Profiled German research manager must go - knowledge

  • Martin Lohse, head of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, gives up his post.
  • The occasion is new insights into his role in intrigues surrounding the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH).
  • The Federal Ministry of Research holds a report on the events strictly under lock and key.

One of the most prominent science managers in Germany gives up his post. Martin Lohse, formerly chairman of the Berlin Max Delbrück Center (MDC) and Vice President of the Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, resigned from his post on the board, the MDC announced on Wednesday evening. This happens "in best agreement" with the Federal Ministry of Research (BMBF). Lohse wants to go back to science and "increasingly exploring heart disease". An astounding goal for one who has only been the director of a prestigious research center for the past three years and who, with 62, would still have productive years as a science director.

So graciously reads the press release: Behind Lohse's departure is obviously more than the yearning for laboratory air. According to information of South German newspaper Lohse fell an old scandal on his feet. The reason for his return to research is therefore new insights into his role in intrigues surrounding the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). As reported on Wednesday evening, the Berliner Tagesspiegel,

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The BIH (also called BIG in German), is one of the most ambitious science projects in years. With an annual budget of 75 million euros from the federal government alone, the institute should become a "lighthouse of science" in which the results of medical research are implemented as quickly as possible for patients. It was proudly announced in 2015 that the kidney specialist Erwin Böttinger from New York could be brought to Berlin as head of the BIH. The then Minister of Research Johanna Wanka cheered. If someone like Böttinger comes, that proves that "Germany is a highly attractive location for international top researchers".

But the joy was soon clouded. Again and again there was friction in the board of the BIH, which belonged to Böttinger sizes of Charité and MDC, among them Lohse. Internals who apparently harmed Böttinger were sent to the Berlin press. The reported extensively on "Zoff" and "trouble" around the BIH. The structure of the new institute promoted both. "It was a difficult construct from the beginning," says Albert Rupprecht, research spokesman for the CDU / CSU parliamentary group. The BIH, which is 90 per cent funded by the federal government, was superordinated to the MDC and the Charité with its founding. That did not suit everyone.

The conflicts escalated when Böttinger occupied first positions at the BIH. There was even the complaint of a scientist whose application was unsuccessful. Böttinger left in 2017 and moved to the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam. He does not want to comment on the quarrels today. His position has since been filled intermittently by the MDC and Charité boards. "The BIH became the loot community of the two institutions," says an insider. Relative calm returned.

Who gave the internals to the press?

But recently, employees at the BMBF received e-mails that alleged that they had stolen confidential information at the time, and then turned to Martin Lohse. As it is reported by several informants of SZ, So had Lohse given the internals to the press? And had he encouraged the disappointed applicant to complain? Or should it be done the wrong way? Lohse also does not want to comment on all this. He was not available for comment, said the MDC on Thursday, on request. The BMBF did not answer until the deadline.

In response to the new suspicions, the ministry commissioned a report from the auditing firm KPMG to investigate possible misconduct on the board. The results keep it under lock and key. In two hastily convened Supervisory Board meetings in the past week, the report was not even handed out. The details are too explosive, they said. Only when Tagesspiegel and SZ interested in the events, it suddenly came to the departure Lohses.

In any case, the BMBF can not be happy that the BIH is back in the headlines just now. Work is in progress on a new future for the model institute: it will now be integrated into the Charité. The construct may provoke less power scramble than the old variant. But it remains complicated: After all, a federal institution is integrated into a university hospital that belongs to the state of Berlin. The financial flows could be difficult to control. In May, the cultural ministers of the countries should decide whether this will become reality.

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