Professor Roy Anderson and vaccination

                        Dr.   Richard A.E. North
                         Thursday 19 July 2001

THE  START  of  the  current  foot  and  mouth   epidemic was not, as the
government would have us believe, in February.  The probable  start  was
some time in September.

    It  is  something  of  a curious coincidence, therefore, that in the
period immediately prior to this month, there had been running synthetic
FMD  vaccine  trials  in  four countries: the U.S. Taiwan, China and the
United Kingdom.  Since this involved injecting pigs with the vaccine and
then  exposing  them to live FMD virus, somewhere in the UK prior to the
start of the FMD epidemic, pigs were being  deliberately  infected  with
FMD virus.

    It  is  even  more  curious  that the UK trial was reportedly due to
finish in September 2000, just about the time that FMD probably started.
However,  few  more  details  are  known  about  the   trial.  Of the two
countries which opted to sign a  secrecy  agreement,  the  UK   was  one.
China  was  the  other.   Nevertheless,  it  is known that a firm called
United Biomedical Inc produced the vaccine, and the UK trial was carried
out  by an un-named "partner".  Although this "partner" is un-named, UBI
has licensing agreements on other vaccines with Merial UK, which is  the
sole FMD vaccine manufacturer in the UK.

    After  the  first case was confirmed on February 20, the Ministry of
Agriculture enlisted its own epidemiologist, Prof John Wilesmith of  the
Veterinary   Laboratories  Agency,  a  veteran  of   BSE,  to  model  the

    At his disposal was a "decision support system" called EpiMAN, which
can  help predict the course of an epidemic, and develop strategy, using
a tool called Interspread to model its spread across the  country.   But
this  system  was  never used in action, owing to the intervention of an
additional curiosity, Professor Roy Anderson.

    The singular oddity here is how quickly he became  involved   in  the
management  of  the  epidemic,  as  his background is primarily in human
health.  As head of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at
Imperial  College  Medical  School  -  and formerly head of the Wellcome
Trust Centre for Epidemiology of Infectious Disease at Oxford University
-  his main interests have been human diseases such as AIDS, malaria and
tuberculosis, mainly from a global perspective.  He  had  also  taken   a
close interest in measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.

    However,  his  team had taken an interest in BSE, while Anderson had
got himself appointed  to  the  government's  Spongiform   Encephalopathy
Advisory   Committee   (SEAC),   although   his    input   -  and  public
pronouncements - remain controversial.  As well as that,  his  interests
included   being   a   director   and  30   percent  shareholder  of  the
International Biomedical and Health Sciences Consortium,  and  he  is   a
scientific  consultant  to  Abbott  Pharmaceuticals, a major US company.
Additionally, he is consultant to SKS Scientific (presumably Smith Kline
Beecham),   and  has  links  with  the  Hamburg   Institute  of  Tropical
Scientific Advisory Board Medicine

    One of the members of Prof. Anderson's research  team  was   a  young
lady  called  Dr  Christl  Donnelly, a statistician, and, in yet another
curious coincidence, she just happened to publish  in  October  2000   in
Veterinary  Science  an  analytical  paper  on  the   1967 foot and mouth
epidemic - a month or so after foot and mouth disease for real  probably
struck  this country.  Why Donnelly should have so suddenly developed an
interest in an animal disease, has not been explained.

    This notwithstanding, the  paper  effectively  staked   a  claim  for
Anderson's  team  as having some expertise in FMD.  And when the current
FMD epidemic was finally detected in February,  Anderson  was  extremely
quick  off the mark.  By the end of the month, unasked and uninvited, he
had assembled his team  at  Imperial  College  and  had  it   working  up
computer models of the epidemic.  By 6 March, his team was ready to make
a presentation of its "findings".

    Yet another curiosity intervened here as the  presentation   was  not
made  to  MAFF - nor veterinary officials - but to Sir John Krebs of the
Food Standards Agency, who had arranged  a  meeting  for  that   purpose.
Quite why Krebs should have been taking such an interest in FMD has also
not been explained but it is germane to note that his responsibility  is
for food safety.  FMD, being an animal disease, was entirely outside his
remit yet, for some reason, no-one from MAFF - which was responsible for
controlling the disease - was invited to the meeting.

    Here, a whole raft of coincidences intervene.  Firstly, Anderson and
Krebs were not strangers.  Both had worked in the Zoology Department  in
Oxford  University.   Secondly,  both were Fellows of the Royal Society.
Thirdly, Anderson had worked  closely  with  another  Oxford   scientist,
Professor  Sir  Robert May, currently President of the Royal Society and
previous  Govt  Chief  Scientist,  and  had  collaborated   with  him  in
producing  two  text  books on epidemiology.  Fourth, May and Krebs were
not exactly  strangers.   They  had  both  worked  in   the  same  Oxford
University  department  and both had been awarded Royal Society Research
Professorships.  Finally, on this  highly  buoyant  raft,   Anderson  and
Krebs were widely seen as May's proteges.

    Whatever  the  links,  the  Krebs-Anderson axis evidently had enough
clout to prise data on the FMD epidemic from MAFF, which  they  obtained
on  14  March.   Then, on 23 March 2001, a mere month after the epidemic
had been detected by MAFF, Krebs managed  to  arrange  another   meeting.
This  time  MAFF  was  invited,  in  the  form  of   Jim Scudamore, Chief
Veterinary Officer.  They heard presentations  from  Neil  Ferguson   and
colleagues  from  Anderson's team, from Mark Woolhouse of the University
of Edinburgh, and opinions from  experts  at  the  Institute  of   Animal
Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

    Also  present  at  the meeting was Professor David King, the current
Chief Scientific Adviser, alumni of Cambridge University  and  successor
to Sir Robert May.  Needless to say, King - whose speciality is "surface
chemistry" - was a member of the Royal Society.  King  almost   certainly
owed  his  position  as  Chief  Scientist  to  May,   as  did  Krebs  his
appointment as head of the Food Standards Agency.

    If Anderson was after favours - such as a "slice of the   action"  on
FMD  -  he  certainly  knew the right people; and possibly had the right
"leverage".  Not least of this might have been the  curious   episode  of
the  government's decision to award the UK's biggest science contract in
15 years to an Oxford laboratory at the expense of the North-west.  This
was  the  550  million pound Synchrotron project which was pioneered and
developed by the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire.

    As Daresbury had been the field leader, it was the obvious   location
for  the  new  project  - particularly as it is the only major northern-
based publicly funded research institute.  But  the  project  was   part-
funded  by  the  Wellcome  Trust.  Sir Robert May, then the Government's
chief scientific adviser, wanted the project to go to Oxford.  Anderson,
his  close  associate  and  colleague, at the time just happened to be a
Trustee at the Wellcome Trust.  And it was the Wellcome Trust  that  was
widely regarded as the driving force behind the choice of Oxford.

    Whatever  might  have  passed,  Anderson got his way on FMD.  He was
soon effectively to take over the direction of the control policy, based
on  computer projections produced by his team - despite Dr Paul Kitching
Animal Health Institute telling Channel 4 News that the new  projections
were  almost  worthless.   He also pointed out how conveniently they had
been adjusted when the favoured election date  was  moved  from  May   to
June.   But  the  government  had  a  perfect   defence  to the charge of
fiddling the figures: its methods had been devised  by  the  independent
expert  Professor  Anderson, a man of unimpeachable reputation. It was a
point stressed by Prof. David King, at a press conference on 3 May.

    That "reputation" however, was something  less   than  unimpeachable.
January 1999, Anderson was suspended on full pay in while the university
authorities investigated complaints filed by his  colleague  Dr  Sunetra
Gupta  -  whom he had accused, publicly and falsely, of gaining her post
at Oxford by sleeping with another professor in the zoology  department.
Dr  Karen  Day,  a  member  of  the panel which appointed Dr Gupta, also
complained of his "offensive and intimidatory" behaviour.  Anderson   was
reinstated  two  months  later after agreeing to apologise in writing to
those concerned.

    This failed to satisfy Dr Gupta, who continued to press for a public
retraction.  A  meeting attended by 26 readers, lecturers and professors
in the zoology department passed a unanimous vote of  no  confidence  in
Professor  Anderson.   Meanwhile,  an inquiry by the university into the
research centre in the zoology department  criticised  his   "autocratic"
management  style:  conditions  at  the  centre  were   "intolerable" and
divisions ran "very deep".

    A  separate  financial  audit  then  found   that  Anderson  had  not
disclosed  to  either  the  university  or  to the Wellcome Trust, which
largely financed his  research  centre,  that  he  was  a   director  and
shareholder  of International Biomedical and Health Sciences Consortium,
a private consultancy firm which had  close  financial  links  with   the
centre. As director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of
Infectious Diseases, he  had  applied  for  over  4  million   pounds  of
research  grants  from  Wellcome,  while  also  being   a  Trustee of the
Wellcome Trust itself, which awarded the grants.

    "There was a degree of naivety on his part",  a   Wellcome  spokesman
said.  "He should have been aware of the procedures to be followed.  The
research centre was also receiving  commercial  grants  which  were   not
declared, in breach of the trust's regulations".

    On  9 May 2000, Anderson resigned his Oxford post and announced that
he was taking up a chair at Imperial College. A month later, he  finally
gave  Dr  Gupta  the formal apology she wanted, admitting that there had
been "no foundation in truth whatsoever" in his comments.  He  paid   her
legal  costs plus damages of l,000 pounds, which she donated to Save the
Children. As she told the Daily Telegraph  last  June:  "I  felt   nobody
should  be  allowed to get away with this and remain in a position where
they are making judgements about people's lives... I felt there  was  no
other choice, no other way to protect myself or other people".

    Anderson  also  resigned  from his seat on the Board of Trustees for
the Wellcome Trust.  His departure from was announced by Wellcome on  11
March  2000  in  somewhat opaque terms, stating that, "in view of recent
events at the University of Oxford", his resignation "would  be  in   the
best interests of both the Trust and himself".

    Given  this  man's  impeccable  background, it is curious to say the
least that he should still be treated with such authority.  But what  is
even  more  curious is his stance on vaccination.  His view, articulated
by The Daily Telegraph, was that:  "Immunisation  would  not   help  much
because it allows the disease to spread from an infected farm, given the
inevitable delay that would occur between confirmation and vaccination".

    This  was  from a man who, despite strong concern about MMR, was one
of the prime advocates of routine vaccination, a man who works for major
pharmaceutical companies which produce most of the world's vaccines.  Is
there any connection between Anderson and the vaccine trial on Foot  and
Mouth?   Did  something  go  wrong?  Is this why he was so quick off the
mark and so keen to have a slice of the action?  I think  we  should   be

    "Dr.  Richard  North  is  a  food   safety  analyst  and a relentless
opponent  of  unnecessary  bureaucracy,  and the EU.    Formerly  an  EHO
specializing  in  food hygiene, Dr. North was instrumental in the battle
for Lanark Blue cheese.  He's also famous  for  his  confrontation   with
Edwina Currie over the issue of salmonella in eggs.

    "He's  written  two  books,  'The  Mad Officials' and 'The Castle of
Lies' (both with Christopher Booker of the Sunday Telegraph).  He  has a
third  book  about  the food scare phenomenon, called 'Scared to Death'.
More recently he's been advisor to MEPs, and Research Director  for  the
political  group  called  Europe of Democracies in Brussels (the "EDD").
Dr. North spends his time between his home in Bradford and his  advisory
job in Brussels."