Paolo Macchiarini is leaving Russia, his research and surgery stint there is over. The fallen star surgeon was able to find a professorship with the Federal University of Kazan (KFU), after his plastic trachea transplants at the Kuban State Medical University in Krasnodar left 3 patients dead, and one with a lucky escape (see details here). His new research focus was on artificial oesophagus, which he apparently already started to test on hapless baboons. In March 2017, the Russian state decided that Macchiarini’s federal grant on oesophagus research will not be renewed, the Kazan University announced in regard to their professor’s further employment to follow the instructions from the Russian Science Foundation. The professorship contract expires by December 2017. On April 20th, Kazan University made the official decision to shut down Macchiarini’s research programme. A Russian opposition party, Yabloko, demanded of the Ministry for Research and Education to investigate Macchiarini’s Megagrant funding and the use of that money, especially in view of the fact that no final report was published. All this information was revealed by the Russian health and medicine journalist Alla Astakhova on her website.
Based on the note which Astakhova received from the Kazan University press office, she updated her article with this information:
“From the minutes of the meeting of the Directorate of the Program for Enhancing of International Competitiveness of the KFU among the world’s leading research and educational centres for 2013-2020. From April 20: “Shut down in 2017 the Strategic Academic Units project” Translational 7P Medicine “Biorem”, research laboratory Bioengineering and regenerative medicine under the leadership of Paolo Macchiarini”.
Obviously Macchiarini became untenable in Russia, despite the initial support from KFU and elsewhere. Highly critical articles appeared not only in “foreign” Russian-language media (e.g., in Radio Liberty), but even in local Russian ones, which is quite remarkable given the near-total control the Kremlin has over the country’s media. One such article from December 2016, in the local newspaper “Evening Kazan” was titled: “Foreign professor, suspected of manslaughter, found refuge at the Kazan University”. In April 2017, the Russian newspaper “Realnoye Vremya” published an English-language article where the author called Macchiarini “Dr. Evil”, reported grant termination and quoted sources that KFU “decided to say goodbye to the Italian”.
What next for Macchiarini? A mystery only he can resolve. Will he go to China next, is search of new research and human experiment opportunities? There is another Italian surgeon colleague who also left Russia for China, Sergio Canavero. Yes, that one who claims to be able to transplant heads, which some very credulous academic publishers and science media seem to believe. Wouldn’t it be something if Canavero and Macchiarini joined forces? Of course, even Chinese will soon have enough of the quackery.
Maybe Macchiarini will finally decide to drop the big show, become humble and settle down for a quiet but well-paid job as “normal” surgeon? He might try to get one of his old positions back, though certainly not the one at Karolinska in Sweden, also in US he might be less than fully welcome, given that he didn’t succeed angling an American professorship even on the peak of his fame. But how about his old job with in the local hospital in Hannover in Germany? Conveniently, the Hannover Medical School MHH still (illegally) lists him as their adjunct professor. The master would then be conveniently near his student and right-hand man Philipp Jungebluth, maybe even join his litigation against me.
Or the Italian surgeon could finally return to the country of his citizenship, to Florence, where the courts and the Tuscan governor Enrico Rossi seems to be big fans of his, despite everything. It’s not like the Florentine university hospital Careggi learned much from the seven trachea transplants (6 lethal, one led to permanent brain damage) which Macchiarini performed there in 2010-2011, in part apparently without even informing the authorities. His closest partners from that time, Massimo Jaus and Alessandro Gonfiotti are still in charge of the thoracic surgery there. One can safely assume Careggi will never investigate anything or anyone in regard to these lethal trachea transplants and just wants peace. Another plus: Italy will not extradite own citizen to Sweden once the charges of manslaughter are officially raised.
Or maybe Macchiarini just goes back to Spain to his wife and children? He might try return to working with the private hospital USP Instituto Universitario Dexeus, which so generously allowed him in 2009 to transplant a trachea into a certain 51-year old patient, after Macchiarini’s main local employer Hospital Clinic Barcelona forbade just that.
What do you think? Vote and help Paolo decide!
Update 8.12.2017. In this video interview with the Icelandic channel RUV, Macchiarini indicated to now live in Spain, work as a travelling freelance surgeon and do research on plastic oesophagus on primates in Russia. Which means, according to other information I obtained, the Research Institute of Medical Primatology, the huge primate facility in Sochi, Krasnodar district. Coincidentally, this primate centre also (this time officially) collaborates with MHH in Germany. According to the description, the collaboration is with Macchiarini’s former clinic and boss, Axel Haverich, in testing his “growing” heart valves.
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