Skip to comments.PROFESSIONAL HIT ON SAITOH, WORLD CLASS SCIENTIST!
Posted on 12/25/2001 4:26:52 PM PST by rdavis84
If I had heard the news on Cable Network News a week earlier, I would have totally ignored it. I heard a non-English name I couldn't remember, and that he had been shot and killed, along with his young daughter, in LaJolla, California. He was dead behind the wheel of the car, the side window had been shot out, and the door was open. His daughter appeared to have tried to run away and she was shot dead, also. The hit was compared to other killings of Japanese in this country by muggers. What made my antenna stand on end is that the victim was an expert in abnormal proteins in Alzheimer.
ABNORMAL PROTEINS? I had just put together May Blazing Tattles with its EXTRA! on the Gajdusek bust by the FBI. (See Dr. D.C. Gajdusek and Mad Cows, Page 10.) I had already interviewed Mark Purdey in Somerset England twice by telephone. (See "Mark Purdey and the Mad Cows" on Page 9.) I was becoming familiar with the expression "abnormal brain protein." Is it a coincidence that scientists studying brain protein (a very rare area of study) seem to be having hard times?
As soon as I heard on TV "brain protein" and "there were no witnesses," I said to myself: "This is a professional hit. This is not a random killing by muggers." (My judgement was later borne out by a Reuters report [5/11/96, San Diego] which called the double murder "very professionally done.") I was also becoming familiar with violence against scientists and others victims who were all involved in one way or another with abnormal brain proteins. Some of them implicated a chemical in Mad Cow Disease and its species-transmissible form, including the human version, CJD.
Purdey's house was burned down and his lawyer who was working with him on Mad Cow Disease had been driven off the road by another vehicle and subsequently died. The veterinarian on the case also died in a car crash. Purdey's new lawyer, too, had a car accident, but not fatal. Dr. C. Bruton, a CJD specialist -- who had just produced a paper on the a new strain of CJD -- was killed in a car crash before his work was announced to the public. Purdey speculates that Bruton might have known more than what was revealed in his paper. The Brits have a tendency to knock each other off in car crashes it seems. In the US, we do it by drownings (See "William Colby and CIA dirty tricks, or, Did George Bush have a joint bank account with Saddam Hussein?" on page 15.) or shootings. Both the wives of Colby and Saitoh were out of town at the time of their husband's deaths.
What all of these have in common -- Alzheimer Disease (AD), Mad Cow Disease, and CJ Disease -- is abnormal brain proteins.
After I heard the news, I continued to listen from program to program to learn as much as possible. The victim's name is Tsunao Saitoh, aged 46. The name of his 13-year-old daughter's is Loullie.
Once again I called Mark Purdey to find out of he knew anything of the work of Saitoh, as he did of Gajusek. While Saitoh's name sounded familiar to Purdey, he couldn't pinpoint it, but when I told him that Saitoh had been working in the area of abnormal brain proteins in AD, Purdey said that the protein was called an abnormal "tau" in Alzheimer. He said OP (Organophosphate chemical, a pesticide) would cause the tau deformity in the same way it causes the deformed prion protein in the brains of cattle.
To verify Purdey's explanation of tau in AD, I spoke with a few experts and this was confirmed for me. One of two hallmarks of AZ is a neurofibulatory tangle inside dying nerve (brain) cells and the whole cell body is filled with this abnormal tau. I made a lot of phone calls to various offices at Saitoh's institution, seeking information. Saitoh's list of publications is exceedingly long. His recognition is in the study of amyloids (related to the second AD hallmark) if I understand the press material.
I had heard on the news that there was a conference on AD in San Diego (where the medical college is located and near LaJolla). The conference had been mentioned on the news in conjunction with Saitoh's assassination. Saitoh was a "globally recognized" authority on AD and he was at UCSD. His death occurred in the evening prior to the opening of the conference. I thought perhaps he was going to present some radical new theory of OP-induced Alzheimers. Yet a spokesperson told me: "He was not on the program and he had not been expected to attend." Hummmmmmm.
I obtained via fax from the PR department their standard press handout for media regarding the late doctor. It says "Dr Saitoh... served as an associate at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Columbia University, New York, from 1982 to 1985." Avid oldtime readers of Blazing Tattles will recall what Alan S. Levin, M.D., had to say about Hughes: "I used to work for Bechtel and Hughes people in covert operations. I was in the Marine Corps Covert Operations in Laos, Thailand, and Viet Nam...Bechtel and Hughes were the major operations. And also Bechtel was very instrumental in building air strips from which cocaine is transported in Central and South America."
Then when Levin was in Medicine at University of California, San Francisco: "What was going on was that the Chief of the De- partment of Medicine was lobbying for Howard Hughes' funds, Hughes Industries! Now, most of the funds in the Hughes Medical Foundation comes from Hughes' black budget, Hughes' CIA contract. So, I had worked with these guys in Operation Phoenix, and here this very same (dirty) money that was generated by that company was going to build this Institute at the
And I asked Levin: "And Hughes' money comes from?"
And he replied: "Hughes' CIA contract... With Hughes, Bechtel, and McDonnell Douglas, it is a big sort of conspiracy that I will describe to you in the next 10 or 15 minutes. It was very well orchestrated and it is very complex." (Blazing Tattles, August 1993.) The story is too long to reproduce here. Copies are available from Blazing Tattles.
Essentially the story is that defense contractors have found they needed a new industry and there is a lot of money to be made in medicine. Despite Saitoh's connection to Hughes through the Medical Institute at Columbia, and despite the fact that the Hughes organization has the connections to do a professional hit, my instincts say that the Hughes organization is not directly responsible for Saitoh's death. I could be wrong. I've been wrong before. At least one person thinks Hughes is involved:
"The boys are playing dirty pool again. This Japanese scientist is also connected up to the Howard Hughes Institute, a mysterious, low key medical research facility," was written in a personal letter to an Internet friend and forwarded to me, with the name of the original writer deleted.
The name of Hughes came up again in connection with abnormal brain proteins but it takes a bigger stretch of the imagination than I can figure to connect the following with dirty tricks by Hughes. Jim Scanlon posted the following to 'sci.environment' on Usenet:
"... there was an investigation of a CJD cluster in Tucson Arizona (pop. 400,000) in 1987 because a local neurologist suspected as many as 20 cases over a ten(?) year period. An article in the Arizona Daily Star (3/19/87) indicated three cases in young men in their thirties who worked in the Hughes Missile Plant.
"An investigation was done by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and reported in the same paper (7/8/87). The conclusion was that the CJD cluster was coincidental. The CDC was, from the newspaper reports, not in a hurry to investigate, and did not apparently experience any pressure to come to its conclusion.
"Interest in the matter, which was never high, died out... Are there other clusters? One of the doctors quoted in the 7/87 article (the same name) was quoted recently in New Scientist stating that pigs and chickens are sensitive to BSE (Mad Cow Disease). He should have known of the Tucson cluster.
"The CDC should have known, and so should the British Ministry of Health. Why this silence? There is something seriously amiss. Even considering that the CDC excluded several cases for apparently bogus reasons, "outside the city limits", "worked at Hughes only 4 months", there still appeared to be seven cases in a small city not terribly different from the 50 million plus population of the UK over a similar period of time."
Scanlon goes on to say that CJD is known to be transmitted through intrusive medical procedures which introduce contaminated neurological tissue and perhaps dental procedures. No one has looked into this aspect previously. All prions are difficult to destroy using traditional methods. It is fortunate that they are not alive and it is difficult to get them inside you.
Whether or not there is a cover up in the case of Alzheimer, Mad Cow, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJ) diseases -- all of which affect the brain remains to be seen and may never been known. What is certain is that bad things have happened to Mark Purdey, his lawyers, his veterinarian, and others leading figures dealing with abnormal brain proteins. I'm sorry folks, but statistically it is so unlikely to be a chance occupance that I have to believe there is some connection here. My hypothesis is that the victimized US and British researchers have found a link between OP -- or more generally chemical mixes -- and diseases of the brain; and some entity profiting from chemicals is orchestrating the disasters.
FLASH: News sources say second type of Alzheimer discovered. JC disease or OP-caused?
Mark Purdey and the Mad Cows By Claire W. Gilbert, Ph.D.
Of recent years, a disease has been observed among cattle. A sick cow drools, wobbles as if drunk, and has difficulty using its hind legs (if I have that right). Then one day it falls over dead. [The US version may be the "downer cow."] It has been found upon autopsy that their brains are not normal, and the disease is caused from an infectious agent. It was widely believed to be a slow incubating virus, but now some scientists believe it is caused from an almost indestructible protein molecule called a "prion." It was assumed humans could not catch this disease. It is an incorrectly folded prion protein molecule, according to Purdey. These incor- rectly folded molecules have an abnormal electrical charge which facilitate the neighboring prions to become incorrectly folded. These proteins are not destroyed by ordinary cooking and there is also no known remedy for the disease. Over a period of years, this process continues, until the cow falls ill.
Purdey believes that the cause of the problem is that a chemical gets into the brain and binds with the normal prions to produce abnormal ones. He believes it is a specific chemical called "phosmet" which does this. Phosmet is a combination of an organophosphate pesticide (OP) and thalimide (base of thalidomide) which is used against the warble fly in cattle. The phosmet is applied on the skin in an oily base, with the intent of it being taken into the skin, into the cow's body where the fly burrows in. According to Purdey, the warble fly actually lives in the cow nine months of the year. The OP plus thalimide initiates the prion change. Once changed, its electrical charge can trigger normal prion protein into abnormal form.
Purdey controls the warble fly with "derris root powder." It kills the warble fly and does not harm the cow -- it is not necessary to use phosmet to kill the warble fly.
It seems researchers in many fields who get onto something regarding toxic chemicals have bad things happen. Purdey's re- search that was contracted out to the Medical Research Council was intercepted by the government, and one trial was cancelled while the other was mysteriously changed. The chemical he designated for the experiment was altered and diluted. The results therefrom were weakened, although still was found a slight bond with the OG and the prion protein.
CROSSING THE SPECIES BARRIER
A big issue today is whether the mad cow disease could cross the species barrier and be transmitted to humans or between other animal species. There is an emerging view, based on a variety of correlations, that this is possible.
With respect to humans, there is a disease known as "CJD" which resembles Mad Cow Disease in that it has a long incubation period and when a fatality is autopsied, the human brain shows minuscule holes as does the cow's. The British believe it is caused from eating contaminated beef. CJD is an extremely rare illness and normally strikes only older people. More recently a second strain has emerged in which younger people have been affected.
But Purdey says that human cases can be caused from chemicals. He says there was a cluster of CJD in Kent, England. There were four cases in four small villages. These villages are ten miles downwind of a factory which manufactures phosmet. In 1986 they had a leak and the chemical went all around the countryside. The incubation period is ten years. He says there is another cluster of this very rare disease in Teeside, where another plant is located. His conclusion is that the second strain is caused from chemicals.
There's been another ominous story going around about hay mites infecting minks. Purdey says the mite prion which infected the minks was itself affected by the chemical.
COINCIDENCE OR CONSPIRACY?
I asked Purdey if it is true that both his veterinarian and his lawyer were killed in car crashes, and he confirmed this. His lawyer was run off the road by another car and died as a result of the accident. His new lawyer also had a car crash, but he survived. Purdey's house was burned down.
Purdey related that the scientist, Dr. C. Bruton died in a car crash. He had just produced a paper on a new strain of CJD. Bruton was a CJD specialist. Posthumously, his work was announced to the public. It is likely or at least possible that Bruton knew more than what was in the paper, said Purdey.
I asked Purdey if he thought the arrest and firing from his research position of the distinguished, US resident, Nobel Award CJD specialist, Dr. D.C. Gajdusek was also related to this mad cow situation. Purdey said that weeks before the arrest of Gajdusek Purdey was told by Ray Bradly of the Ministry of Agriculture that Gajdusek was seeking alternative hypotheses and specifically requested all of Purdey's papers. They were faxed to Gajdusek.
We tragically lost our friend and colleague, Tsunao Saitoh, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of California San Diego, and his 13 year old daughter, Louille, at about 11 PM on Tuesday May 7, 1996 as they were returning from his laboratory. They were killed at gun point in front of their home. He had spent the evening working and helping his daughter with her homework. This tragedy is deeply felt by his remaining family, his many colleagues, collaborators, and friends.
Tsunao was highly intelligent, hard working and creative. He had become a leading scientist in the field of Alzheimer research, a superb mentor and a wonderful collaborator. He was warm and caring, considerate and helpful to his students and fellows; his current laboratory group includes 5 pre-doctoral students, 5 post-doctoral fellows, 2 visiting scholars, and support staff. He had a wide breadth of knowledge in both science and the humanities and when there were disagreements he would argue his point of view without rancor. He was sophisticated in his tastes, both Western and Japanese, and knew the best sushi chefs in San Diego. At the same time he was an intensely private individual.
Tsunao, born on December 13, 1949, Received both a Masters (1974) and Ph.D. degree (1977) from the Institute for Virus Research at Kyoto University. From the earliest stages of his career he was extremely productive. Publications from is master's degree work (with S. Hiraga) dealt with DNA replication in E. Coli and DNA transfer to recipient cells; additional publications based on his doctoral studies (with A. Ishihama) focused on subunits of RNA polymerase. At that stage of his career, a new interest in the nervous system motivated a move to Paris to work with P. Changeux at the Pasteur Institute. He remained there as a visiting post-doctoral fellow until 1982 investigating mechanisms of membrane phosphorylation of the Torpedo electric organ. Between 1982-1985, Tsunao was an Associate at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (with J.H. Schwartz). During this period his research dealt with calmodulin dependent protein kinase in Aplysia during long term potentiation.
We were extraordinarily fortunate in recruiting Dr. Saitoh to the UCSD Department of Neurosciences and the Alzheimer Disease Research Center in 1985. Tsunao initially studied changes in protein kinases in brains of Alzheimer patients. Subsequently, he turned his attention to the physiological function of the APP molecule, demonstrating its trophic properties. During these studies, he and his collaborators identified a 17 amino acid active neurotrophic region near the insertion point of the Kunitz sequence. He then discovered a new amyloid component protein (NACP and cloned the NACP gene which is located on chromosome 4 and is present as part of the amyloid core in about four-fifths of the neuritic plaques in Alzheimer brains. He showed that NACP aggregated with the A peptide to form amyloid, in a manner analogous to apolipoprotein E. During the past several months, Dr. Saitoh's laboratory has investigated the possibility that inheritance of a specific allele of NACP might alter susceptibility to the development of Alzheimer's disease. This work was part of a larger scientific effort aimed at identifying genetic factors that might modify the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in both apolipoprotein E4 positive and negative individuals. At the time of his death he was at the very peak of his productive career. Numerous manuscripts were in preparation when his life was cut short.
The entire neuroscience community, and in particular the community of Alzheimer disease scientists, will sorely miss him as a valued colleague and friend.
Alzheimer's Disease Review 1, 37, 1996
©1996. The University of Kentucky. All rights reserved.
A portable display format (pdf) of this file is also available (TSaitoh.pdf).
I've noticed this too/BTTT
Organophosphates, BSE, CJD, Scrapie, Prions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Pesticides, Industrial Pollutants, Metals, Soils, Diet.
Hi, and welcome to the web site of Nigel and Mark Purdey.We're interested in exploring the ways in which the Environment may be causing a wide variety of diseases such as BSE, CJD, Scrapie, Alzheimer's disease, the Chronic Fatigue Syndromes and more
We want to hear from you - your stories , criticisms and information.
This page contains a wealth of information including articles, papers, diagrams, a continuous journal of Nigel and Mark Purdey, a pair of dedicated researchers who look to know what's worth knowing of these diseases.
Not for commercial use. Solely to be used for the educational purposes of research and open discussion.
NEWS; Pg. B12
May 10, 1996; FRIDAY; ALL EDITIONS
ALZHEIMER'S SCIENTIST, DAUGHTER SLAIN IN CALIF.
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- A prominent Alzheimer's disease researcher and his 13-year-old daughter were shot to death outside their home.
Two people called police after discovering a man slumped over the steering wheel of his car early Wednesday. The girl was found dead in the driveway.
The medical examiner's office withheld the victims names. But the Japanese consul in Los Angeles identified them as Tsunao Saitoh of the University of California at San Diego, and his daughter, Louille Saitoh.
Police would not discuss a motive but said that it appeared the assailant was waiting for the victims, and that the shooting probably happened late Tuesday night.
In his research, Saitoh was trying to learn how neurons in Alzheimer's patients brains are destroyed.
He had worked at the university's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center for 10 years and had recently made some major breakthroughs in finding potential causes of the disease, said Phyllis Lessin, assistant chief of the center.
"I can't even fathom why anyone would do this," she said."We're all traumatized. This is the most awful thing in the world."
Not for commercial use. Solely to be used for the educational purposes of research and open discussion.
The Washington Times
May 12, 1996, Sunday, Final Edition
Part A; NATION; Pg. A3
Scientist killed by hit man, cops say; Police lack clues in double murder
K.L. Billingsley; SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
SAN DIEGO - The slayings of an internationally renowned, Japanese-born neuroscientist and his 13-year-old daughter this week were carried out by a professional killer, police say.
Tsunao Saitoh, 46, and his daughter, Loullie, were gunned down Tuesday night in the driveway of their home in La Jolla, a posh suburb. Police had no suspects in the killings, which have become a top news topic in Japan. Mr. Saitoh conducted research on Alzheimer's disease in the medical school of the University of California at San Diego. He was the recipient of numerous grants and was held in high esteem by colleagues, who described him as a dedicated scientist working seven days a week in pursuit of a cure for the mind-crippling disease.
Tuesday evening, Mr. Saitoh had been helping his daughter with homework at his UCSD office. Police said that when they returned home about 11 p.m. in Mr. Saitoh's BMW, a gunman ambushed them in the driveway and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun.
Skateboarders found Mr. Saitoh slumped over the wheel of his car about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday and called police. The body of his daughter was found about 30 feet away in the driveway. Police said she appeared to be running away from the attacker.
Mr. Saitoh was hit four times, twice in the head at close range, while seated in his car. His daughter was struck once in the back and twice in the head at close range.
Police have no witnesses, no murder weapon and no evidence of a robbery at the Saitoh home. Mr. Saitoh's widow, Shizue, returned to San Diego Friday from Nice, France. His brother, Yukio Saitoh, told reporters he was not aware of any threats against his brother.
Police Detective Lt. Glenn Breitenstein, who is handling the case, was not available for comment yesterday. An unnamed police source on Friday told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the murder was a contract killing by a skilled marksman who "knew what he was doing."
Every shot hit its mark, the source said, including those fired from 30 feet at the fleeing girl, who was wearing her father's lab coat. Police possess the shell casings but did not reveal the caliber of the firearm.
Mr. Saitoh, a Japanese citizen and permanent U.S. resident, joined the university's department of neurosciences in 1985. Before that, he was an associate at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at New York's Columbia University.
Virtually without clues, police are examining Mr. Saitoh's financial records and business dealings.
Not for commercial use. Solely to be used for the educational purposes of research and open discussion.
INTERNATIONAL EDITION; TOKYO; CRIME; Pg. 63
May 20, 1996
MURDER WITHOUT MOTIVE;
THE VIOLENT DEATHS OF A SCIENTIST AND HIS DAUGHTER LEAVE CALIFORNIA POLICE PUZZLED AND JAPAN SHOCKED
MICHAEL S. SERRILL, REPORTED BY ELAINE LAFFERTY/LOS ANGELES AND SATSUKI OBA/TOKYO
Tsunao Saitoh had just pulled into the driveway of his California home when the unseen killer attacked. Bullets smashed through the driver's side window of the BMW, riddling Saitoh's upper torso. His 13-year-old daughter Loullie bolted out of the car in a desperate effort to escape; she was shot again and again in the back. When police arrived some hours later, they were confronted with a savage double homicide and no suspects. The Japanese-born Saitoh, 46, was a prominent scientist--an expert on Alzheimer's disease--with no known enemies. Detectives could find no motive for his murder.
To many Japanese, however, there was no mystery: the father and daughter had fallen victim to the U.S.'s violent culture. The incident "again vividly shows the horrors of America, the gun society," editorialized Mainichi Shimbun, a Japanese national newspaper, "and has revived the nightmare of other gun killings of Japanese in the United States." Japanese television networks provided extensive coverage of the Saitoh murders, with reporters filing live reports from the victims' doorstep. Five days after the murders, police in La Jolla, the affluent San Diego suburb where Saitoh lived in an $ 800,000 home, remained baffled by the crime. They believe the gunman was lying in wait for Saitoh when he returned home from his laboratory at the University of California at San Diego, where he had been helping Loullie with her homework. "It's a complete mystery," said Lieut. Glenn Breitenstein of the San Diego police homicide unit. "It doesn't appear to be robbery." The family's luxurious home had not been burglarized, he said, and no attempt was made to steal the scientist's car or the cash in his pocket. Saitoh was estranged from his wife Shizue, who was reportedly on a trip to Europe and Japan when her family was killed.
Saitoh had earned a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Kyoto before leaving for the U.S. He had been a professor of neuroscience at U.C. San Diego for 11 years, and had conducted research previously at Columbia University in New York City. In 1993 Saitoh made headlines in the medical press when he identified a protein in the brain that seems to trigger Alzheimer's disease, the fatal, degenerative brain ailment that afflicts millions of elderly people around the world. He predicted that the discovery would lead to a cure for Alzheimer's within 20 years.
Saitoh was director of U.C. San Diego's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, where he supervised a dozen other scientists. He received grants for his work from the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago and from pharmaceutical companies. "He was one of the world's leading researchers in this area," said Phyllis Lessin, deputy director of the research center. "We're all devastated. He was a dedicated, brilliant researcher and a dear, gentle man with a ready smile for everyone."
With the Saitoh murders, 12 Japanese nationals have been slain by guns in the U.S. since 1990....
(snip the crapola about gun control)
The central puzzle for the Japanese and American reporters who converged on San Diego was why a respected scientist like Saitoh would be the target of what resembled a gangland hit. One focus was on the researcher's finances. How, investigators were asking, was Saitoh able to make a $ 140,000 down payment last year on his house--steps from the La Jolla Country Club in one of the most exclusive communities in California--and take out a $ 650,000 mortgage, all on a salary of $ 106,000? He had also reportedly paid cash for his BMW and for a 1992 Mercedes that he owned.
But even in the unlikely event that Saitoh was involved in some nefarious dealings, the brutal manner of his demise jolted the Japanese, whose own gangsters for the most part settle their disputes without deadly violence. "I never even dreamed of the possibility that my son and granddaughter could be killed by a gun," said Saitoh's father Shigezo, an 84-year-old fortune-teller in Urawa City, north of Tokyo. Shigezo Saitoh had not seen his granddaughter in 10 years; she was scheduled to visit Japan this summer. Now his last glimpse of Loullie will be at her funeral.
The Times (London)
May 6, 2000, Saturday
An expert in his field
Organic farmer Mark Purdey has spent 15 years arguing that organophosphates - not cattle feed - were to blame for BSE. But as Brigid McConville discovers, his one-man campaign has not made him popular
Below the sloping meadows of Mark Purdey's organic Exmoor farm, half of Somerset spreads out in a lush green tapestry of woods and fields. Most people, you can't help thinking, would sit back and revel in the extraordinary peace.
Mark Purdey, however - a tall, lean figure with unruly hair - is not most people. He is a person of extremes: impassioned, intelligent, dogged, charming and obsessive. He adores his wife Margaret and their six children, music, nature, Jersey cows and poetry. He talks for hours. He gets angry - thumps the table - about things he believes are wrong. It's perfectly obvious that wherever he might live, Mark Purdey would be rocking the boat. And, for the past 15 years, while caring for his Jersey herd and bringing up his children, Purdey has been making some very big waves with his relentless one-man campaign against organophosphates (OPs), the chemicals which he believes triggered the whole BSE debate.
A self-taught scientist, he has won respect from senior scientists, public figures and politicians, including the former Cabinet minister Tom King. He has also been published in authoritative scientific journals and has been invited to speak to the Medical Research Council's toxicology unit, to the Edin-burgh International Science Festival and to the Government's 1998 BSE Inquiry.
Along the way he has challenged the full might of the chemical industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the British scientific establishment, who have stuck to their line that contaminated cattle feed was to blame for BSE, not organophosphates. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if Purdey is right and the scientists are wrong, the many thousands of compensation claims from farmers and CJD victims could just about bankrupt the country, not to mention wreck a lot of careers.
In the course of his campaign, it seems that either he has become extraordinarily unlucky, or something dodgy has been going on, for in recent years the Purdeys have faced catastrophes such as their house burning down, their barn wall collapsing without reason, and their telephone lines being cut; as well as having to deal with intruders, shooting incidents and the deaths of Purdey's solicitor and vet.
Purdey, born in rural East Anglia in 1953, comes from a long line of eccentric but brilliant thinkers. His great-grand-father famously walked from Inverness to London to build up the Purdey shotgun business. His grandfather Lionel was shell-shocked during the First World War and later campaigned for Lord Kitchener to acknowledge shell shock as a real illness which should be treated accordingly.
As a child Purdey was an obsessive bird-watcher. He lists one of his earliest memories as watching planes spraying pesticides in a wheat field. "Soon afterwards I saw a blackbird quivering and dying. That image still haunts me."
He went to prep school at seven and then to Haileybury public school. "It was all very militaristic and archaic," he recalls. "Weirdly, my education led me to question authority - which backfired on the school when some friends and I used our military training to break out across the quad one night after our A levels, to visit some girlfriends. I was expelled."
Purdey had a place at Exeter University to study zoology, but dropped out to set up an organic farming community in Ireland, later becoming an organic farmer in Pembrokeshire. "It was a hardy place but I built up a Jersey herd, got married and had two children." This marriage eventually broke up, but Purdey met Margaret - a small, quiet woman whom he describes as "strong as steel" - had lots more children and carried on farming organically.
One beautiful morning in 1984 the young couple got a knock on the door of their caravan. "It was an official from the Ministry of Agri-culture," recalls Purdey. "She said we were in a zone where it was compulsory for us to treat our cows with a systemic organophosphate warble fly treatment. This is poured along the cow's spine, seeps through the skin and changes the entire internal environment of the cow into a poisonous medium in order to kill off any parasites. But anyone can see the stupidity of doing that with a chemical derived from a military nerve gas."
The Purdeys refused to comply. They were young idealists who did not expect to succeed, but when their case went to the High Court, they won. Purdey found himself on the front page of The Times and was inundated with letters from farmers who suspected that OP pesticides and fungicides had wrecked their health.
Purdey trawled through the medical literature, turning himself into an expert on OPs in the process. Like his grandfather before him, he badgered the authorities to accept that these nervous diseases were real and not to be denied. He worked long into the night and without pay to gather evidence, listening endlessly - often to Margaret's exasperation - to people's stories of OP poisoning.
The science is complex. In a nutshell he describes it thus: "OPs exert their toxic effect by deforming the molecular shapes of proteins which are crucial to the balance of the nervous system." In 1987 Purdey was asked to write a paper for the House of Commons Select Agriculture Committee about OP intoxication in farmers. "I found scientific journals from the Twenties which showed exactly the same symptoms," he says, "although all these farmers were told they were neurotic and imagining it."
Not only do these chemicals cause sickness, depression, fatigue, spasms and weakness in farmers, argues Purdey, but they are also the root cause of BSE in cattle. "Animals with spongiform diseases (such as BSE)," he explains, "exhibit brain proteins which are deformed - in the same way as those proteins affected by OPs. My case was that OPs had penetrated the central nervous system, generating chain reactions of free radicals which deformed proteins and upset the balance of minerals in the brain."
What's more, British cattle had been given exceptionally high doses of this type of systemic OP (phosmet) - higher than any of the few other countries which used this pesticide. And if meat and bone meal feed produced in Britain had caused BSE, why didn't the disease occur in countries which had imported exactly the same UK feed? There had to be another reason, Purdey argued, and media and public support for his cause was growing.
After Purdey made the 1988 Open Space TV documentary Aggrochemicals - about OPs and human health - the late poet laureate Ted Hughes wrote with "a million congratulations". Purdey's argument, he wrote, was "clear, self-evident, inexorable. So simple. One bull's-eye after another. You've lanted a big bomb. They can't hide from the camera, can they? They're as scared as we are."
Just how big a bomb was already bec-oming clear. In the Eighties the Purdeys moved from Wales to the southwest of England. "The week after we moved in, a man bought a house nearby," says Purdey. "He fired guns over our property on several occasions and let off detonations when the milk lorry arrived. At first I thought he was just a nutter, but when I reported the incidents to the police, they said, 'You realise some people are employed to behave in this way.'" Then, on an occasion which the Purdeys have dubbed "Bloody Sunday", their neighbour began firing at their milking parlour while Purdey sheltered inside. Margaret, nine months pregnant, called the police, who said Purdey would have to be shot before they could do anything.
Their neighbour's unpredictable be-haviour continued. On the day when Purdey was due to advise MPs about the effects of OPs on the nervous system, the neighbour barricaded the Purdey's driveway with an army truck, blocking the milk lorry's access and making it impossible for Purdey to leave.
"Everything was going wrong," he says, "so we decided to sell up and move to Wales. The week after we left, our former neighbour put his house on the market. Then, the night before we moved, our new farmhouse burned down. The police said it was an electrical fire, but as the house was a repossessed property, the electricity wasn't on. We went into hiding."
Purdey is aware of sounding paranoid, and admits he has no proof of any campaign against him. But he points out that in the US it is known that campaigners like Purdey are subjected to harassment and attempts to discredit them, so why not here? His response has been to make sure any incidents are recorded in the press - and he has a thick file of yellowing cuttings to show for it.
One of these describes an incident on December 28, 1991. While the Purdeys were away for Christmas, their barn wall "fell down", crushing a caravan containing Purdey's medical library. "We'd just got planning permission for the barn, so it was sound," says Purdey. The newspaper picture shows him holding aloft his saxophone - he plays it to his cows - which was salvaged from the wreckage.
Another newspaper cutting, from September 3, 1991, quotes his vet as arguing that it is time to test Purdey's theory. And then one from the local paper, a few weeks later: "Riddle of vet's car on lorry's side of road". The Minehead inquest heard that he died "after driving into the path of the lorry for no apparent reason... There was no evidence of any prior defect on the (car)". The verdict was accidental death.
The vet's death was reminiscent of an accident in which Purdey's solicitor - also a good friend - who had represented him at the High Court in the OP case, was killed. "His car lost control and hit a wall on a straight stretch of road."
Over the next few years, alarming incidents occurred with increasing regularity. In the spring of 1993, one of the Purdeys' calves was born with BSE to a cow with BSE, contrary to government orthodoxy. The night before a news story about this was due to appear in The Independent, their telephone lines were vandalised, making it impossible for Purdey to respond to any media interest.
Purdey admits that at times he has been very afraid. "But I would be a traitor to myself if I gave it up," he says. "You have to live by your heart."
It was in early 1994 that the Government began to take him seriously, claims Purdey, inviting him to a five-hour meeting with MAFF's top scientists. But still the strange events continued. In 1995 Margaret was at home with the children when she found a man rummaging in their out-buildings. He told her he was on his way to Guernsey - which was where Purdey happened to be speaking that evening.
Purdey's BSE theory was gaining ground, especially overseas. But although in 1996 he was summoned to see EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler, the meeting had disappointing results. "He said that because my work was not peer- reviewed - assessed by qualified scientists - he couldn't take it any further," says Purdey. "But it was peer-reviewed. This was just appeasement."
Meanwhile, as it was announced in the spring of 1996 that BSE had infected humans in the form of new variant CJD, three leading scientists - all specialists in spongiform brain diseases - met with tragic fates. In April, Dr Clive Bruton, curator of the Corsellis Collection Brain Bank at Rumwell Hospital in Essex, was found dead in his crashed car after a heart attack. He had been publicly arguing that deaths from CJD were going unrecognised because it was assumed that Alzheimer' disease - which has indistinguishable symptoms - was the cause.
According to the MP Teresa Gorman, who successfully campaigned to stop the Corsellis Collection from being dispersed, this was a uniquely valuable resource in that it contained the brains of people who died before BSE. Comparison with CJD victims might show that the same brain "plaques" were in evidence before BSE - or perhaps not. "This should have been examined in the context of BSE," she says.
"It is entirely possible that BSE is connected to OPs," she believes, "but the basic science has not yet been done. All the money has been cornered by the SEAC people (the Govern-ment's independent advisors on BSE and CJD), who were dealing with scrapie at the time of BSE, and it is hard to wrest that from them. I do think Mark Purdey's theory deserves more attention, but there's a huge vested interest at the SEAC end, and a lot of members from industry on this committee. They have a position to maintain and it has been difficult to get funding for alternative research."
Also in the spring of 1996, the Nobel prizewinner Dr Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, renowned for his ground-breaking research into rare diseases such as kuru, a variant of CJD which occurs in New Guinea tribespeople, was arrested in America for sex offences. According to the National Institute of Health where Gajdusek worked in Bethesda, Maryland, his journals, detailing traditional practices in the tribes he worked with, had been in the public domain for 30 years.
Yet according to The Observer (February 16, 1997), "On 4 April 1996 as Dr Gajdusek was flying back from a conference on BSE in Geneva, BFI agents were raiding both his office and his home in Maryland. They took away files, disks, photographs, film and notebooks. The same evening when he drew into his driveway with a doctor colleague, a dozen FBI agents leapt from cover and arrested the 72-year-old at gunpoint." Gajdusek protested his innocence but went to prison, his lifetime's research discredited.
Meanwhile, in California in May 1996, Tsunao Saitoh PhD, professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego, was shot dead with his young daughter. Saitoh was an internationally respected researcher into the reasons for diseases such as Alzheimer's and had been doing ground-breaking research on the deformation of the amyloid brain protein (found in CJD and Alzheimer's).
In 1997, Purdey - with the financial help of well-wishers - commissioned trials at the Department of Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatrists where the causes of diseases such as CJD and Alzheimer's are investigated. The results of these trials, showing that phosmet increased susceptibility to BSE, were later presented to the SEAC. And then in April 1998, on the eve of Purdey's day-long hearing at the BSE Inquiry, the Government announced they would aid reseach into his BSE theory.
It seemed like success at last and Purdey was delighted - but he says, "they have failed to grant funding to any proposals to date, including my own, and so the research still hasn't happened. The upshot of this is that the public has stopped funding my research because they think the Government is now paying for it - and I have been left high and dry."
Purdey has written umpteen letters to ask why, and finds the escalating indignation of the official replies hilarious. "When I started putting cc HRH Prince of Wales on my letters," he says, "their tone changed entirely. Grovelling officials!" He claims that the Prince of Wales - through contact with Ted Hughes - is a quiet supporter, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh, who has allegedly been asking MAFF since 1991 why it has approved the use of OPs which have been linked to Gulf War syndrome and to BSE.
The MP Tom King is a more public supporter. "Purdey is a very remarkable man," says King, "an individual farmer who didn't believe the official statements on BSE and who had painstakingly pursued a theory which is a classic piece of scientific investigation and intelligent observation of his own cattle. My wife is a farmer and I have dipped sheep with OPs: they passed out and we thought they were dead. These compounds were launched without adequate warnings.
"I have tried to ensure that Purdey got a fair hearing, and he has had a number of meetings with officials (because of) the strong backup I gave him. I went and supported him at the Phillips Inquiry, where his conduct under cross-examination was impressive. He is absolutely committed. I'm a strong supporter and admirer.
"At certain critical moments the scientific establishment has tried to freeze him out. When he first started, (there) was a great reluctance to entertain any suggestion that there might be an alternative explanation for BSE. There were so many issues - including accountability, money and public funds."
Before he became Environment Minister, the MP Michael Meacher also called for Purdey's theories to be checked out, as has the Conservative MP and former chairman of the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee, Sir Richard Body.
"He may not have a doctorate, but he's no fool," states Sir Richard, himself the author of four books on farming, "and he has been fighting a very lonely battle. The Ministry of Agriculture has behaved disgracefully because he challenged their authority. Some say he is obsessional, but when you're fighting a scientific establishment, you have to be. A lesser man than he would have given up years ago."
Lately, Purdey's research has taken him on a spree of soil sampling to Colorado, where in certain areas deer have succumbed to "deer BSE", and to Iceland, where some sheep have scrapie. Purdey's soil sample results showed that in both countries the areas which had high scrapie and BSE also had relatively high levels of naturally-occurring manganese in the environment. Could this be the missing link: the mineral implicated in spongiform brain diseases? He searched the literature on manganese and found articles dating back decades about maganese miners dying of a brain disease known as manganese madness. It had virtually identical symptoms to spongiform disease. It also had the bizarre symptom of "unmotivated smiling".
Then he tracked down Gajdusek's research from another area high in manganese from its volcanoes, New Guinea. It described a brain disease known as kuru, "the laughing death", which occurred in women and children of cannibal tribes who ate the brains of the dead. One symptom is a bizarre grin and contorted limbs - as found in the new variant CJD.
But what is the link with Britain and BSE? "In the Eighties," says Purdey, "cows here were fed poultry manure which was put into their concentrated feed. That manure was high in manganese, fed to hens to boost modern egg production."
Manganese is, he believes, the missing link. "OPs accelerate the absorption of manganese in the brain, as well as converting the mineral into its lethal "3plus" form. The combination of OPs and manganese became the dual trigger for BSE - in which manganese 3plus binds to the prion protein so that it becomes misfolded. This generates free radicals which in turn set off a chain reaction - rather like 'cluster bombs' which destroy the brain."
And on the day we meet, Purdey is buoyant because a new test carried out by the biochemist Dr David Brown at Cambridge University has added credence to his theory. "This test shows that the prion protein is changed into its abnormal spongiform shape by the addition of manganese," says Purdey.
"There is evidence now that manganese leads to misfolding of the prion protein (in the brain)," confirms Dr Brown, "and perhaps there is some link between this and the prion diseases (scrapie, nv CJD and BSE). My evidence fits in with Mark Purdey's theory. There must be environmental factors."
In the meantime, life goes on as usual at the farm. There are children to feed, a new baby, the milking. Purdey may soon be acclaimed as - as Ted Hughes put it - a "heroic" saviour. It's more likely, believes Margaret, that if his theory is proved right someone else will claim the credit.
Whatever happens, Purdey will carry on rocking boats. "Far more important than BSE," he says, "is GM foods, which could be a global catastrophe. Our Government scientists are too often on the payroll of the chemical industry. It makes me very angry. How come one day they are set up as experts on pesticides toxicology and the next day they are experts on GM foods? It's so incestuous!" As I leave his Exmoor farmhouse, Purdey tells me what happened to his campaigning grandfather. Sadly, his own brother, apparently more concerned about the family name than about the truth, had him committed to an asylum. "Tragically," says Purdey, "he died there. But he was right."
Let history not repeat itself.
FEATURES; Pg. 04
December 14, 1997, Sunday
The new drugs barons Genetic engineering has the potential to cure disease and make millions for biotechnology firms. Post-Cold War spies will stop at nothing to trade in its secrets
By ROBERT MATTHEWS
IN JULY this year, three men sat down in a hotel room in Boston, Massachusetts, to talk about a small bottle of liquid and a very large amount of money. Two of the men in the room had links with the biotechnology industry, and the other was a member of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, with a lot of banknotes in his briefcase. At least, that is what he said.
In fact, he was an FBI agent, there to foil an attempt to steal one of the most precious commodities in the world. For the bottle of liquid on offer contained a genetically engineered version of a hormone called erythropoietin, used to treat anaemia in kidney dialysis patients.
The substance was first approved for use in 1989; it had taken some of the best brains in the US biotechnology industry years and millions of dollars to find a way of making the hormone artificially. It has a market value of billions of dollars - and one of the men in the hotel room, Subo Kota, was offering the expertise needed to mass-produce it at the bargain price of $ 300,000 (about pounds 187,500).
Kota, an Indian living in Boston, had been under surveillance by the FBI for years, having been suspected of passing scientific and technological information to the former KGB. The erythropoietin case was his biggest coup - but it was to prove a sale too far. Once the undercover agent had carried out tests to prove the authenticity of the liquid and Kota had settled down to count the money, the FBI agents waiting outside swooped.
Last month Kota was sentenced to 12 months' house arrest, three years' supervised release and a $50,000 fine. He had been charged under the Economic Espionage Act, brought into force last year by the United States Congress to deal with what it sees as a major new threat to north America: the theft of its scientific secrets.
A measure of the seriousness with which the threat is being taken is that the new Act is an extension of the old Espionage Act, which was originally set up to deal with such major threats to national security as the theft of nuclear secrets. With the Cold War now over, it is becoming clear that the battle is switching from military to economic warfare. Its most potent weapon is the theft of valuable scientific assets, and an important target is the means to make money-spinning pharmaceuticals.
The scale of this new form of "drugs war" is vast: biotechnology is now a multi-billion-pound industry, with the British sector alone now thought to be worth pounds 5 billion. At the heart of the industry lies the manipulation of the genetic molecule DNA, which contains the instructions needed by living cells to churn out thousands of life-saving proteins.
To make a fortune in biotechnology, scientists have to scour the three billion chemicals that make up DNA in search of the right combination to produce the protein they want. It is a long, hard and expensive job - and people are willing to pay vast sums to skip the drudgery and jump straight to the profits.
Erythropoietin is a prime example, according to Mike Rolince, head of the Boston division of the FBI: "With that particular substance, plus a million dollars and the wherewithal to reproduce it, a company could realise a $100 million profit at the end of one year."
Yet even that is fairly small beer. In March 1991, two biotechnologists were jailed for a total of 14 years for attempting to sell the science behind two "blockbuster" drugs: interferon, a potential anti-cancer drug developed by Schering Plough; and ivermectin, a treatment for river blindness produced by Merck. Dr Bernard Mayles and Mario Miscio were trapped by an FBI "sting" in which they were offered millions in return for giving the secrets to the former Soviet Union. According to the trial judge, if the pair had succeeded, the economic loss to the United States would have been about $750 million.
The FBI currently has more than 800 cases of economic espionage on its books. Most are perpetrated by company insiders whose motivations range from revenge to greed. But, according to Rolince, about 20 per cent of the thefts are committed by agents in the pay of foreign powers.
"The dollar amount they gave was $5.1 billion in admitted losses," he says. "And the powers-that-be in Washington have come to the conclusion that our national security is inextricably intertwined with our economic prosperity."
With such large amounts of money involved, it cannot be long before scientific crime becomes a matter of life and death. According to some, it already has. In May last year, a 47-year-old scientist, Dr Tsunao Saitoh, and his daughter were shot dead in the driveway of their home by what police believe was a professional hit-man.
The motive for the murder remains unknown, but one theory centres on the fact that Dr Saitoh was a geneticist at the University of San Diego, California, and a leading expert on Alzheimer's disease. As the most common form of senile dementia, Alzheimer's affects about one in 20 of those aged over 70, and the search for a cure has triggered an enormous amount of research worldwide. The company that markets the first effective treatment stands to gain billions - and Dr Saitoh was said to be on the point of such a discovery. Perhaps he was also on the brink of wrecking someone's profit-stream for the next decade - and they decided to take action.
There is no doubt that the huge sums at stake in biotechnology are beginning to poison the ethos of science. Traditionally, research into potentially life-saving breakthroughs is carried out in an atmosphere of openness; now it is shrouded in secrecy. Far more worrying is the fact that it is not only the secrets of scientific breakthroughs that are disappearing behind a cloud of "commercial confidentiality".
In October, Knoll Pharmaceutical in America agreed to pay $ 98 million in settlement of dozens of suits alleging that the company had deliberately suppressed a study showing that cheaper thyroid drugs were just as effective as its own. While the company denies any wrong-doing, it has agreed to pay compensation to at least five million patients.
Other drugs companies are said to have threatened researchers who came up with "inappropriate" results that jeopardise their market.
"I was warned that something could happen to me if I didn't shut up," says one American researcher whose work uncovered awkward facts about a leading drug.
The deliberate suppression of crucial new information about drugs by pharmaceutical companies is causing alarm among leading medical researchers. "When one talks about medical research, we're not talking about an intellectual adventure," says Professor Steven Rosenberg, one of the world's leading cancer therapy experts, based at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland. "We're talking about attempts to solve desperate problems that cause a great deal of human suffering."
According to Prof Rosenberg, the effect of commercial confidentiality in science could hardly be more grave. "If you keep secrets, then you can delay progress," he says. "If you delay progress, then the time taken to develop new treatments will also be prolonged. And if the time taken to develop new treatments is prolonged, then people suffer and die who need not have done so."
We're trying to nail down some common threads, but the entire field is past me and most others following this situation. I'm hoping that something will be recognized from past and current events by those more versed in the fields involved.
I on;y know that right now I wouldn't want to be working on any major development in the Bio area. ;-)