The integrity of the Nobel prize was called into question last night after it emerged that a member of the jury also sat on the board of a pharmaceuticals giant that benefited from the award of this year’s prize for medicine.
Prosecutors were studying whether AstraZeneca, the London-based multi-national pharmaceutical company, could have exerted undue influence on the award.
The joint winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine, Harald zur Hausen, was recognised for his work on the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer. AstraZeneca has a stake in two lucrative vaccines against the virus.
Two senior figures in the process that chose Mr zur Hausen have strong links with the pharmaceutical company, which has also recently begun sponsoring the Nobel website and pro-motional subsidiary. The company strongly denies any wrongdoing.
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It is not the only question mark hanging over the probity of the Stockholm-based foundation. The Swedish prosecutor yesterday opened a parallel investigation into bribery allegations after several members of Nobel committees admitted enjoying expenses-paid trips to China to tell officials how candidates are selected for prizes.
Other members of the Nobel Foundation are said to be gravely concerned that the reputation of an organisation that honours the highest achievements in human endeavour is under threat from companies and nations hungry for Nobel glory.
From The Times
December 19, 2008