Thursday, December 15, 2005

Former Bio-Tech Leader Busted for Failing to Pay Child Support

A while back we posted about the curious case of Protocol 126 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. Much of it was based on a series of investigative reports in the Seattle Times (see this web-site.)

In summary, a series of trials, called Protocol 126, at the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center were run by researchers who had extensive, major financial relationships with Genetic Systems, the company that developed the treatment used in the protocol. The investigators failed to divulge these relationships, despite institutional rules to the contrary. They are alleged to have intimidated other physicians and IRB members who tried to review questionable elements of their protocol. The patients enrolled in the protocol did very badly, probably worse than had they had conventional treatment. Efforts by Hutchinson physicians to have an on-site local or federal investigation of the conduct of the protocol did not succeed. Even though Protocol 126 ran from 1981 to 1993, the controversy surrounding it was not revealed until the Seattle Times series in 2001, and it has received little attention in the medical and health care literature since.

We also noted that the founder of Genetic Systems, David Blech, was found guilty of two counts of fraud.

The Seattle Times just provided some follow-up about another of the principle figures in Genetic Systems, Dr. Robert Nowinski, whom Blech hired to run the company. After he sold his shares in Genetic Systems, Nowinski went on to found three more bio-technology companies, Icos, PathoGenesis, and VaxGen, and he helped to found Primal. In 1990, he said, "if you took the 15 largest biotechnology companies of the 1980s, we founded three of them." After getting out of bio-tech, he went on to set up a high-tech art gallery in Seattle. However, this year he was reported again to be trying to "broker a billion-dollar deal with a local biotech company on behalf of some major investors."

The Times reported he has just been arrested on two federal criminal counts of failing to pay child support. Prosecutors say he is about $125,000 in arrears. He has also been subject to civil suits that claim he hid assets during his divorce proceedings, and that he withdrew a "loan," never paid back, from a trust fund meant to benefit his children from the failed marriage.

What a motley crew we have had running health care organizations!

Perhaps it's time to think about setting some standards for who gets to do that.

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