SUPPORT TO PROFESSOR MILENA PENKOWA
OPEN LETTER TO DANISH MEDIA
From the Bulgarian Society for Cell Biology
27 January 2011, Varna, Bulgaria
On behalf of the entire membership of the Bulgarian Society for Cell Biology, I am writing this Letter to support Professor Milena Penkowa. Recently, many Danish, also Bulgarian, printed and electronic media as well as Copenhagen University Post and Nature News “broadcasted” information that “the high-profile neuroscientist Milena Penkowa is accused in one case of manipulating results on cancer research, and in another case of using funding earmarked for research on lawyers’ bills, clothes, travelling and restaurants.” Until 29 November 2010, when she voluntarily quit her job at the University of Copenhagen, Dr Milena Penkowa was Head of the Division of Neuroprotection, Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen.
Milena Penkowa was born in 1973 in Denmark to a Bulgarian mother and Danish father. To-date, she has published 98 peer-reviewed articles. Her research focuses on brain-repair mechanism, allowing her to propose new neuroprotective drug(s). In 2009, Milena Penkowa was elected Full Professor by the University of Copenhagen, named an elite young scientist by the Danish government, as well as awarded about 5.6 million Danish kroner (about USD 1 million) for her research by the IMK General Found, a private foundation. In 2002 and 2006, Milena Penkowa was invited by the Bulgarian Society for Cell Biology to present two state-of-the-science lectures at the Biomedical Forum held in Varna, Bulgaria. When asked if she may follow the case of the famous and great neuroscientist Rita Levi-Montalcini (101), Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine in 1986 (and the Most Honored Member of the Bulgarian Society for Cell Biology), Milena Penkowa replied “I hope so”, during an interview conducted by a local newspaper “Cherno more” on 9 May 2002.
The first supportive message to Milena Penkowa was released by the Bulgarian Society for Development in Denmark, on Face Book a month ago. Accordingly, we have disseminated our Call to support Milena Penkowa to various colleagues working in many countries worldwide. It was followed by Dr Marco Fiore at the Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, National Research Council, Rome, Italy. He wrote the following both in University Post and Nature News: “This letter is to support MILENA PENKOWA, a charming lady (37) clustering highly-tuned talent, supreme devotion to neuroscience research, charisma (gift form God, also from her Bulgarian mother), all required features to be an excellent target of jealousy and envy accumulated in the Copenhagen University….. „Something is rotten in the state of Denmark“ as it was said in „Hamlet“ Act I, Scene 4.”
Our supportive message was also published in University Post (21 January 2011). We also submitted the following comment to the Nature News which has not been released yet:
Most probably, this is a transgressive campaign targeting Milena Penkowa’s talent, devotion to research, and rapid rise career. We believe that the respective authorities will come to the right decision and clear her name. In accordance with Dr Fiore’s support, do you listen the echo of „Something is rotten in the campaigner(s) in the University of Copenhagen“? The following is addressed to them: Talent is the only „sin“ that should be forgiven!”
Noteworthy, in his book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin taught us that the stability, survival and success of a given social group depends on the collaboration of individuals among the group and with the individuals of other groups to a great extent. “This collaboration has to be based on altruism” – said Ernst Mayr, the father of modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, in his Crafoord Prize lecture on 23 September 1999 in Stockholm. Today, evolutionary biologists conceptualized this as “survival of the nicest”, the latter being considered not in a cosmetic, Hollywood sense, but in collaborative, altruistic sense. Thus, we call upon all the scientific community to “nicest-ly” support Milena Penkowa.
On behalf of the Bulgarian Society for Cell Biology
George N. Chaldakov, MD, PhD, Chairman
Laboratory of Cell Biology
Medical University, Varna, Bulgaria
PS: This Open Letter was already published in several Bulgarian newspapers.