In a move that seems to break its own promise not to fund medical research, the Philip Morris Foundation has awarded euro dollar25,000 (US$31,000) to a chemist at the University of Munich who works on DNA repair.
Anti-smoking lobbies in Germany have campaigned against the four prizes that Philip Morris awards each year in the country, arguing that the research might be used to promote the interests of the tobacco lobby. The Philip Morris Foundation insists that it should be allowed to sponsor work that has nothing to do with smoking.
DNA repair is an acceptable theme, the foundation says, because it has many applications outside medicine. The prizewinner, Thomas Carell, points out that he works nearly exclusively on plants.
Other researchers see a direct connection. Some chemicals, such as those in tobacco smoke, can cause DNA damage, which can lead to cancer if DNA repair mechanisms are overwhelmed.
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