Professor Hoffmann, an emeritus distinguished class research director with the French National Research Agency (CNRS) in Strasbourg, shared half this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with US immunologist Bruce Beutler “for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity”.
But, as reported in Times Higher Education last week, Bruno Lemaitre, a professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, has claimed that he was largely responsible for the Nobel-winning project while he was a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Hoffmann’s lab in the early 1990s.
According to the website set up by Professor Lemaitre, Professor Hoffmann was “far from the realities of experimental bench work” and had contributed little to the project, which examined fruit flies’ immunity to fungal infections.
Professor Hoffmann’s contribution, it says, was limited to discussing results and helping to write later drafts of the resulting Cell paper, published in 1996.
So how, 15 years later, did the Nobel prize come to be awarded to Professor Hoffmann?
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Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.