Science

Didier Raoult, disruptive researcher

“”Didier Raoult is a brilliant researcher “ exclaims a geneticist who knows him well. The head of the IHU (Institut hospitalo-universitaire) Méditerranée Infection in Marseille is an internationally recognized researcher who had no plans for such a career. As a bad student, he left Marseille at 17 to go on a boat without thinking of coming back. He wants to decide his life. From afar he graduated from high school. A literary bac. However, he will study medicine. “The only studies my father wanted to fund“he recalls. An atypical profile. He is a free spirit who likes nothing more than treading less traveled paths. According to himself, he has”flees from scientific highways“In the course of his career he studied subjects in which only a few teams are interested.

He is an expert on Whipple disease and Q bacteria and has taken patients from all over the world. His playground is bacteria. After a year and a half of confusion, he examines how they infect host organisms and discovers the first giant virus. In 2010 he received the Inserm Grand Prix and is the most influential researcher in the world in the Thomson Reuters ranking.

“Claude Allègre Syndrome”

Didier Raoult is considered by most of these colleagues to be “Very intelligent, a hard worker who works fast and has brought a lot to science“They also add”atypical, which can be annoying“Until recently he wrote columns in Le Point and Les Echos that were deliberately against the tide of the rest of the medical profession. Nothing amuses him more than”to destroy established theories“he explains during his Inserm award ceremony.

A relative adds: “C.It is true that he can say bullshit “. While promoting his book Let ‘s Stop Furcht published by Laffont Editions, Didier Raoult in 2016 is openly climate-skeptical France Inter at La Tête au Carré: “It is likely that part of human activity has contributed to global warming, but I am skeptical and the future is unpredictable.” For a journalist who knows him well, these words are “provocative”. He expresses the role he has given himself a little. It’s like his unlikely look. When asked why he has long hair, he replies “to make her angry”.

Another observer quipped: “Didier Raoult, that’s Claude Allègre syndrome: strong in his field, but not stingy with lies and inappropriate opinions.”

His mandate as head of the University of Aix Marseille not only left good memories. Just like his management of the URMITE unit. In 2017, a dozen researchers in his department condemned tensions within his team in a letter, including allegations of sexual harassment by a manager. Professor Raoult has downplayed these allegations.

His voluntarily provocative attitude, his contradictions (he is one of the first with arrogance to deal with the epidemic of the grippette, which we would not come up with to present himself as sole owner of the solution from now on) do not prevent him from listening to the current one Minister of Health Olivier Véran.

The fight of two egos

In 2017, he publicly expressed his dispute with the then CEO Inserm Yves Lévy, who is also the husband of Health Minister Agnès Buzyn. The conflict affects the status of university clinics. The Minister decided to change this with her colleague, Research Minister Frédérique Vidal. Yves Lévy wants to end the founding status of these institutes, which gives them too much freedom. The government decision turns it into a public interest group that reinforces Inserm’s weight. But Didier Raoult rejects this status. He believes in the press that there is a clear conflict of interest between the minister’s decision and the position of CEO of Inserm. Matignon will get involved …

“It was a fight between two egos. Raoult and Levy have an oversized ego. It cost Raoult the Inserm label that Lévy refused without explanation,” said one observer. “AND this lack of a label discredits it in the eyes of the scientific establishment.”

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