Confusion over claims, trials and other scientific achievement
CLAIMS that the scientific achievements of newly crowned Australian of the Year Alan Mackay-Sim have been overstated are wrong, his former university says.
Doubts were cast on Prof Mackay-Sim’s contribution in helping quadriplegic Polish man Dariusz Fidyka walk again, after the doctor who performed the groundbreaking surgery said his “involvement was zero”.
Prof Mackay-Sim, who recently retired from Griffith University, was credited as leading the world-first team that showed transplantation of olfactory ensheathing cells found in the nervous system into the human spinal cord was possible and safe in humans. In announcing the award on Australia Day, the National Australia Day Council said Prof Mackay-Sim’s research “played a central role in the world’s first successful restoration of mobility in a quadriplegic man”.
But Pawel Tabakow, the doctor who performed the pioneering surgery on Mr Fidyka, said Prof Mackay-Sim’s work had nothing to do with the research or surgery.
“It is not our business who should be Australian of the Year, but it is our business when his work is being linked to the surgery of Fidyka,” Dr Tabakow told The Weekend Australian. “He has no link whatsoever.” Griffith University spokesman Dean Gould said at no point had Prof Mackay-Sim, Griffith University, or the Australia Day Council claimed that Prof Mackay-Sim was directly responsible for the outcome achieved on the Polish patient in 2014.
“The work of Dr Tabakow is to be applauded ... however, it is without dispute that Prof Alan Mackay-Sim’s clinical trials published in 2005 and 2008 paved the way for the ongoing work being done today in the study and development of stem cell transplantation,” Mr Gould said.
Prof Mackay-Sim said he was not surprised by the Polish doctor’s reaction to his award.
“Obviously I don’t know what he was told, but I’m not surprised if any scientist feels that they haven’t been properly credited for their discovery,” he said.
“I always say that we did the first phase of clinical trials and the aim of those trials was to show it was safe.
“I’m always very conscious about giving credit where credit is due. Science is an international collaboration so I’m over the moon with the subsequent results that they’ve had (in Poland).”
A spokeswoman from the National Australia Day Council conceded there had been confusion in some media reports relating to Prof MackaySim’s research.