(Daily Express 28/8/1999

Secret vaccines sparks new fear for Gulf vets
GM trial revealed as row deepens


AN official adviser yesterday accused the Government of keeping him in the dark about its development of a genetically engineered plague vaccine.

Professor Malcolm Hooper, who sits on the Ministry of Defence’s independent panel on vaccines, said he was "appalled and disturbed" to discover that work on. the anti-plague drug had reached the stage of clinical trials.

"The MoD has never disclosed to me or the panel that it has been working on a plague vaccine, and I am disturbed by this news because it raises very serious concerns for the Gulf War vets," he said.

"During all the meetings that I have had with the MoD about the vaccines given to the vets, the prospect that they could have been given genetically modified vaccines was never raised.

"There is no doubt in ny mind that the vets were experimented on, and the Mot) has already admitted it gave injections to Gulf soldiers against the advice of the Department of Health. This whole thing has become a can of worms and the sooner the MoD opens it the better"

Scientists at the secret research centre Porton Down in Wiltshire ‘have spent the past eight years finding a vaccine for bubonic plague, one of the most deadly biological weapons.

They have isolated a gene producing the two proteins that neutralise its lethal effects. By implanting the gene in another harmless bacteria, they have been able to harvest enough proteins to create a vaccine.

Dr Rick Hall, technical director at Porton Down, said: "We have reached the stage where we can start testing on humans but that work will not be done here. We have contracted that out to a private company and they will send the results of the trials for analysis.

"This work is just a small part of the work that we do here and is only part of the country’s defensive posture. But ft is an important role. If there is a chance that an aggressor is planning to use biological weapons against our troops then we need to provide them with protection."

But the MoD’s research revealed on the day that The Express uncovered evidence proving that British soldiers in the Gulf suffered radiation poisoning from Allied weapons----was immediately condemned.

Professor Hooper had already accused the Government of covering up the extent of its knowledge of depleted uranium poisoning among Gulf veterans when he discovered the vaccine research. "I am appalled by this latest development and disturbed by the fact that I and the panel have not been kept informed," he said. "The MoD has announced a new vaccine for plague based on a genetically modified organism but has not said what has been modified, how it has been modified or indeed why.

"There have been rumours that Russia, China, Israel, and lraq have been working on these GM organisms but to say you are devising a method of countering such a threat is a hopeless charade.

"There is no way the vaccine makers can keep pace with the creators of these organisms unless they have got prior knowledge of what is being created. He added: "The very least we now deserve is a public statement from the MoD making clear why this vaccine has been created, what from and how they intend to prove its safety"

Human guinea pigs who take part in chemical and biological experiments at Porton Down are all service volunteers.

The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, which runs the centre, said: ‘The volunteer programme is not open to the public. We don’t pay the Volunteers a fee, but they are to reimburse for any costs or inconvenience.