A retired American businessman, Bernard Osher, and his Swedish wife, Barbro, the general consul in San Francisco, made the donation of $5.5 million – around 43 million kronor.
The objective of the centre will be to test alternative medicines “in a scientific way”, contributing to the field which is becoming known as “integrative medicine”, where alternative forms of treatment are used alongside the western, science-based cures.
“There is considerable public interest in alternative treatment methods and today there is a lot of investment without anyone knowing whether or not the treatment leads to a positive result,” said Hans Forssberg, the pro-rector at Karolinska.
“We therefore need to evaluate these treatment methods in the same way that we test new treatments within evidence-based medicine, filter out what isn’t effective and integrate what works.”
The project group will include neuroscientists, psychologists and public health scientists who will apply evidence-based research methods to treatments such as acupuncture, healing, herbal medicine, massage therapy, hypnosis and meditiation.
In a press statement, the university described the new centre as a “network where researchers from all of Karolinska’s institutions can co-operate”
“Our students need to learn more about integrative medicine – about both the positive and negative results,” said Forssberg.
Bernard Osher is said to be especially interested in traditional Chinese medicine and has in the past made donations to similar projects in San Francisco and at Harvard.
“The donation shows that it is possible to get meaningful economic support for important areas outside of the traditional financial sources,” said the director of the university, Rune Fransson.