01 August 2008

Connecting Some Dots

As first announced this morning by the Los Angeles Times, a new suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks is dead of an apparent overdose of prescription pharmaceuticals. Like previous suspect Dr. Steven Hatfill, Dr. Bruce Ivins worked at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, MD. Reports in the press are now saying that Ivins' rationale for releasing the anthrax was to test an anthrax vaccine on which he had been working.

It turns out that the US government got behind that idea of testing the vaccine in a very big way. As reported in the New York Times on September 18, 2006, the government, in response to the anthrax attacks, embarked on
Project BioShield, a $5.6 billion effort to exploit the country’s top medical and scientific brains and fill an emergency medical cabinet with new drugs and vaccines for a host of threats.
What is interesting about BioShield is that one company, Vaxgen, was awarded a contract for $877.5 million to produce a large amount of an anthrax vaccine. That vaccine was described in this way:
VaxGen's rPA102 vaccine is composed of a purified protein called recombinant Protective Antigen (rPA) and an aluminum salt routinely used in many vaccines. This design produces a vaccine that is expected to be well characterized and consistent across manufacturing runs. Recombinant Protective Antigen induces antibodies shown to neutralize anthrax toxins. rPA102 cannot cause anthrax infection.
rPA102 is based on work conducted at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). VaxGen has exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize a recombinant anthrax vaccine candidate based on patented technology developed by USAMRIID.
And yes, Dr. Ivins is an author of a publication in the journal Vaccine titled "Defining a serological correlate of protection in rabbits for a recombinant anthrax vaccine."

Looking further, Ivins is the first listed inventor of patent number 6,387,665 "Method of making a vaccine for anthrax", which does specifically reference rPA102.

So, the pieces do fit that the anthrax attacks did result in testing of Ivins' vaccine. However, it remains to be proven conclusively that Ivins is indeed responsible for the attacks. What is abundantly clear, however, is that the United States government wasted no time in putting nearly a billion dollars into testing Ivins' vaccine.

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