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Southern Illinois University faces criminal investigation for professor's hotel room, offshore herpes vaccine experiments

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Thursday, April 12, 2018  |  Article  |  By Blythe Bernhard

Education--Higher (37)
The unauthorized testing of a herpes vaccine by a Southern Illinois University professor has come under federal criminal investigation, Kaiser Health News reports.

In a rare move, the Food and Drug Administration is looking into the research of associate professor William Halford and several SIU colleagues for possible violations of human test subject rules, according to the news organization's investigation. 

Halford injected people with unapproved herpes vaccines in Springfield hotel rooms and conducted a herpes vaccine trial on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, skirting U.S. laws on medical research.

Herpes vaccine developed at SIU creates stir for testing outside U.S.

The biology professor, 48, died of cancer last June after spending his career trying to develop a herpes vaccine. He was an associate professor at the Springfield campus. SIU ended all its herpes research projects earlier this year. 

The university's ethics panel launched an investigation last month into Halford's work, according to an internal memo obtained by Kaiser Health News. In the memo dated Dec. 5, the misconduct committee referenced Halford's nasal cancer — "We can only speculate as to (Halford’s) motivation, which may have been related to his terminal illness."

Halford injected at least eight people with experimental vaccines at the Holiday Inn Express and the Crowne Plaza Hotel near his SIU lab on several dates in 2013, according to the investigation.

SIU professor tested herpes vaccine on people in Springfield hotel rooms

The FDA has not commented on the criminal investigation. An SIU spokeswoman told Kaiser Health News that "the government is investigating and we are cooperating."

The various investigations could put the university's $9 million in federal research funding at risk because of the violations of research protocol. The university also faces potential legal action from three people who participated in Halford's experiments and said they developed side effects.