Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science
Moral Courage and Our Common Future by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “And yet, it moves!” Galileo whispered those defiant words in 1615 as he left the Roman Inquisition tribunal before which he repudiated his theory that the Earth—the immovable center of the Universe according to contemporary orthodoxy—revolves around the sun. Had he not recanted, his life would be forfeit. We like to think of Galileo’s struggles as the quaint artifact of a dark, ignorant, and tyrannical era where individuals challenged government-anointed superstitions only at grave personal risk. Dr. Judy Mikovits’ story shows that stubborn orthodoxies anointed by pharmaceutical companies and corrupt government regulators to protect power and profits remain a dominant force in science and politics. By any standard, Dr. Judy Mikovits was among the most skilled scientists of her generation. She entered professional science from the University of Virginia with a BA degree in chemistry on June 10, 1980, as a protein chemist for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) working on a life-saving project to purify interferon. The quality of her work and her reliable flashes of genius soon propelled her to the apex of the maledominated world of scientific research. At NCI, Mikovits began what would become a twenty-year collaboration with Dr. Frank Ruscetti, a pioneer in the field of human retrovirology. While heading up the lab of Robert Gallo in 1977, Ruscetti made scientific history by codiscovering with Bernie Poiesz the first human retrovirus, HTLV-1 (human T-cell leukemia virus). A retrovirus is a “stealth virus” that, like HIV, enters the host without alerting the immune systems. It may then lie dormant for years without causing harm.
Before killing a person, a retrovirus will usually destroy their immune system. As a result, many retroviruses cause cancer. With an escalating understanding of retrovirus behavior, the Ruscetti/ Mikovits collaboration and Mikovits’s award-winning PhD thesis from George Washington University in 1991 changed the paradigm of HIV-AIDS treatment, turning the disease from a death sentence into a manageable condition. From the outset, the most daunting obstacle to Mikovits’ career advancement was her scientific integrity. She always placed it ahead of personal ambition. Judy Mikovits never meant to wade into a public health brawl. She never considered herself a renegade or revolutionary. Judy’s relatives mainly worked in government or law enforcement. They believed in the bedrock American principles of hard work, respect for authority, and, above all, telling the truth. That backdrop made it impossible for her to abandon her high natal standards of honesty and integrity even when they became a hindrance. After leaving NIH, she worked a stint for Upjohn—leading a project to prove the safety of the company’s blockbuster Bovine Growth Hormone. When Mikovits discovered the company’s formula could cause precancerous changes in human cell cultures, she refused direct orders from her boss to hide her discoveries. Mikovits’ revelation suggested that the ubiquitous presence of the hormone in milk could lead to breast cancer in women who drank it. Her refusal to back down precipitated her departure from Upjohn and her return to NIH and graduate school. Judy’s war on BGH eventually led to Upjohn abandoning the product. In 2009, now in academia, Mikovits and Ruscetti, who was still at NCI, led a team that discovered a strong association between a previously unknown retrovirus and myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Predictably, the retrovirus was also linked to certain blood cancers.
Collaborators had named it Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Related Virus (XMRV), when they first detected in DNA sequences in prostate cancer a few years earlier. The medical community had dealt with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which strikes mostly women, in bad faith since its appearance in the mid-1980s. The medical establishment derided ME/CFS as “yuppie flu” and attributed it to the inherent psychological fragility of career women pursuing professions in high-pressure corporate ecosystems. Mikovits found evidence for the retrovirus in approximately 67 percent of women afflicted with ME/CFS, and in a little less than 4 percent of the healthy population. On October 8, 2009, Mikovits and Ruscetti published their explosive findings in the journal Science, describing the first-ever isolation of the recently discovered retrovirus XMRV, and its association to ME/CFS. Her revelation about ME/CFS immediately triggered angry reactions from jealous cancer power centers, stubbornly resistant to science that attributed cancer and neuroimmune diseases to viruses. The blowback grew even grimmer when Mikovits’ subsequent research suggested that the new retrovirus, originally found in mice, had somehow jumped into humans via contaminated vaccines. Even more troubling to the medical establishment, Dr. Mikovits’ research revealed that many of the female patients afflicted with XMRV had children with autism. Suspecting XMRV might be passed from mother to child, as with HIV, Mikovits tested seventeen of the children. Fourteen showed evidence of the virus. Those findings dovetailed with parental reports of autistic regression following vaccination. Subsequent studies linked XMRV to epidemics in leukemia, prostate cancer, autoimmune disease, and the explosion of Alzheimer’s disease. Worse yet, research also found widespread XMRV contamination in the blood supply and blood products. Based on her research and the findings of others, it seemed that anywhere from 3 to 8 percent of the population now carry the virus—XMRV has become part of human ecology, passed from mother to child in vitro or through breast milk. Mikovits’ data suggest that more than ten million Americans are harboring this virus like a ticking time bomb—a potential threat far greater than the HIV-AIDS epidemic. In January of 2011, HIV-AIDS expert Ben Berkhout published these explosive revelations in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. He included Mikovits’ evidence that mouse tissue used in vaccine production was the likely vector for human contamination. Unbeknownst to Judy, her co-author on this book, Kent Heckenlively, had already independently discovered published medical research showing that the first recorded outbreak of ME/CFS was among 198 doctors and nurses at the Los Angeles County Hospital in 1934– 1935, following their injection with an experimental polio vaccine grown in mouse brain tissue. Mikovits’ evidence threatened financial catastrophe for the world’s pharmaceutical companies because of their negligent use of animal cell cultures to produce vaccines and other pharmaceutical products. Her findings put at risk billions of dollars of revenues from an entire branch of medicine called “biologics,” which depends on animal tissue and products. Pharmaceutical companies and their captive regulators unleashed a furious broadside against Mikovits and Ruscetti, besieging them from every stronghold. The journal Science feverishly pressed Mikovits to retract her October 2009 article. In September of 2011, the Whittemore Peterson Institute at the University of Nevada, Reno, fired Judy from her faculty job. Judy and her family noticed menacing-looking men following her in pickup trucks and other incidents indicating she was under surveillance. In one incident, burley thugs surrounded her home and forced her to flee in a boat. After she escaped, they barged into her home, claiming to work for the government. In November, Ventura Police arrested Judy without a warrant and held her in jail for five days without bail. The police searched her house from top to bottom, strewing her papers everywhere. That same day, cops raided the home of her friend, Lilly, and forced her to sit in a chair for several hours while they ransacked the building. NIH officials told Nevada police that Dr. Mikovits had illegally taken her research notebooks from their lab. This was a fabricated charge. As the principal investigator on two government grants, it was Dr. Mikovits’ obligation to retain all of her research papers . .
Foreword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Introduction by Dr. Judy Mikovits
1. A Scientist at Sea
2. A Rebel from the Start
3. The Dead Doctors—What Is Real?
4. The Fate of Those Who Fight the Darkness
5. Is the Government a Friend or Foe?
6. The Blood Working Group and the Cerus Boondoggle
7. VP62—The Clone Assassin
8. My Identity Stolen in Vaccine Court
9. What I Really Think about HIV and Ebola
10. My Coauthor Gets Banned from Australia
11. The Way Forward
12. One More Story I Should Probably Tell Notes Plates
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