The one who asked questions: interview with Johannes Wahlström, by Alla Astakhova

The one who asked questions: interview with Johannes Wahlström, by Alla Astakhova

Below I am re-publishing an interview which the Russian health journalist Alla Astakhova conducted with the Swedish journalist Johannes Wahlström. Wahlström’s work for the Swedish television SVT, together with Bosse Lindquist, was decisive in uncovering the patient abuse by the fallen star surgeon Paolo Macchiarini (see here the full list of trachea transplant patients). Without the dedicated work of the Swedish journalists, Macchiarini would probably still be experimenting on humans with his cadaveric and plastic tracheas, generating even more death and suffering in the process. In the interview with Astakhova, Wahlström tells about his research for the famous SVT film Experimenten, and how the SVT team found out about the four Karolinska Institutet whistleblowers Oscar SimonsonKarl-Henrik Grinnemo, Matthias Corbascio and Thomas Fux (see my reports about them here, here and here).

For Wahlström, the scandal is not just about Macchiarini. The central figures here are the abused patients, most, if not almost all of them no longer alive. And Macchiarini is not the only one guilty. Wahlström explains how everyone else orbiting that grandiose thorax surgeon was co-responsible, by looking away, covering things up or contributing their small share to the grand horror. The multilingual Swedish journalist specifically criticises the irresponsible dishonesty of Macchiarini’s Russian surgeon partners Vladimir Parshin and Igor Polyakov in the face of the catastrophe they participated in, or the bizarre attitude of Macchiarini’s biographer and Megagrant-manager Elena Kokurina, who seems to have been deliberately avoiding learning the real fate of his patients. Wahlström also questions the ethics of German TV producers who decided to air their Macchiarini-extolling documentary Supercells! in Germany and France despite knowing that its protagonist, Yulia Tuulik, was not cured at all. She was miserably dying. Continue reading “The one who asked questions: interview with Johannes Wahlström, by Alla Astakhova”

Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients, Jungebluth’s surgery practice in Italy

Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients, Jungebluth’s surgery practice in Italy

I have been forwarded a manuscript by the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, which was originally intended to present in detail all of his known 9 cadaveric trachea recipients (only 4 are recorded officially). The compilation follows exactly all the patients who are already listed on my site, with the small difference that the paper (allegedly rejected at Nature Communications) presents their clinical evolutions quite differently from reality. One of these now fully confirmed victims of Macchiarini’s research was his second patient from Barcelona, whom Macchiarini transplanted in secret; five were operated in Italy (including Keziah Shorten and the Czech patient MK). The manuscript also confirms that Macchiarini’s acolyte Philipp Jungebluth was directly involved in the transplant surgeries of these patients, despite his most probably not having a permit to practice medicine in Italy.  This makes Jungebluth co-responsible for up to 13 trachea transplants, 10 of them lethal. The German doctor is currently suing me in court for alleged libel, insisting that all these patient deaths and his proven research misconduct in Sweden would never ever disqualify him from developing trachea transplants and training as thorax surgeon at the University Clinic Heidelberg, where he however doesn’t work anymore.

The first author of this lost and now found unpublished paper is Johannes Haag, Macchiarini’s other acolyte and former MD student from Hannover Medical School (MHH) in Germany. Haag is apparently still employed at the Thoraxklinik at the University of Heidelberg, where Jungebluth used to be. The manuscript, which was supposed to be Haag’s big paper, was written to deal with the fact that too many of Macchiarini’s cadaveric trachea recipients died or developed very severe complications. To this end, the team hatched an idea to do “reverse translational experiments“, where rat experiments would follow those on 9 humans, prove that the cadaveric trachea technology works in principle and it was the human patients who were making problems. This notion was to be supported also by their earlier pig study Go et al, Biomaterials 2010, where Macchiarini and Jungebluth claim, without a shred of evidence, that the large animal testing was performed before the first patient, Claudia Castillo, received a cadaveric trachea in 2008 (details here, here and here).

Continue reading “Unpublished Macchiarini manuscript confirms 5 forgotten trachea transplant patients, Jungebluth’s surgery practice in Italy”

Human Brain Project and other Flagships: is EU outsourcing funding decisions?

Human Brain Project and other Flagships: is EU outsourcing funding decisions?

The EU €1-Billion-Flagship Human Brain Project (HBP) started in 2013 as an closed enterprise run by three men. The triumvirate is no more:  the visionary founder Henry Markram sidelined into almost insignificance after a coup, his Lausanne colleague Richard Frackowiak almost retired, only the German Karlheinz Meier, physics professor at University of Heidelberg, still seems to hold quite a lot of sway. The control of HBP is now basically in German hands: the “independent” mediator of the anti-Markram coup and director of Forschungzentrum Jülich (FZJ), Wolfgang Marquardt, is key member of the all-decisive HBP Stakeholder Board representing Germany, his FZJ colleague Katrin Amunts is the new scientific director of HBP. The bombastic goal of HBP used to be simulating the human brain in a supercomputer, including various brain diseases and even consciousness (read here and here for HBP background). That Markram’s “brain child” was silently mothballed, the big plan is now only revealed to select insider audiences (who occasionally blab on Twitter). The once high and mighty Markram, whose not-so-groundbreaking Cell paper (Markram et al, 2015) was once touted as HBP’s mega-success, was apparently forced to publish his recent brain simulation research in his own publishing outlet Frontiers (Reimann et al 2017), where he proclaimed a discovery of nothing less but a “Multi-Dimensional Universe in Brain Networks”. Regardless of what Markram thinks he is doing or what fairy tales HBP graduate students are told: dissolving the monster HBP and redistributing its EU funding onto smaller projects was obviously not an opinion. The new purpose of HBP seems to be:

  • distributing the EU Flagship money, in the way HBP see it best fit, thus
  • sparing the EU Commission the tedious work of research grant reviewing and management

Continue reading “Human Brain Project and other Flagships: is EU outsourcing funding decisions?”

Walles court trial against me ends with “amicable settlement”

Walles court trial against me ends with “amicable settlement”

The court trial against me by German trachea transplanters Heike and Thorsten Walles ended with the settlement in the appeal court in Bamberg. A costly one, which I had to accept, giving the danger of seeing me and my family driven to bankruptcy before the next very costly court instance can even be invoked for my defence, what with the two impending court fines for the alleged breach of the injunction Walles passed against me with the help of a certain evidence-allergic judge in Würzburg. My legal costs tally up to at least €12,000 and I am now stuck with those. On the plus side, none of my own and my generous donors’ money goes to Walles, they have to pay their own lawyers and half of the court fees, which made them very fuming and livid indeed, as their behaviour in the court room showcased. There the married trachea transplanters also made clear that they saw the operation on their 3 patients (described here and here) as successful research. This Walles stance is unblemished by the undisputed fact that their patients received no actual health benefits from those pig-intestine-based tracheal grafts whatsoever, in fact it looks quite the opposite. Thing is, those 3 operations were all performed in 2003, 2007 and 2009 as compassionate use, without any previous animal experiments, appropriate safety tests or in fact any ethics approvals. A question rises if, or rather how far Walles breached the Nuremberg Code of 1947 and the German medicinal product law, which forbid exactly that kind of research on patients.   Continue reading “Walles court trial against me ends with “amicable settlement””

Paul-Ehrlich Institute admits to have approved Walles tracheal transplant over phone, without questions

Paul-Ehrlich Institute admits to have approved Walles tracheal transplant over phone, without questions

The German trachea transplanters Heike and Thorsten Walles treated the 3 patients with their pig-intestine-based tracheal transplants (one of them performed with Paolo Macchiarini). They are currently suing me in court for reporting about those, while their employer, the University of Würzburg, investigates these tracheal transplants together with the evidence for blatant data manipulations in several Walles publications on suspicion of misconduct. None of those 3 patients is alive today, yet Walles insist that neither of their transplant operations was in any way related to the patients deaths or that it might have reduced their quality of life. They keep declaring those operations as resounding successes, free from any evidence, though the last transplant was performed in 2009 and never again. A corresponding clinical trial, financed by the German Ministry of Education and Research with €1.5 Million between 2009 and 2015 (and briefly mentioned at the beginning of the PEI letter), did not achieve even a single milestone. Not even animal experiments were permitted by the responsible watchdog institution, the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI). For almost 7 months, PEI refused to answer my Freedom of Information inquiry. It seems however, my complaints to authorities and the Federal Ministry of Health, finally had an effect.

Continue reading “Paul-Ehrlich Institute admits to have approved Walles tracheal transplant over phone, without questions”

German Leibniz institute director Karl Lenhard Rudolph guilty of misconduct

German Leibniz institute director Karl Lenhard Rudolph guilty of misconduct

A major misconduct finding hits German life sciences. Karl Lenhard Rudolph, stem cell and ageing researcher, director of the Fritz-Lippmann-Institute (FLI) of the Leibniz Society, was found guilty of research misconduct by an investigation of the Leibniz Society, in a decision published on June 15th. 11 papers in total were investigated, going back as far as 2001. One paper is to be retracted, seven Errata were requested. The investigation confirmed duplications of image parts, inappropriate splicing, rigged loading controls etc. No original data or lab books were available.

Just in Mai 2016, Rudolph’s FLI was raided by the police “on  suspected breaches of the animal welfare and drug law, as well as embezzlement” . All animal experimenting was stopped till present day, according to Radio Jena, other sources quoted Rudolph in May 2017 that mouse experiments were approved again, though the police investigation continued. Rudolph also admitted that his own lab was also part of the problem and that 13,000 mice were killed unnecessarily. Was Leibniz Society’s recent tough and public disciplinary action upon FLI director Rudolph the consequence?

The translated report on Rudolph’s research misconduct (my own version) is published below, the German original is here. I have not yet determined which publications from Rudolph lab were investigated, but 5 Rudolph papers were previously flagged on PubPeer. His institute, located in the Eastern German town of Jena, is now banned from Leibniz funding for 3 years, FLI now must report back to the Leibniz Executive Board until November 1st 2017 on the improvements regarding data documentation, quality control as well as tutoring and supervision of employees. Continue reading “German Leibniz institute director Karl Lenhard Rudolph guilty of misconduct”

Walles misconduct investigation in Würzburg widens inside a federal cover-up; Jungebluth’s dissertation whitewashed in Hannover

Walles misconduct investigation in Würzburg widens inside a federal cover-up; Jungebluth’s dissertation whitewashed in Hannover

The court litigation of the German trachea transplanters Heike and Thorsten Walles against me and my reporting has moved into the appeal stage. The appeal hearing will be on July 3rd 2017 in the Bavarian Higher State Court (Oberlandesgericht) in Bamberg. At the same time, the Walles case turns into an institutional conspiracy farce straight of a bad spy novel, which seems to go up to the very top, including the German government.

The central German watchdog on regenerative medicine, the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), keeps breaking German federal law on Freedom of Information (FOI, Informationsfreiheitsgesetz) by refusing to comment on the legality of the 3 tracheal transplants Walles performed (one of them with Paolo Macchiarini). The FOI oversight authority (Bundesbeauftragter für Informationsfreiheit) failed despite several attempts to get PEI to adhere to this federal law and gave up, after admitting to me to lack any means to enforce it.  My repeated complaints to the German Federal Ministry of Health, under whose roof PEI operates, did not even achieve an acknowledgement of receipt.

Meanwhile, their current employer, the University of Würzburg, has widened its misconduct investigations against Walles, to collaborate with their past employer, the Hannover Medical School (MHH) and the hospital where two tracheal transplants were performed by Thorsten Walles, the Clinic Schillerhöhe in Stuttgart.  It is another question how collaborative or in fact keen on investigating anything at all these two institutions will be. The Stuttgart hospital decided to transplant two patients in 2007 and 2009 with Walles-made pig-intestine-based tracheal grafts in absence of own internal ethics review board and without procuring an ethics vote from an appropriate external institution (instead, they approached an inappropriate one, were sent away, and published this refusal of ethics opinion as an ethics approval).

The medical university MHH on the other hand seems to have no clue what medical ethics are. Just recently, they declared the MD dissertation of Macchiarini’s student Philipp Jungebluth to be utterly unproblematic and refused to investigate it. In light of this and a previous incident (see below), it appears MHH sees foreign patients abroad to be equivalent to research animals.

Even more significant about the widening of the Würzburg investigation is namely who apparently decided not to participate in it.

Continue reading “Walles misconduct investigation in Würzburg widens inside a federal cover-up; Jungebluth’s dissertation whitewashed in Hannover”