The founding members of the Mediterranean-Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU) had, in the midst of a conflict with Professor Didier Raoult in the summer of 2021, drawn up the robot portrait of the scientist whom they hoped to see succeed the controversial Marseille microbiologist. “A researcher, legitimate, charismatic and recognized by his peers in the field of infectious diseases”, explained Eric Berton, the president of Aix-Marseille University (AMU).
Like the director of the University Hospitals of Marseille (AP-HM) François Crémieux, Mr. Berton mentioned the need to launch an international call for tenders to attract applications from outside the seraglio of the IHU. And the importance of entrusting the organization to an independent personality to avoid local power games. In this case, the former chairman and CEO of Renault Louis Schweitzer.
After eight months of auditions, the selection jury finally settled on a single name. That of a pure product of the IHU, who has spent most of his career in the shadow of Didier Raoult, Professor Pierre-Edouard Fournier, soon to be 56, microbiologist and current head of the diagnostics platform molecular of the IHU.
Get over the soap opera Raoult as soon as possible
The eighteen members of the IHU’s board of directors – including the six founders who demanded the replacement of Didier Raoult before the end of 2022 – will study his appointment on July 13, for a taking up of office which, according to the candidate, could intervene from 1er august.
For Louis Schweitzer, Pierre-Edouard Fournier has “the ability, thanks to his knowledge of the IHU, to lead this change of course in the direction that has been deemed necessary and desirable by the experts”. The jury, of which seven out of twelve members are also members of the scientific committee of the foundation shaped by Didier Raoult, shared this opinion.
The announcement of the choice of Pierre-Edouard Fournier, by a simple press release from the IHU, did not elicit any official comment from the authorities directly concerned. No more at the AP-HM, where Mr. Fournier is a practitioner appreciated by the medical community, than at AMU or within the Research and Development Institute, whose director, Valérie Verdier, threatened to break her agreements with the IHU at the end of 2022 if management methods and parity within senior positions do not change. Each refers to the July 13 board meeting.
For all of these essential partners of the IHU, the attitude of Professor Fournier, who has distanced himself from the choices of his ex-mentor in recent months after having been an ardent defender, and above all the desire to ending as quickly as possible with the soap opera Raoult, an essential step in a return to normality in the governance of the IHU, can explain their assent. If, in May 2021, Mr. Fournier co-signed with Didier Raoult a letter to the magazine The Lancet where he estimates that, according to figures from the IHU, the vaccine “does not protect against hospitalization or serious forms” of Covid-19, he was, at the beginning of the year, one of the few IHU doctors to sign the call for vaccination launched by the AP-HM.
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