Tech billionaire and informal Donald Trump adviser Peter Thiel bankrolled a herpes vaccine trial in the Caribbean that not only flouted United States safety laws, but also potentially put human clinical trial participants at risk.
Thiel invested $7 million in the biotech company Rational Vaccines, which ran experimental herpes vaccine testing from April to August 2016. The testing wasn’t monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, nor was it approved by an institutional review board, both of which ensure that human subjects’ rights and well-being are protected, and can reject research that doesn’t meet safety standards. (Neither Thiel representatives nor Rational Vaccines responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment.)
The trial was conducted by William Halford of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, who is also the scientist who developed the vaccine. Although SIU is one of the vaccine’s patent holders, the school said it has no legal responsibility for the vaccine and did not know the trial occurred until after it ended. Halford died of cancer in June.
“SIU School of Medicine did not have any involvement in Rational Vaccines’ clinical trial,” Karen Carlson, the university’s spokesperson, told Kaiser Health News. “But we are confident that as the chief scientific officer of Rational Vaccines, Dr. Halford followed safety protocols appropriate to the clinical trial.”
Public health experts disagreed with that assessment.
“In short, this is a sham and a fraud,” Dr. Christopher Gill, an associate professor of global health at Boston University’s Center for Global Health and Development, told HuffPost.
“What’s most astonishing is not that we have discovered another huckster peddling snake oil to the desperate and unwary, but that SIU has not seen fit to step in and deal with the risk to humans imposed by this sham research, or to see that their failure to fulfill their oversight role exposes them to…