Author of Vaccine-Autism Scare Planned to Cash In on Findings

Andrew Wakefield, who wrote the now-discredited 1998 study claiming a link between autism and a commonly administered vaccine, quietly planned businesses in Britain meant to capitalize on his findings, according to a new article.

The article was published today (Jan. 11) in the British Medical Journal as one of a series by British journalist Brian Deer. Deer's first article, which was peer-reviewed by the BMJ and published last week, exposed Wakefield's original study as an intentional fraud .

The new article revealed that the Royal Free Medical School in London supported Wakefield as he sought to profit from the study. Wakefield met with managers at the medical school to discuss business opportunities, even as the first child Wakefield investigated in the study was still in the hospital.

And just days after the original study was published, Wakefield brought business associates to the medical school to discuss potential partnerships, the article said.

One of the planned businesses, named after Wakefield's wife, would develop a vaccine to replace the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which Wakefield alleged was causing autism . The company also planned to sell diagnostic testing kits for autism.

Financial forecasts showed that Wakefield and his business partners could have made $43 million a year from the autism diagnostic kits alone, according to the article.

A 35-page private prospectus obtained by Deer showed that Wakefield hoped to raise nearly $1.1 million from investors. By the company's third year in operation, Wakefield expected to make up to $43.46 million as his diagnostic testing kits and therapeutic regimens became more popular , the article said.

Deer also discovered that Wakefield was given the opportunity to replicate his study of 12 children with a larger sample population of 150 patients, but he refused to try.

Pass it on: Andrew Wakefield, author of the debunked 1998 study claiming a link between autism and a vaccine, had planned businesses to capitalize off his findings.

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Amanda Chan
Amanda Chan was a staff writer for Live Science Health. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.