Bruce Ivins, the government biodefense scientist linked to the deadly anthrax mailings of 2001, stood to gain financially from the massive federal spending in the fear-filled aftermath of those killings, the Los Angeles Times has learned.
Ivins is listed as a co-inventor on two patents for a genetically engineered anthrax vaccine, federal records show. Separately, Ivins also is listed as a co-inventor on an application to patent an additive for various biodefense vaccines.
Ivins, 62, died Tuesday in an apparent suicide. Federal authorities had informed his lawyer that criminal charges related to the mailings would be filed.
As a co-inventor of a new anthrax vaccine, Ivins was among those in line for patent royalties if the product had been marketed, according to an executive familiar with the matter. The product had languished on laboratory shelves until the Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax mailings, after which federal officials raced to stockpile vaccines and antidotes against potential biological terrorism.
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A San Francisco-area biotechnology company, VaxGen, won a federal contract worth $877.5 million to provide batches of the new vaccine. The contract was the first awarded under legislation promoted by President Bush, called Project BioShield.
One executive who was familiar with the matter said that, as a condition of its purchasing the vaccine from the U.S. Army, VaxGen had agreed to share sales-related proceeds with the inventors.
“Some proportion would have been shared with the inventors,” said the executive, who spoke anonymously because of contractual confidentiality. “Ivins would have stood to make tens of thousands of dollars, but not millions.”
Two years after the contract was awarded to VaxGen, the pact was terminated when the company could not deliver its batches on schedule.
Ivins also was listed as one of two inventors of another biodefense product that has won federal sponsorship.
According to their still-pending application for a U.S. patent, the inventors hoped the additive would bolster certain vaccines' capacity to prevent infections “from bioterrorism agents.”