By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill
In bits and pieces, in Danish and English, from three universities in two hemispheres and the CDC in Atlanta, a picture has begun forming in the past few days that is already startling in its outline: Paul Thorsen, one of the key scientists involved in CDC-backed studies exonerating vaccines as a cause of autism, is under investigation for collecting millions of dollars in bogus “grant” money, misrepresenting himself to his employers and the world and possibly forging the documents that enabled the scam.
Even more astonishing, it appears the CDC and several other major autism research centers have known about this for months and stayed publicly silent, even as the debate over autism and vaccines has reached several decisive moments -- and a new decision is expected any day from U.S. vaccine court. The CDC in particular would have a hard time claiming ignorance about the suspected crime -- at least three of the forged documents were in the agency’s name, and it helped uncover the fraud last year.
In addition, several current CDC employees including Drs. Diana Schendel, Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp and Catherine Rice were affiliated with Thorsen’s now-defunct research group. Age of Autism has obtained Internet-archived pages from the Web site of the North Atlantic Neuro-Epidemiology Alliances (NANEA) that list the members of the “Atlanta autism team” including Schendel, Yeargin-Allsopp and Rice, all of whom have been in leadership positions in the CDC’s autism epidemiology projects. Schendel is described as NANEA’s “coordinator at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA.” (The CDC did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment.)
Meanwhile, Thorsen apparently continues his involvement on an American Psychiatric Association committee that is revising the classification of autism for the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – a change that could affect how the prevalence of the disorder is calculated and its victims compensated and treated. (The APA did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment.)
Thorsen’s resume, dated Jan. 22, 2010, remains on the DSM 5 Working Group members page. (View HERE.)
He lists himself as “Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.” (Calls and e-mails to Drexel seeking confirmation of his status there have gone unanswered.)
There is also an earlier Thorsen resume still available on an APA directory dated Jan. 12, just 10 days earlier, (View HERE)
that differs substantially from the Jan. 22 update. On that earlier resume, Thorsen calls himself “Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, Denmark, & Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, USA.”
What happened in 10 days to change Thorsen’s bona fides so substantially – going from apparently tenured positions at two leading autism research universities to a part-time adjunct professorship at another school?
Follow the chronology: On Jan. 22 – the day the new resume is dated – the University of Aarhus issued a statement "to whom it may concern" (View HERE)
contradicting key parts of that first resume: “In March 2009, Dr. Thorsen resigned his faculty position at Aarhus University,” the statement said, meaning, obviously, he could not have been an associate professor of epidemiology as he was claiming as late as Jan. 12, 2010. “In the meantime, it has come to the attention of Aarhus University that Dr Thomsen [sic] has continued to act in such a manner as to create the impression that he still retains a connection to Aarhus University after the termination of his employment by the university.” Of course, one way this could have come to its attention was through a resume posted at the American Psychiatric Association in which Thorsen still stated exactly that.
“Furthermore,” the statement said, “it has come to the attention of Aarhus University that Dr Poul Thorsen has held full-time positions at both Emory University and Aarhus University simultaneously. Dr Thorsens [sic] double Full-time employment was unauthorised by Aarhus University, and he engaged in this employment situation despite the express prohibition of Aar- hus University.”