Virus trafficking, Capua acquitted. But the wiretaps reveal big business
'No place to proceed' for the Paduan virologist. But the Nas investigation highlights the business and conflicts of interest hidden behind health emergencies. And it tells with facts how much bird flu has enriched Big Pharma
The judge for the preliminary hearing of Verona, Laura Donati, ordered the "no place to proceed" for the virologist and deputy of Civic Choice, Ilaria Capua, and twelve other defendants accused in various capacities of illicit trafficking in influenza viruses avian. The investigation, initiated by the Nas carabinieri and coordinated by the Rome prosecutor, was then transferred to Venice.
For the prosecutors of the capital, the virologist had to answer that she had promoted and organized with other people an association that had the purpose of committing "an undetermined plurality of stolen goods, administration of medicines in a way dangerous to public health, corruption, zoonosis and epidemic ", and again" for having used highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, of the type H9 and H7N3, of illicit origin, in order to produce in clandestine form, without the prescribed ministerial authorization, medicinal specialties for veterinary use (which is the avian influenza vaccine), proceeding subsequently, again in an illicit form, to their marketing and administration to poultry animals of intensive farming ".
In this way, the accused would have "determined the spread of the avian influenza virus in poultry farms in northern Italy, which is no longer controlled, with serious danger to safety and public health, which on the one hand led to the infection of seven people. among the operators in the sector as ascertained by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità through an epidemiological investigation, and on the other the serious danger to health deriving from the consumption of the meat subject to indiscriminate vaccination, determining, as a preventive measure, the killing of millions of heads of chickens and turkeys, with considerable damage to the national poultry heritage, calculated by the Regional Veterinary Epidemiology Center in 40 million euros ". For the judge there are no preconditions for the trial requested by the prosecutors. Ilaria Capua who between 2005 and 2007 was responsible for the National Reference Center for Avian Influenza in Padua, left the Chamber for an assignment in Florida, together with her husband Richard John Currie, also a defendant.
In the investigation published by L'Espresso the business that some doctors about viruses and vaccines would do. To tell are the interceptions in which Ilaria Capua herself is the protagonist.
"When one is on my cock it has to crack!", said the virologist speaking of a pharmaceutical company that criticized her invention, the "Diva", the first vaccination strategy against avian influenza. The investigation by the public prosecutors in Rome in which the veterinarian was involved with her husband, started from an information report that brought up another 36 people, highlighting business and conflicts of interest hidden behind health emergencies, telling with facts what the avian enriched Big Pharma.
The conversations recorded by the Nas of the carabinieri reveal, among the many episodes, Capua's interventions on Intervet, the Italian branch of a giant of veterinary drugs. Intervet's top management were critical of the effectiveness of the Diva system. But the lady of the viruses would have let him know that in the zooprophylactic institute of Padua an experiment was underway on a vaccine produced by Intervet: the brand, however, would have been mentioned in his study only if the managers of the pharmaceutical company had complied with his requests, including that of re-evaluating the Diva test. And talk about it well. And the managers would have sent a clear message through an intermediary: "You (Capua ed) is not a person who buys for four lire."
Paolo Candoli, manager of the multinational Mirial, played the main role in the investigation, the man to whom the doors of the Ministry of Health were opened to obtain authorizations. He is the manager delegated by his firm to speak with Ilaria Capua. In particular when Merial is looking for viral strains with which to start the production of vaccines, even before receiving the authorization of the ministry. One of the virologist's colleagues, Stefano Marangon, also involved in the investigation, warns Candoli two months before the launch of the vaccination program. One way to benefit him over the competition. "I talked to Capua, it is not excluded that she has it, that is, do you know what she is doing there anyway?" Candoli says to a colleague speaking of a viral strain. "Surely if she has it sent, and then she sells it back to us." Then he adds: "Unfortunately with Capua ... there is something to think about following ... feeding the monkey".
The manager of Merial also turns to the virologist on the advice of Marangon, because she is the head of the National Reference Center for avian influenza and therefore is in the possibility of knowing for sure with what viral strain the new vaccine will be prepared. At the same time, she is one of the few people in the international arena who has the opportunity to have a viral strain sent by other institutes in a short time "without the required ministerial authorization".
Ilaria Capua talks to an Intervet manager and says that "she thought of a way to save Intervet's face, in order to take them" by the balls "". In this regard, he tells the manager to report to his bosses "that a study will soon be presented in Cambridge where you have generated an H7-N5 and that H-N5 is the rarest neuroaminidase ever, so those of Intervet could be saved the face saying that they are interested in the virus to make the vaccine, so that they can start to deal again on the Diva test, for which they (Capua, Marangon, Cattoli) are about to close with the Merial and Fort Dodge, as well as with the Dutch government ". Then he goes on to say that "by virtue of this you will insert the name of Intervet's vaccine on the study of ducks". For investigators, Capua allegedly used "the study you carried out to induce Intervet to soften its critical position towards the Diva test and that, if so, as a counterpart, it will publish the name of the Intervet company vaccine on its study" .
When the Nas arrive in the institute to seize a vaccine that would not have had the credentials to enter the market, and Capua is involved, she begins to worry about the investigation. Her father, an esteemed lawyer from Rome, expressly advises her not to refer anyone to the contract stipulated with Merial for the exploitation of the Diva patent. Ilaria Capua says that "the bird flu affair is a very complicated story and even if I have been intercepted, the papers will show that everything has been done in the light of the sun".
From one of the recordings a cross-section of the interests at stake emerges. He talks to the mother about the job proposal received from a Florida foundation, at the time and even today, and notes that "it would be a problem because the foundation has no commercial purpose" while, on the contrary, in that period she has an active part and has «a good commercial activity for the sale of diagnostic reagents that allow it to earn 700 thousand euros in one year».
For investigators, this statement would refer to the revenues that Capua, together with Marangon and Giovanni Cattoli, were obtaining from the sale of the Diva test, for which a contract was signed with the companies Merial, Fort Dodge, and foreign countries.