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“As close to a miraculous molecule as you get.”

UD‘s often had occasion to feature hucksters on American medical school faculties, researchers whose work is farcically compromised by their massive financial interests in – and often active advertising of – the compounds they’re studying.

She’s particularly intrigued when members in excellent standing of the country’s highest mandarinate are exposed.

David Sinclair, of Harvard medical school, has already embarrassed himself and Harvard with his excited endorsement of longevity supplements. University Diaries covered the scandal here. Here he is using patented huckster language (A MIRACLE!) during an interview with the New York Times.

Now Sinclair’s corporate colleague, Christoph Westphal, on the Board of Fellows of Harvard Medical School, has also gotten into trouble over the same miraculous longevity compound (the compound seems likely to shorten both Sinclair’s and Westphal’s life via stress). Although an employee of Glaxo, which has rights to the compound, Westphal’s been selling it (or a close relative) via the website of a nonprofit he runs (How can it be a nonprofit if… ?).

Pharmalot explains (UD thanks Barney for the link):

Two years ago, Glaxo ponied up $720 million to buy Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which is famous for trying to develop medicines based on a chemical in red wine known as resveratrol. This generated intense interest because it may have an effect on aging … The science has since been questioned, but meanwhile, two key Sirtris execs assumed important roles within Glaxo’s hiearchy – Michelle Dipp became senior vp of Glaxo’s Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery and Christoph Westphal now heads SR One, a venture capital unit.

As it turns out, this dynamic duo had joined a non-profit called the Healthy Lifespan Institute to sell resveratrol supplements online …

… Glaxo didn’t know about the online sales. A Glaxo spokeswoman writes us: “Until today, Glaxo was not aware that the Health Lifespan Institute was selling a resveratrol formulation on the Internet.” And so, the drugmaker has “instructed” Dipp and Westphal to “cease their association with this activity.” Consequently, the pair will also resign from the non-profit board…

The spokeswoman adds that the formulation of resveratrol sold by the non-profit is not identical to the one Glaxo has been testing, an effort to reassure investors that its research was not being undermined by two of its own executives…

The Wall Street Journal covers the story here; here’s the New York Times.

You’ve got a Harvard med school faculty member and a Board Fellow of Harvard med. This is seriously hoitsy toitsy stuff. But these guys are so hungry for money — even though when they sold their business to Glaxo awhile back they made zillions — that they’re beginning to be a problem. Harvard, you know, is a university.

Margaret Soltan, August 13, 2010 4:35PM
Posted in: conflict of interest

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One Response to ““As close to a miraculous molecule as you get.””

  1. adam Says:

    Harvard, you know, is a university.

    Yes, and I hear they have a wonderful wine cellar, brimming with resveratrol. Bottoms up!

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