Who Will Profit from the Deadly Flu This Time?Posted: April 27, 2009
by Amalija Šašek
Rumsfeld made the most profit from swine flu in 1976 and bird flu in 2005. Potential profiteers of swine flu are Al Gore´s Kleiner Perkins or Baxter…
The swine flu which spread from Mexico over to the United States has concerned the World Health Organisation (WHO), but also governments across the world. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not issued an official confirmation, there is suspicion that the virus has occurred in Great Britain, France, Spain, Israel and New Zealand. People who had been in Mexico and have flu symptoms have contacted their doctors.
It is interesting that the new swine flu virus is in fact a mixture of viruses that are typical for birds, pigs and people. The World Health Organisation has expressed concern and warned about a possible pandemic, but for now there is no explanation as to how the virus managed to mutate in such a short period of time that it can be spread from person to person.
Nobody has yet issued any official information about the origin of the new swine flu virus. Some media have recalled the bird flu epidemic in 2005 and early 2006. The only cure for the deadly disease was a drug called Tamiflu, which was produced by the Gilead Sciences pharmaceutical company, whose CEO happened to be Donald Rumsfeld from 1997 to 2001. He stepped down from the position after he took up office as the chief of the Pentagon in Bush’s administration. But he did not give up his shares in the company.
Rumsfeld made millions on bird flu
The American company made millions of dollars and its shares skyrocketed. The American media called Rumsfeld the bird flu profiteer, having become one of the wealthiest men in America from the earnings from the drug. The Swiss company Roche purchased the rights to the production of Tamiflu, so Gilead made additional profit on that sale. The CNN wrote about that at the time, stating that during the bird flu pandemic, Rumsfeld even intended to sell his shares in Gilead, but was advised to keep his shares and not to make his intentions public.
But Rumsfeld’s name was not just connected with the bird flu, but also with the swine flu in the United States in 1976. The story began when one soldier died in New Jersey from what experts believed to be an identical strain of the swine flu virus from 1918. At the time, Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defence and initiated swift action, convincing the people that the new administration would make sure that every man, woman and child in America are vaccinated. At that time the presidential campaign was underway and candidate Gerard Ford received additional support from this and became the president. The vaccine was produced and distributed across the country at lightning speed. The programme stopped just a month after the elections. The only problem was that the vaccine had been contaminated which resulted in hundreds of people becoming ill from it, while 52 people died.
Shares of two companies went sky-high after the occurrence of swine flu
The question of who will now profit from this deadly virus arises. Reuters conducted a research of who could be the potential manufacturer of a new vaccine and came to the conclusion that since the breakout of the swine flu on Friday, the shares of two companies increased considerably – Biocryst Pharmaceuticals by 26 percent and Novavax by as much as 75 percent. It is also interesting that the shares of the Swiss company Roche Holding went up by 3.48 percent, while Gilead’s shares dropped by ten cents to 45.80 dollars.
But BioCryst officials say they have no intention of producing a cure for the swine flu. It is attention-grabbing that the company’s value plummeted by 90 percent since 2006 when the price of one share was 20.75 dollars.
The value of Novavax also dropped, by 85 percent to 7.98 dollars per share.
Kleiner Perkins known for lucrative investments
Reuter also writes that Kleiner Perkins invested 30 million dollars into BioCryst in 2005, together with Fort Worth, a Texas subsidiary of TPG. The two companies again invested 65 million dollars in BioCryst in 2007. First they bought shares at 13.46 dollars and then at 4.35 dollars. Kleiner perkins also invested 20 million dollars in Novavax in 2006 together with the Paolo Alto company, a subsidiary of the Prospect venture Partners company.
According to pundits, Novavax can produce a vaccine from flu samples in 12 weeks. The company has contacted the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is also trying to get in contact with the Mexican health ministry and offer its assistance. Kleiner Perkins is known for investing into companies that were kicking off their successful businesses, such as Amazon.com, Google, Genentech and Netscape.
Baxter tested the flu virus a month ago
However, the Baxter International Inc. company confirmed on Saturday that it was working with the WHO to produce a vaccine that would prevent the spreading of the virus. The company has sufficiently developed technology to produce a necessary drug in a short space of time.
– Baxter requested a virus sample from WHO to do laboratory testing for potentially developing an experimental vaccine – Baxter’s spokesman Christopher Bona told the Chicago Tribune.
Exactly a month ago, the company’s subsidiary sent a virus which was presumed to be typical for birds to labs by mistake. The samples were intended for lab use and, fortunately, none of the employees who came in contact with the virus became infected. Spokesman Bona said at the time that samples of the seasonal flu were to have been sent to the laboratory, but that a mistake had been made. The interesting thing is that a month before the breakout of the epidemic, Baxter was working on flu virus samples.