The Karolinska Institute (KI; Swedish: Karolinska Institutet;[2] sometimes known as the (Royal) Caroline Institute in English)[3][4] is a research-led medical university in Solna within the Stockholm urban area of Sweden and one of the foremost medical research institutes globally. The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The assembly consists of fifty professors from various medical disciplines at the university. The current vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institute is Annika Östman Wernerson, who took office in March 2023.[5][6]

Karolinska Institute
Karolinska Institutet
Former names
Kongl. Carolinska Medico Chirurgiska Institutet
MottoAtt förbättra människors hälsa (Swedish)
Motto in English
To improve human health
Established1810; 214 years ago (1810)
Endowment576,1 million EUR (2010)
BudgetSEK 6.67 billion[1]
Vice-ChancellorAnnika Östman Wernerson
Administrative staff
4,820 (2016)[1]
Students6,481 (FTE, 2020)[1]
2,039 (2020)[1]
Location, ,

59°20′56″N 18°01′36″E / 59.34889°N 18.02667°E / 59.34889; 18.02667
CampusSolna (Main) and Flemingsberg
Colors  KI Plum

The Karolinska Institute was founded in 1810 on the island of Kungsholmen on the west side of Stockholm; the main campus was relocated decades later to Solna, just outside Stockholm. A second campus was established more recently in Flemingsberg, Huddinge, south of Stockholm.[7] The institute also has a Centre for Reparative Medicine, consisting of two nodes, one in Stockholm and one in Hong Kong.[8]

The Karolinska Institute is Sweden's third oldest medical school, after Uppsala University (founded in 1477) and Lund University (founded in 1666). It is one of Sweden's largest centres for training and research, accounting for 30% of the medical training and more than 40% of all academic medical and life science research conducted in Sweden.[9] It receives around a third of Sweden's public funding for medical research.[10]

The Karolinska University Hospital, located in Solna and Huddinge, is associated with the university as a research and teaching hospital. Together they form an academic health science centre. While most of the medical programs are taught in Swedish, the bulk of the PhD projects are conducted in English. The institute's name is a reference to the Caroleans.

Nobel Prize winners

  • 1955 Hugo Theorell becomes KI's first Nobel laureate, receiving the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries concerning the nature and mode of action of oxidation enzymes.
  • 1967 Ragnar Granit receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to the analysis of retinal function and how optical nerve cells respond to light stimuli, colour and frequency.
  • 1970 Ulf von Euler receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions for discoveries concerning the humoral transmitters in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation.
  • 1981 Torsten Wiesel and David H. Hubel jointly receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system.
  • 1982 Sune Bergström and Bengt Samuelsson jointly receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances.

Seal's symbolism


Rod of Asclepius


The rod of Asclepius is named after the god of medicine, Aesculapius or Asclepius. This ancient god was the son of Apollo and was generally accompanied by a snake. Over time, the snake became coiled around the staff borne by the god.

Snake bowl


The snake bowl was originally depicted together with Asclepius' daughter, the virgin goddess of health Hygieia or Hygiea. The snake ate from her bowl, which was considered to bring good fortune. There is nothing to support the notion that the snake would secrete its venom into the bowl.



The cockerel symbolises new life and was sacrificed to Asclepius by those who had recovered from illness. This is the meaning behind the Greek philosopher Socrates' last words after he drank the poisoned cup: "Crito, we owe a cockerel to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don't forget."


Building of the Medical Students' Union Medicinska Föreningen

The Karolinska Institute offers the widest range of medical education under one roof in Sweden. Several of the programmes include clinical training or other training within the healthcare system. The close proximity of the Karolinska University Hospital and other teaching hospitals in the Stockholm area thus plays an important role during the education. Approximately 6,000 full-time students are taking educational and single subject courses at Bachelor and Master levels at the Karolinska Institute. Annually, 20 upper high school students from all over Sweden get selected to attend Karolinska's 7-week long biomedical summer research school, informally named "SoFo".


  • Biosciences and Nutrition
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neuroscience
  • Clinical Science and Education, Söder Hospital
  • Clinical Science, Danderyd Hospital
  • Clinical Sciences, Intervention and Technology
  • Dental Medicine
  • Environmental Medicine
  • Laboratory Medicine
  • Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics
  • Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Medicine, Huddinge
  • Medicine, Solna
  • Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology
  • Molecular Medicine and Surgery
  • Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society
  • Neuroscience
  • Oncology-Pathology
  • Physiology and Pharmacology
  • Public Health Sciences
  • Women's and Children's Health

Rankings and controversies

University rankings
Global – Overall
ARWU World[11]45 (2020)
CWUR World[12]39 (2020–21)
RUR World[13]5 (2021)
THE World[14]36 (2021)
THE Reputation[15]61–70 (2020)
USNWR Global[16]51 (tie) (2024)
Global – Life sciences and medicine
ARWU Clinical medicine and pharmacy[17]30 (2021)
ARWU Life sciences[18]16 (2020)
QS Dentistry[19]10 (2021)
QS Life Sciences & Medicine[19]8 (2021)
THE Clinical and Health[20]10 (2021)
THE Life Sciences[20]24 (2021)
THE Psychology[21]32 (2021)

The Karolinska Institute is not listed in the overall QS World University Rankings since it only ranks multi-faculty universities. However, QS does rank the Karolinska Institute in the category of Medicine, placing it as the best in Sweden, 3rd in Europe and 5th worldwide in 2020.[5] In 2015, the QS ranked the Department of Dental Medicine 1st in the world.[22]

According to the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Karolinska Institute is ranked 10th worldwide and 5th in Europe in clinical, pre-clinical and other health subjects.[23]

The 2021 U.S. News & World Report Best Global University Ranking placed KI as 11th worldwide in Psychiatry and Psychology.[24]

In 2019, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked the Karolinska Institute in 4th place worldwide for pharmacy, 5th for public health, 6th for nursing, and 21st for clinical medicine.[25]

The university was a founding member of the League of European Research Universities.

Hong Kong donation controversy


In February 2015, the KI announced it had received a record $50 million donation from Lau Ming-wai, who chairs Hong Kong property developer Chinese Estates Holdings, and would establish a research centre in the city. Within a few days, Next Magazine revealed that Chuen-yan – son of Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung – had recently been awarded a fellowship to research heart disease therapeutics at the institute in Stockholm beginning that year, and raised questions about the "intricate relationship between the chief executive and powerful individuals". CY Leung had visited KI when in Sweden in 2014, and subsequently introduced KI president, Anders Hamsten, to Lau.[26][27] The Democratic Party urged the ICAC to investigate the donation, suggesting that Leung may have abused his public position to further his son's career. The Chief Executive's Office strenuously denied suggestions of any quid pro quo, saying that "the admission of the [Chief Executive's] son to post-doctoral research at KI is an independent decision by KI having regard to his professional standards. He [the son] plays no role and does not hold any position at the [proposed] Ming Wai Lau Center for Regenerative Medicine."[26] This accusation has also been questioned by the South China Morning Post's Canadian-based pro-Beijing and pro-government opinion columnist, Alex Lo: "The insinuation is that Leung Chuen-yan with a doctorate from Cambridge doesn't deserve his job at the Karolinska Institute... Leung the son probably could get similar junior posts in many other prestigious-sounding – at least to brand-obsessed Hongkongers – research institutes; it's not that big a deal."[28]

Scientific misconduct


The institute received unfavorable attention in the 2010s for its failure to prevent the deaths of seven patients at the hands of one of their star surgeons, Paolo Macchiarini, who was ultimately found to have repeatedly falsified medical data in order to perform experimental surgeries that were unsuccessful and led to the deaths of the patients, where diseased tracheas were replaced with prosthetic implants. The institute was accused of engaging in targeted retribution against the whistleblowers rather than conducting a full, impartial and appropriate review.

This scientific misconduct scandal occurred in 2014, and involved one of the institute's star surgeons, Paolo Macchiarini. Macchiarini was accused by four former colleagues and co-authors of having falsified claims in his research.[29]

After its unsuccessful effort to avoid unfavorable publicity by silencing whistleblowers, media coverage and public opinion finally forced the institute to act. In April 2015, the ethics committee of the institute issued a response to one set of allegations with regard to research ethics and peer review at the Lancet, and found them to be groundless.[30]

The Karolinska Institute later appointed an external expert, Bengt Gerdin, to review the charges, comparing the results reported by Macchiarini and his collaborators to the medical record of the hospital. Gerdin's report was released by Karolinska in May 2015.[31][32][33] Gerdin found that Macchiarini had committed research misconduct in seven out of seven papers: The findings showed he had not obtained ethical approval for the some of his operations (as claimed), and had misrepresented the result of some of those operations, as well as work he had done with animals.[31][32][34]

In August 2015, after considering the findings and a rebuttal provided by Macchiarini, vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institute Anders Hamsten found that Macchiarini had acted "without due care" but had not committed misconduct.[35][36] The journal The Lancet, which published Macchiarini's work, also published an article defending Macchiarini.[37]

On 5 January 2016, the magazine Vanity Fair published a story about Macchiarini romancing a journalist while making numerous false statements about his personal life; the article also questioned the accuracy of statements he had made on his CV.[38][39]

On 13 January 2016 – the same day that the first part of a three-part documentary about Macchiarini would air on Swedish television – Gerdin criticized the vice-chancellor's dismissal of the allegations in an interview on Swedish television.[40]

Later that day, Sveriges Television investigative TV show Dokument inifrån started airing a three-part series, titled "Experimenten", in which Macchiarini's work was investigated.[38][41] The documentary showed Macchiarini continuing operations with the new method even after it showed little or no promise, seeming to exaggerate the health of patients following the experimental surgery despite the ultimate deaths of those patients. While Macchiarini admitted that the synthetic trachea did not work in the current state, he did not agree that trying it on several additional patients without further testing had been inappropriate. Allegations were also made that patients' medical conditions both before and after the operations, as reported in academic papers, were inconsistent with patient records. Macchiarini also claimed that the synthetic trachea had been tested on animals before using it on humans, something that could not be verified.[42][43][44]

On 28 January, Karolinska issued a statement saying that the documentary made claims of which it was unaware, and that it would consider re-opening the investigations.[45][46] These concerns were echoed by the chairman of the Karolinska Institute, Lars Leijonborg, and the chairman of the Swedish Medical Association, Heidi Stensmyren, calling for an independent investigation that would also review the actions of the university and hospital management in responding to allegations of scientific misconduct.[47]

In February 2016, the Karolinska Institute published a review of Macchiarini's CV that identified discrepancies.[48] In March 2016. the institute terminated Macchiarini's contract.[42]

In October 2016, the BBC broadcast a three-part Storyville documentary, Fatal Experiments: The Downfall of a Supersurgeon, directed by Bosse Lindquist and based on the earlier Swedish programmes about Macchiarini.[49]

After the special aired, the Karolinska Institute requested Sweden's national scientific review board to review six of Macchiarini's publications about the procedures. The board published its findings in October 2017, and concluded that all six demonstrated scientific misconduct, in particular by failing to report the surgical complications and deaths that occurred after the interventions; and that one of the articles falsely claimed that the procedure had been approved by an ethics committee, when this had not happened. The board called for all six of the papers to be retracted. It also reported that all of the papers' co-authors had committed scientific misconduct as well.[50]

Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute

Press Conference for the Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine 2014, held at the Karolinska Institute

The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute is a body at the Karolinska Institute that awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The Nobel Assembly consists of fifty professors in medical subjects at the Karolinska Institute, appointed by the faculty of the institute, and is a private organisation which is formally not part of the Karolinska Institute. The main work involved in collecting nominations and screening nominees is performed by the Nobel Committee at the Karolinska Institute, which has five members. The Nobel Committee, which consists of members appointed by the Nobel Assembly for a period of three years, is only empowered to recommend laureates, while the final decision rests with the Nobel Assembly.

In the early history of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which was first awarded in 1901, the laureates were decided upon by the entire faculty of the Karolinska Institute. The reason for creating a special body for the decisions concerning the Nobel Prize was the fact that the Karolinska Institute is a state-run university, which in turn means that it is subject to various laws that apply to government agencies in Sweden and similar Swedish public sector organisations, such as freedom of information legislation. By moving the actual decision making to a private body at Karolinska Institute (but not part of it), it is possible to follow the regulations for the Nobel Prize set down by the Nobel Foundation, including keeping the confidentiality of all documents and proceedings for a minimum of 50 years. Also, the legal possibility of contesting the decisions in e.g. administrative courts is removed.

The other two Nobel Prize-awarding bodies in Sweden, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Swedish Academy, are legally private organisations (although enjoying royal patronage), and have therefore not had to make any special arrangements to be able to follow the Nobel Foundation's regulations.

Notable alumni or faculty


See also



  1. ^ a b c d "Karolinska Institutet in brief | Karolinska Institutet".
  2. ^ Karolinska Institutets Varumärkesplattform (Swedish) Revised Nov 2014, Page 6 Archived 30 January 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Nobel Foundation Directory. 2003. Stockholm : Nobel Foundation, p. 5.
  4. ^ National Council of Science Museums. 2005. Nobel Prize Winners in Pictures with CD-ROM. Delhi: Foundation Books, p. v.
  5. ^ a b "QS World University Rankings 2020 Results". QS World University Rankings. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  6. ^ "Annika Östman Wernerson". University Management. Karolinska Institutet. Retrieved 25 March 2023.
  7. ^ "KI through the centuries | Karolinska Institutet". Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  8. ^ "The Inauguration Ceremony of Ming Wai Lau Centre for Reparative Medicine | Karolinska Institutet". Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  9. ^ "Research at Karolinska". Archived from the original on 13 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  10. ^ Pääjärvi, Malin (4 October 2023). "Jätten KI stor vinnare när forskningsmedel fördelas". Dagens Medicin (in Swedish). Retrieved 22 May 2024.
  11. ^ "Shanghai Ranking-Universities".
  12. ^ "Karolinska Institute Ranking 2020–21 – Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)".
  13. ^ "Karolinska Institute".
  14. ^ "World University Rankings". Times Higher Education (THE). 25 August 2020.
  15. ^ "Karolinska Institute". Times Higher Education (THE). 14 June 2022.
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2020 – Clinical Medicine". Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  18. ^ "ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2020 – Biological Sciences". Archived from the original on 4 July 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  19. ^ a b "Karolinska Institutet". Top Universities.
  20. ^ a b "World University Rankings 2021 by subject: clinical and health". Times Higher Education (THE). 26 October 2020.
  21. ^ "World University Rankings 2021 by subject: psychology". Times Higher Education (THE). 26 October 2020.
  22. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 – Dentistry". Top Universities. 13 May 2024.
  23. ^ "World University Rankings 2020 by subject: clinical, pre-clinical and health". Times Higher Education. 26 October 2020. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  24. ^ "U.S. News & World Report Best Global University Ranking". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  25. ^ "Academic Ranking of World Universities". ShanghaiRanking Consultancy. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  26. ^ a b "Karolinska's Asia campus donation questioned". University World News.
  27. ^ "CY denies link over son's job and $400m donation" Archived 26 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine. The Standard, 17 February 2015
  28. ^ "Next Magazine misses the mark in saying money, influence behind Leung Chuen-yan getting post at Karolinska Institute". South China Morning Post, 22 February 2015
  29. ^ Fountain, Henry (24 November 2014). "Leading Surgeon Is Accused of Misconduct in Experimental Transplant Operations". The New York Times.
  30. ^ ""Super-surgeon" Macchiarini not guilty of misconduct, per one Karolinska investigation". Retraction Watch. 14 April 2015.
  31. ^ a b Vogel, Gretchen (19 May 2015). "Report finds trachea surgeon committed misconduct". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aac4623.
  32. ^ a b Vogel, Gretchen (27 May 2015). "Karolinska releases English translation of misconduct report on trachea surgeon". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aac4649.
  33. ^ "Gerdin Report (English) Assignment ref: 2-2184/2014" (PDF). Karolinska via CIRCARE. 13 May 2015.
  34. ^ Cyranoski, David (2015). "Artificial-windpipe surgeon committed misconduct". Nature. 521 (7553): 406–407. Bibcode:2015Natur.521..406C. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.17605. PMID 26017424.
  35. ^ "Trachea surgeon Macchiarini acted "without due care," but is not guilty of misconduct: Karolinska". Retraction Watch. 28 August 2015.
  36. ^ Keisu, Claes (28 August 2015). "Visiting Professor at Karolinska Institutet cleared from suspicions of scientific misconduct". Karolinska Institutet. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  37. ^ The Lancet (2015). "Paolo Macchiarini is not guilty of scientific misconduct". The Lancet. 386 (9997): 932. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00118-X. PMID 26369448.
  38. ^ a b "Reading about embattled trachea surgeon Paolo Macchiarini? Here's what you need to know". Retraction Watch. 12 February 2016.
  39. ^ Ciralsky, Adam (31 January 2016). "The Celebrity Surgeon Who Used Love, Money, and the Pope to Scam an NBC News Producer". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  40. ^ Hallbom, Johannes; Moberger, Karin (13 January 2016). "Utredaren står fast – KI:s stjärnkirurg har forskningsfuskat" [The investigator stands firm – The KI's star surgeon accused of research fraud]. SVT Nyheter (in Swedish). Sveriges Television.
  41. ^ "Experimenten: Stjärnkirurgen" [The Experiments: The Star Surgeon]. Dokument inifrån. Sveriges Television. 7 January 2016.
  42. ^ a b Abbott, Alison (2016). "Prestigious Karolinska Institute dismisses controversial trachea surgeon". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2016.19629. S2CID 75963204.
  43. ^ Enserink, Martin (2016). "Karolinska Institute fires fallen star surgeon Paolo Macchiarini". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aaf9825.
  44. ^ Kremer, William (10 September 2016). "Paolo Macchiarini: A surgeon's downfall". BBC News.
  45. ^ "Karolinska may reopen inquiry into star surgeon Macchiarini, following documentary's revelations". Retraction Watch. 1 February 2016.
  46. ^ "Comment on the TV documentary "Experimenten"". Karolinska Institute. 28 January 2016.
  47. ^ Andersson, Carl V (1 February 2016). "KI:s ledning granskas av oberoende utredning" [KI's management reviewed by independent investigation]. Dagens Medicin (in Swedish).
  48. ^ "Examination of CV information" (PDF). Karolinska Institute. 11 February 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 September 2016.
  49. ^ "Fatal Experiments: The Downfall of a Supersurgeon". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  50. ^ Vogel, Gretchen (2017). "Six papers by disgraced surgeon should be retracted, report concludes". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aar3612.

Further reading

  • Rocca, Julius (2006). Forging a Medical University: The Establishment of Sweden's Karolinska Institutet. Stockholm: Karolinska Institutet University Press. ISBN 91-85565-07-5.