Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pretty Innocent

A microbiologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has resigned, after acknowledging that he misrepresented the findings of his research into the prophylactic properties of an anti-anthrax lotion.

Dr. John Heggers faced scrutiny for claiming that the Bio-Germ Protection lotion – made of grapefruit seeds and the oil of an Australian tree – would protect the public from an anthrax attack. He also said it would probably work against other bioterrorism threats, such as smallpox or the plague.
The owner of Bio-Germ is named Allan Lord. His father, Doug Lord, is a close friend of Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), who is a high-ranking member of the House Science Committee.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall and McKinney Police Chief Doug Kowalski, who holds homeland security seminars around the country and led the Dallas police SWAT team for a decade, support the product on its promotional videos.

"This certainly appears to be a breakthrough and the answer to the anthrax problem," says Hall, R-Rockwall, who's been friends with Lord's father, Doug Lord, for decades.

Kowalski, in uniform and holding the Bio-Germ kit, says it is "the type of product that will be very beneficial to first responders." He had worked with Doug Lord for years on police charity rodeos.
Hall, needless to say, displays the GOP politician's usual inability to grasp the concept of personal responsibility:
"I'm pretty innocent in this thing," said Mr. Hall, the No. 2 Republican on the House Science Committee. "I was trying to help a friend and the American people."
Dr. Heggers' misconduct doesn't seem to be a matter of debate. He used a very weak strain of anthrax for his tests, and tested the lotion's effectiveness only in petri dishes. He published his "findings" in an online journal run by two of his former medical residents, and he listed two other scientists as co-authors, despite the fact that they hadn't read the paper.

All the same, Bio-Germ's developer, Robert Heiman, feels that Heggers hasn't been treated with quite the proper respect by UTMB (which is, incidentally, one of the largest recipients of federal biodefense dollars):
"I think that a man who has a lifetime of proven experience with a résumé that's basically almost an inch thick, that has contributed in every way in the field that he's in ... they should have really treated him royally," he said.
None of the articles on Bio-Germ identify Robert Heiman, but I strongly suspect that he also runs a company called Epicuren; it makes an anti-aging cream that works according to these indisputable scientific principles:
All cells have memory specific to their type and function. Cells copy each other, which is why the memory of each cell must be changed to a healthier state. IF this change does not take place, cell memory continues to digress [sic].
There's no doubt that a seal of approval from a "Developmental Scientist" like Heiman would be a valuable commodity indeed; this is, after all, the man who invented the silver ion cloth. But whether or not Bio-Germ's Robert Heiman is also the CEO of Epicuren, it would be interesting to know just what credentials he has.

As of this writing, the Bio-Germ Kit is still available online; the site informs prospective buyers that
Bio-Germ Protection Products may be eligible for FY 2005 Homeland Security Grant Programs (HSGP) as Authorized Equipment under AEL item number 9.2.8, "Supplies, Disinfectant."

1 comment:

JMS said...

I think the choice of plants used by this politcally connected scientists were poor to begin with - when trying to protect oneself from weak strains of anthrax, everbody knows you must pour maple syrup on your head and eat radishes.

In that light, "grapefruit seeds and the oil of an Australian tree" are an extremely bizarre choice for homeland security.