Virus, big business emerges from eavesdropping
Money, interests, power games. Intercepted, doctors and managers speak of avian and test tubes as a lucrative turnover. And the prosecutors are still investigating
When one is on me ... he must die! », Said the virologist Ilaria Capua speaking of a pharmaceutical company that criticized his invention, the" Diva ", the first vaccination strategy against avian influenza. The investigation of the public prosecutors in Rome in which the veterinarian, now a member of the Civic Choice, is involved together with her husband and 36 other people, accused in various capacities of association for delinquency, virus trafficking and corruption, highlights business and conflicts of interests hidden behind health emergencies and how much bird flu has 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 informed him that an experiment was underway in the zooprophylactic institute of Padua 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 are not a person who buys for four lire."
The main role in this investigation is played by Paolo Candoli, manager of the multinational Mirial, the man to whom the doors of the Ministry of Health were opened to obtain authorizations. Candoli's knowledge of Capua is recognized by the same virologist who confirmed it to "L'Espresso". In fact, he is the manager delegated by his company to speak with her. 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, who is also under 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 the Capua ... you have 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".
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 and notes that "it would be a problem because the foundation has no commercial purpose" while, on the contrary, at that time 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.