London, Dec 19 (ANI): The integrity of the Noble Prize was questioned on Thursday night after it was revealed that a member of the jury also sat on the board of the Anglo Swedish pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca, which had won the current year's prize for medicine.
The London-based multinational pharmaceutical company and the Noble Prize have come under the scrutiny of prosecutors, who want to find out if any undue influence was applied on the award.
Harald zur Hausen, who has been recognised for his work on the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer, is the joint winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Two senior figures on the jury that chose him are alleged to have strong links with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has a stake in two lucrative vaccines against the virus.
Swedish radio revealed that Bertil Fredholm, the chairman of the five-strong committee that assesses Nobel candidates, was a paid consultant for AstraZeneca in 2006, and that Bo Angelin, a member of the 50-strong committee that votes for the winner, also sits on the board.
Christer van der Kwast, the director of the Swedish police anticorruption unit, ordered a preliminary investigation, though Michael Sohlman, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, has dismissed his actions.
"How should I put this? He often appears in the media," Times Online quoted him as telling Scientific American magazine.
Kwast, on the other hand, said that he wanted to see if the allegations had any credibility.
"My initiative was to look into this to see if there were grounds for investigation. I have ordered the prosecutor-in-charge to look into this," he said.
A spokesman for AstraZeneca rejected any suggestion that its influence over the Nobel Foundation was improper.
"We have no influence over the prize-winners nor would we ever seek to. AstraZeneca as a company is not involved in the process of Nobel prize selection. Bo Angelin's involvement on the Nobel committee is completely independent of his role on AstraZeneca's board. Bertil Fredholm is a well-respected expert. He did some work for us in 2006, as we work with many people who are experts in their field. The relationship was . . . no more than that," he said. (ANI)