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AstraZeneca's Role in Nobel Prizes Is Questioned

UPDATE -- AstraZeneca failed to respond has now responded to BNET's request for comment, see below. The company also provided a statement to Pharmalot. The company confirmed its sponsorship of Nobel organizations but denied it had influenced the judges: "Because the Nobel Committee of Karolinska Institute, and not the Nobel companies, elects candidates for the prize, AstraZeneca will not be able to influence who will be awarded the Nobel Prize, nor do we ever seek to." Swedish prosecutors are investigating allegations of a conflict of interest between AstraZeneca's sponsorship of Nobel Foundation companies and the awarding of this year's Nobel prize for medicine to the discoverer of human papilloma virus (HPV). AZ's Medimmune unit helped develop markets* a vaccine for HPV, Cervarix, and receives roylaties from GlaxoSmithKline's marketing of that drug. AZ also sponsors a Nobel program to highlight the work of Nobel winners. According to this report:

The head of the Nobel Committee says that the close link between the Nobel prize winner and a Nobel sponsor is new for them and needs to be discussed.
Details are scant, as much of the news is emerging from Europe in Swedish and German and is being spottily translated by U.S. bloggers. Here's one example:
... there were reports that the three Nobel prize committees for the science prizes had received free flying tickets, hotels and dinners by the Japanese and Chinese governments in order for the committees to explain on site how they award a prize.
There was also criticism for the sponsor AstraZeneca having a board member involved in the medical committee deciding the winners. AstraZeneca stands to gain much money on the prized vaccines- but rightly so, as this research has been important. There is a difficult line of competences being drawn in many prizes, and the winning prizes can also be involved in applications ready for the markets.
Here's another:
The Swedish Attorney-General will look into trips to China taken by several members of Nobel Committees, where the expenses were paid by the hosts. The Department of Justice is looking into the possibility of bribery or attempted bribery. According to the Institute against Bribery, officials of the Nobel Foundation are obliged, under official Swedish ground rules, to cover those expense themselves.
Unfortunately, much of the translating and reporting is being done by fringe AIDS skeptics -- people who believe that HIV does not exist or does not cause AIDS. (The Nobel also went to scientists who discovered HIV.) It would be nice to see some mainstream reporters pick this story up. In the meantime, we invite AstraZeneca to comment. In an email to BNET, AstraZeneca spokesperson Zhou Yi said:
Swedish prosecutors are looking into the situation to see if there is a need to prepare for a case. No investigation has been launched yet.
UPDATE -- Detailed report in English from HIV skeptic Celia Farber here. * Original error was BNET's; apologies.
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