FDA launches criminal investigation into Peter Thiel-backed herpes vaccine

The late Southern Illinois University professor, Dr William Halford, allegedly gave eight American herpes patients multiple injections of a live herpes virus in an illegal trial of his vaccine for the sexually transmitted disease.

The FDA is now investigating the work of a scientist who allegedly tested his experimental herpes vaccine on people – a criminal act, when done outside of regulations – in 2013 and 2016.

Two people who received the injections from Dr Halford in a Holiday Inn in 2013 told Kaiser Health News that they have recently developed side effects, and fear the live virus in the ‘vaccine’ has given them a different strain of herpes.

Now, the FDA is on the hunt for any signs that people at SIU or Dr Halford’s former company Rational Vaccine – funded in part by Peter Thiel – helped the scientist break the law or otherwise violated FDA regulations, Kaiser reports.

Dr William Halford (right) allegedly injected Americans with a live herpes virus in an off-the-books trial of a vaccine for the sexually transmitted disease in 2013. The company Dr Halford later founded to sell the vaccine received funding from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel (left)

Dr Halford, who died of cancer earlier last year, fled the US and continued developing his drug in the Caribbean in 2016. A company owned by Peter Thiel reportedly invested millions of dollars in the research in April.

Southern Illinois University (SIU), where Dr Halford was an associate professor during his unregulated US trials, denies any knowledge of the experiments, despite being listed on his patent for the vaccine sold.

Dr Halford allegedly used his SIU email account and phone number to arrange meetings with people he wished to use as guinea pigs for a herpes vaccine.

According to reports, that vaccine, like most used against viruses, contained its own live virus, making it particularly dangerous.

Kaiser reports that there was nothing in the email exchanges or from the subjects’ accounts to indicate that they signed any kind of consent forms, or that Dr Halford otherwise abided by any of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) safety regulations.

Drugs and vaccines are supposed to be developed using a rigorous process, established and overseen by the FDA.

The agency does not typically use its authority to make criminal charges against researchers and institutions, and is more likely to sanction them or limit their research bandwidth.

But Dr Halford was not a medical doctor, but a microbiologist, and had no qualifications for administering or developing a vaccine, making his human experiments particularly egregious.

Shortly after injecting eight people who already had herpes with his prospective antidote, Dr Halford left the country.

From Saint Kitts in the Caribbean, Dr Halford started a company called Rational Vaccines, which he co-founded with Agustin Fernandez, a Hollywood film director known for Badge of Honor.

Rational Vaccines bought a license for a patent from SIU, and allegedly advertised the partnership on its website.

According to Kaiser, Dr Halford continued to develop his vaccine under Rational, and began a clinical trial in 2016.

In April, PayPal co-founder and Trump campaign donor Peter Thiel reportedly invested millions of dollars into Rational and Dr Halford’s research.

Genital herpes treatments are estimated to be worth as much as $2 billion worldwide, and Rational was slated to begin recruiting participants for additional trials in Mexico and the Caribbean, MedCity News reported in March.

A researcher illegally injected Americans with a herpes virus for his vaccine experiments

After Dr Halford’s death this past summer, several people who were injected as part of Dr Halford’s off-books Illinois trials reportedly told Kaiser that they had developed symptoms that they feared were caused by the live virus they had been injected with.

With a live virus vaccine, the unnamed patients were concerned that Dr Halford might have given them a different strain of herpes than the one they already had.

According to the report, the participants went to SIU and then the FDA with their concerns.

In a statement, SIU says that it was not involved in and previously had no reason to be suspicious of Dr Halford’s research in Saint Kitts.

Once it was made aware of Dr Halford’s unregulated research, SIU began an internal investigation in July.

It reported its findings of ‘serious noncompliance with regulatory requirements and institutional policies and procedures’ to the Office for Human Research Protections and the FDA, according to its statement.

That development appears to have spurred the FDA’s own newly-launched inquiry.

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