View Full Version : Ex-Worker Sues: Exposure to Genetically-Engineered Virus

Ed Jewett
03-18-2010, 09:19 PM
Ex-Pfizer Worker Cites Genetically Engineered Virus In Lawsuit Over Firing (http://cryptogon.com/?p=14390)

March 18th, 2010 Via: Hartford Courant (http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-pfizer-virus-lawsuit-0314.artmar14,0,4421048,full.story):
Medical experts will be watching closely Monday when a scientist who says she has been intermittently paralyzed by a virus designed at the Pfizer laboratory where she worked in Groton opens a much anticipated trial that could raise questions about safety practices in the dynamic field of genetic engineering.
Organizations involved in workplace safety and responsible genetic research already have seized on the federal lawsuit by molecular biologist Becky McClain as an example of what they claim is evidence that risks caused by cutting-edge genetic manipulation have outstripped more slowly evolving government regulation of laboratories.
McClain, of Deep River, suspects she was inadvertently exposed, through work by a former Pfizer colleague in 2002 or 2003, to an engineered form of the lentivirus, a virus similar to the one that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Medical experts working for McClain believe the virus has affected the way her body channels potassium, leading to a condition that causes complete paralysis as many as 12 times a month.
“If a worker in a plant as sophisticated as Pfizer is becoming infected with a genetically engineered virus, then I think the potential is everywhere,” said Jeremy Gruber, president of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a public interest group created to explore the implications of genetic technologies.
“Genetically engineered viruses are commonly worked on at your average university,” Gruber said. “The public has a right to know what regulations are in place and what regulations are required to fix an industrywide issue. We need to have a conversation about this. Ms. McClain’s attempt to do that has been hampered at every turn, by the courts and by regulators.”
Pfizer disputes all of McClain’s claims and says it fired her in 2005 because she refused to come to work. The global pharmaceuticals manufacturer, with research labs in southeastern Connecticut, defends its safety practices and denies that McClain’s physical disability is related to exposure at its Groton lab. The company says she did not link her disability to workplace exposure until after she was fired.
As a molecular biologist, McClain studied cells on a molecular level, manipulating genetic codes in an effort to develop vaccines. During the period at issue in the suit, McClain worked in Pfizer’s Human Health Embryonic Stem Cells Technologies, Genomic and Proteomic Sciences and Exploratory Medicinal Sciences Group.

Peter Lemkin
03-18-2010, 09:45 PM
Pfizer may be a little bit pfucked with this one! This is NOT the first instance of humans [or other animals] adversely affected by genetically modified organisms or viruses, etc. by any means. However, this does sound like one of the worst and clearest cases I've heard about in a long time. The legal battle will be long and interesting, with Pfizer stalling for time. They also have big money on their side. The least regulated part of this kind of research is that part done for or within the military and intelligence world. They do take precautions, but secrecy keeps bio-leaks and accidents impossible to usually discuss. There are also ethical problems with some of that they are doing - ditto in the corporate and non-secret [or only in-company-secret] end of genetic engineering, IMO.