Press Release No. 16 | 28 April 2009
No Scientific Misconduct by Professor Axel Haverich
DFG Committee: Allegations Following the Nomination for the German Future Prize Are Unfounded
The accusations levied against Professor Axel Haverich, from Hannover Medical School, following his nomination for the 2008 German Future Prize have, after examination by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), been determined to be unfounded. The DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct has concluded that Professor Haverich cannot be accused of any scientific misconduct.
In mid-October of last year, Haverich, who is a heart surgeon and Leibniz Prize recipient, and two of his colleagues were nominated as one of four research teams for the final round of the German Future Prize, which is awarded by the German president. The nomination considered the research team's development and successful transplantation of tissue-engineered biological cardiac valves for children, which grow with the patient.
Following the nomination, allegations were raised against Professor Haverich in numerous publications in the media by other scientists, in particular regarding the supposed lack of innovation in his work. In addition to these allegations, competing patent law-related claims were also lodged. As a result, the jury for the German Future Prize retracted the nomination of Professor Haverich and his colleagues at the end of October 2008 with reference to the "ongoing patent situation".
At the end of October 2008, Professor Haverich requested that the DFG entrust its Committee of Inquiry of Scientific Misconduct with the allegations that had been made against him. The Committee took up the case. The investigation of the patent claims was not part of this process.
Following exhaustive examination, the committee has now declared the allegations of scientific misconduct as unfounded. This applies, in particular, to the allegations made by Professor Wolfgang Konertz of the Charité Hospital. In the 18 October 2008 edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Konertz questioned the novelty of Haverich's work, stating that "at the Charité Hospital in Berlin (...), a team working with Wolfgang Konertz developed tissue-engineered biological cardiac valves years ago, and tested them in patients." He went on to say, "They have been approved for use since 2004; several hundred children have received them. (...) Haverich now stands where we were in 2000." To substantiate these facts, as Professor Konertz later explained to the DFG, he referred to pertinent publications.
In this regard, the DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct has determined the following: The innovation by Professor Haverich is centred on the use of a decellularised pulmonary valve for children. In none of the publications named by Professor Konertz did the Charité group present clinical data regarding successful use with children. Furthermore, Haverich used human heart valves, while Konertz reported on the use of heart valves from pigs, and only in adults. Thus, the innovation of Professor Haverich is not diminished, and the suspicion of scientific misconduct is completely baseless.
Other allegations that were made following the nomination and that questioned Haverich's innovations are, according to the results of the Committee, also unfounded and do not, therefore, indicate any scientific misconduct.
Above and beyond these conclusions, the DFG Committee made clear that, in the future, it expects that more restraint be shown and more respect be given with regard to innovations and research findings. In this case, Professor Haverich experienced enormous scientific and personal damages as a result of the allegations of scientific misconduct made against him. This is made more emphatic by the fact that these allegations were unfounded and that Professor Haverich behaved in a scientifically correct manner.
Information on the DFG Committee of Inquiry on Allegations of Scientific Misconduct can be found at:
- www.dfg.de/en/dfg_profile/structure/ statutory_bodies/joint_committee/ joint_committee_commissions_and_committees/ scientific_misconduct/index.html
Contact at the DFG Head Office:
- Dr. Kirsten Hüttemann,
Tel. + 49 228 885-2827,