Sweden to probe AZ's Nobel ties

A Swedish anti-corruption prosecutor says he's launched a criminal probe of this year's Nobel Prize in medicine. Sparked by allegations that AstraZeneca influenced the choice of Harald zur Hausen--who discovered links between human papillomavirus and cervical cancer --the investigation centers on Novel Media and Nobel Web, two companies that help disseminate info about Nobel laureates' work and publicize their medical breakthroughs. The firms are partly funded by AstraZeneca.

The allegations also involve two Karolinska Institute professors who serve on the prize selection committee; they both have ties to AstraZeneca. One sits on the company's board, and the other is a former consultant.

Presumably, no one would care about Astra's funding or Astra's academic relationships apart from the fact that the company stands to make money off vaccines against HPV because it owns patents on their ingredients. Both Merck's Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix use materials patented by AstraZeneca.

The company denied any attempt to influence the prize selection. "AstraZeneca will not be able to influence who will be awarded the Nobel Prize, nor do we ever seek to," an AstraZeneca spokeswoman told the Toronto Star. The Nobel Foundation also vehemently defended the integrity of the prize, saying that there's a strict separation between Nobel fundraising and the selection of Nobel laureates.

- read the article in the Star