they were sacked from their current posts by the government, and today the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska has asked the two to step down, saying they are no longer trusted to be part of the selection of the Nobel Prize.

“Trust in the two principals is so seriously damaged that it is used up. The damage is so great, and of such a character that we will ask them to resign from the Nobel Assembly,” says Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the assembly, to news agency TT.

Harriet Wallberg has been a member of the assembly since 2002.

Two other professors in the Nobel Assembly have been linked to the Macchiarini scandal. Ernest Arenas and Edvard Smith were among the signatories of a letter advocating the recruitment of Macchiarini. This is seen as being instrumental in his hiring, but special criticism has been levelled at the principals, who are said to have had an individual and active role in the failure to follow procedure and ignoring of warning signals, which led to the hiring of the former celebrity surgeon.