In what seems to be rare air, the FDA is backing down from approving vaccine trials for a new vaccine for herpes. The FDA claims the vaccine violates domestic safety standards. Although the United States government has shut down the ability to test the vaccine, that hasn’t stopped powerful investors from moving the testing grounds to the Carribean, out of U.S. arm’s reach.
But what makes the story even more dramatic is the investors who are now funding the herpes vaccine testing trials. The most notable and controversial is Trump adviser and Paypal founder, Peter Thiel. According to Kaiser Health News, Thiel is $7 million deep in financial investment to the company that will perform the testing.
The creators of the vaccine claim it ceases outbreaks of herpes. The FDA has not monitored any of the testing, some of which has already taken place on the island of St. Kitts.
“This is a test case,” Bartley Madden, another investor in the trials, told KHN. “The FDA is standing in the way, and Americans are going to hear about this and demand action.”
The company, Rational Vaccines, is putting on the trials at the helm of serious investor cash. Thiel has been notable in his criticism of the FDA’s drug and vaccine review process. Thiel at one point stated, “you would not be able to invent the polio vaccine today.”
William Halford, another prominent investor, similarly stated, “Many of the virus vaccines we currently put in our kids—chickenpox, mumps, measles, and rubella—were developed using live-attenuated viruses in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when the regulatory landscape was more relaxed… and they have worked remarkably well.” Halford also considers the FDA’s barrier much too high.
“There are governments around the world that the WHO [World Health Organization] has approved for vaccine development,” he said. “We’re talking to those types of governments.”
Halford and Hollywood filmmaker Agustín Fernández founded Rational Vaccine. Halford recently passed away of cancer.
Rational Vaccine, of course, has its share of critics.
“What they’re doing is patently unethical,” Jonathan Zenilman, chief of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases Division, told KHN. “There’s a reason why researchers rely on these protections. People can die.”
So suddenly, it seems, the FDA is into vaccine safety. Somewhere, the game of money is being won and lost in this debacle. Either a domestic pharmaceutical company wants to be the producer of this herpes vaccine, or the investors want the initial piece of the vaccine pie. Either way, let’s be honest, a herpes vaccine is worth millions (and more). It seems as though two sides are fighting under a possible false guise of philanthropy. I’d say a lot of people are fighting to get rich.