Age of Autism Comment of the Week
Autism Wars: Chris Mooney vs. Ginger Taylor

When Vaccine Development is Family Business: Thomas Insel's Conflicted Role on Vaccines and Autism

By Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

Insel brothers (Four Insel Brothers, Four MDs (left to right) Jonathan, Richard, Thomas, and Paul)

Thomas R. Insel, the psychiatrist in charge of autism research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has a family connection to one of the vaccines potentially implicated in the sharp rise in autism rates since 1990. His brother, Richard A. Insel, was part of both the research team that developed the vaccine for Haemophilus influenza B (Hib) and the company that profited from the introduction of the first commercial Hib vaccine formulation. Richard Insel was a co-founder and director of Praxis Biologics--a vaccine development company in Rochester, New York--that together with a research team at the University of Rochester developed and then sold HibTITER®, a vaccine for Hib first licensed for children in December 1988 and for infants in October 1990.  Largely based on the momentum of its successful Hib vaccine, Praxis Biologics was sold in 1989 to American Cyanamid in a deal valued at $190 million. As co-founder and director, Richard Insel held shares that gave him a 2% interest in the company, making his personal share of the transaction worth close to $4 million.

Despite his family connection to the Hib vaccine, there is neither evidence nor suggestion of undisclosed financial conflict on Thomas Insel’s part; all the Praxis Biologics transactions and development activity associated with HibTITER® occurred at least twenty years ago and involved his brother, Richard Insel.  Nor has Richard Insel been involved in autism research in any way. But HibTITER® contained the ethyl mercury-based preservative thimerosal, a vaccine component that has been at the center of an ongoing controversy in autism. Many organizations concerned over vaccine safety, including many autism groups, have been asking for increased NIH funding for vaccine safety research, including research into the effects of thimerosal. In that context, Age of Autism’s investigation of Thomas Insel’s familial link to a thimerosal-containing vaccine developed by his brother raises important questions, and advocates for more research on a possible link reacted strongly to the connection.

Put simply, Thomas Insel presides over the NIH research into the causes of autism. In his dual capacity as autism planner and brother (see HERE), responding to these concerns would require him to address a personally difficult question: Did his brother help develop a product that increased the risk of autism in children?

“With a topic as sensitive and combustible as vaccines and autism, Insel needs to move on and hand the reigns over to someone with no conflicts, real or perceived," said J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue. Age of Autism outlined this article and the reaction of some autism advocates to a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Mental Health, of which Insel is director. She said Insel is on vacation "this week and next week at least" and could not be reached for comment. In a brief conversation, she said that in general "he falls back on the science, not some personal view of anything" in making policy decisions.

Richard Insel, Praxis Biologics and the Hib Vaccine

Richard Insel Richard Insel was named in 2003 as the Executive Vice President for Research of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Before that, he spent 26 years in and around the University of Rochester Medical Center, working in pediatrics, immunology and infectious diseases. Early in his career at Rochester, he began researching the Hib bacterium, a major cause of bacterial meningitis in young children.  He subsequently published numerous articles on Hib together with Porter Anderson and David Smith, both of the University of Rochester. Their team at Rochester is widely credited with creating the first licensed infant vaccine for Hib.

Although all of these men were active scientific participants in the development of HibTITER®, there was an apparent division of responsibilities. Anderson took on the leading scientific role while Smith led the business side.  Richard Insel played a subordinate role on both the scientific and commercial sides. Anderson was the top named scientist, according to the standard textbook Vaccines, which reported that “Haemophilus B oligosaccharide conjugate B (HbOC) vaccine was developed by Porter Anderson at the University of Rochester.” David Smith, by comparison, moved on from his role as Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester (he worked closely there with Anderson) in 1983 when he founded Praxis Biologics and served as chairman and Chief Executive Officer until its sale in 1989. Textbook summaries aside, both leaders received a degree of shared scientific acclamation for their work, as Anderson and Smith shared (along with two NIH researchers who worked on a different Hib vaccine formulation) the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1996 for their work on the HibTITER® vaccine.

The Praxis Biologics HibTITER® vaccine marked a major shift in childhood vaccine development and ushered in a new age of vaccine administration for infants under six months of age. In a tribute Richard Insel wrote for Smith upon his death in 1999, he noted that “licensing in 1990 of the conjugate vaccine represented the first FDA license for any vaccine for young infants since the trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine was introduced in 1962.”

If Richard Insel was not first in line for the major awards that went to the HibTITER®/HbOC developers (there were three other major variants of Hib vaccine developed around the same time, but HbOC was the first licensed for infants), he was certainly a member of the inner circle. He describes himself in his JDRF biography as “scientific co-founder” of Praxis Biologics and he served there as a member of the Board of Directors, appointed in 1988 when Smith regained his CEO position after a brief boardroom struggle. Both Anderson and Smith valued his contribution highly. In their 1996 essay marking their acceptance of the Lasker award, they wrote, “All our many colleagues in laboratories and in the academic and medical communities who contributed to this work cannot, unfortunately, be acknowledged in the references, [but]... David H. Smith and Porter Anderson thank… their colleagues at…the University of Rochester (NY) for help and collaboration, especially Drs Fred S. Rosen, Richard A. Insel, and Michael E. Pichichero, and they acknowledge the expertise and industry of the staff of Praxis Biologics.”

Insel was well recognized and rewarded for his work at Rochester and Praxis Biologics. In terms of scientific recognition, he was a co-author on over 30 papers on Hib and the related immunology issues. He was also a co-inventor on a vaccine patent for Hib conjugate vaccines. In terms of commercial reward, by 1989, he had received nearly 280,000 common shares of Praxis Biologics. When American Cyanamid purchased the company that year for an estimated $14 per share, Insel’s holdings were worth nearly $4 million. [Note: there is also a possibility that Insel received additional income through royalties paid to the University of Rochester on the patented conjugate technology used in both HibTITER® and Prevnar® vaccines. Age of Autism estimates that Rochester received over $200 million in royalties on Porter Anderson’s patents; 50% of these royalties were distributed to the inventors. But we cannot confirm that anyone other than the named inventors on Anderson’s “Immunogenic conjugates” patents received payments. Richard Insel, although often acknowledged as part of the inventor team, was not a named inventor on the licensed patents.]

By most accounts, the Hib vaccine has been highly successful in reducing cases of childhood bacterial meningitis. But the first versions of the commercial infant Hib vaccines--including products developed by Praxis (then Lederle-Praxis, now Wyeth), Merck and Connaught/Merieux (now Sanofi Pasteur)—were all preserved with thimerosal.

Mercury in all its forms is uniquely toxic to infants, but ethyl mercury stands apart among the most toxic manmade forms of mercury. And starting in 1991, two new mercury containing childhood vaccines—the Hib and the hepatitis B vaccines—were introduced to the childhood immunization schedule. Combined with the DPT vaccine already in use, the licensure of the Praxis Biologics’ Hib vaccine contributed to a sharp increase in infant mercury exposure. As part of the core team that developed and commercialized this new product, Richard Insel was therefore intimately connected to the growing concerns over possible causes of exploding autism rates. And this was an issue his brother Thomas would later face in his role as the head NIH strategic planner for autism.

Thomas Insel, the Autism Strategic Plan and Vaccine Safety Research
Tom Insel In his role as chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), Thomas Insel was instructed by the Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006 to develop a strategic plan for autism research. According to the CAA, the IACC must “develop and annually update a strategic plan for the conduct of, and support for, autism spectrum disorder research, including proposed budgetary requirements.”

This was no idle provision. The idea of requiring NIH to develop a strategic plan for autism research came out of months of intense discussion and negotiation among autism advocates as different versions of the CAA were making their way through Congress. In their normal course of business, NIH approves grant applications as they are submitted by scientists on a one-by-one basis. Although this approach ostensibly rewards high-quality applications, it also has well-recognized drawbacks. The collective bias of the review panels and the natural inertia of consensus-based science can make it difficult to attack new problems aggressively and sponsor controversial research. When a new disease problem requires more urgent action with funding directed strategically to priority areas for the disease rather than popular problems for science, the passive review approach can break down completely. Scientists are a cautious lot and typically apply for grants in areas that have broad scientific appeal, such as genomics, rather than those that may be most valuable in the case of a specific disease condition.

Because of this problem, autism community advocates, long dissatisfied with the slow response of the broader scientific community to the autism crisis, inserted the strategic plan provision into CAA. In order to make sure the new money was well-spent, these advocates proposed the strategic planning mechanism to hold NIH leaders accountable for their decision making. The autism strategic plan would set priorities and allocate resources for the entire body of autism research and force NIH to truly “combat autism” rather than simply process grants.

So in order to comply with these clear instructions from Congress, and starting in 2007,
Thomas Insel orchestrated a lengthy, complex and increasingly contentious planning process for autism research. After many hours of meetings, much debate and a controversial round of votes on the vaccine issue, the IACC released its first plan on January 26, 2009.

By all accounts, Insel ‘s initial approach to the planning process was made with energy and broad outreach. Nevertheless, many autism advocates were concerned with his managerial decisions from the beginning. At the outset of the process, he appointed another psychiatrist and autism parent, Joyce Chung, as project manager. But Chung’s objectivity was immediately called into question when advocates learned she was married to the anthropologist Roy Grinker. Grinker released a book on autism in 2007 called Unstrange Minds, in which he took the controversial view that rising autism rates are an illusion and the rising recognition of autism is merely a social phenomenon. The idea that his wife, Joyce Chung, would be project manager for the autism strategic plan mandated by an act of Congress inspired by the rising rate of autism sparked suspicion from the start.
Initial concerns among autism groups over the objectivity of the process first raised by Chung’s appointment increased over time. Given the instruction from Congress to develop a strategic plan but with no clear blueprint for how to do so, Insel chose to make up the process as he went along. And despite his active outreach, Insel chose to keep decision-making power close to the vest. Authority for writing the plan was first delegated to a hand-picked working group, one selected with no input from the IACC. Confronted with community concerns over the obvious potential for bias under such an approach, Insel disbanded this initial group and set up a second working group, one selected based on nominations by IACC members [full disclosure: one of us (MB) served on this second working group]. This group met once in person and once on the phone, was subsequently disbanded and replaced with a third hand-picked group.

The concerns over Insel’s management of the planning process escalated after that. During the IACC strategic plan reviews, there were numerous areas of debate. These included, but were not limited to, questions of vaccine safety. On December 12, 2008, the IACC debated the vaccine safety issue and voted (narrowly) to recommend research into the study of the link between autism and vaccines. Specifically, the draft plan recommended that NIH undertake to study of “vaccines, vaccine components and multiple vaccine administration in autism causation and severity through a variety of approaches including cell and animal studies and understanding whether and how certain subpopulations in humans may be more susceptible to adverse effects of vaccines. 
Estimated budget $6,000,000."

In the context of the $900 million budget for autism research authorized under CAA, this was not a large amount, but for the autism community, it was a substantial step forward. IACC member Lyn Redwood of SafeMinds remarked at the time, “Although I would have rather had a colonoscopy than attend another IACC meeting, we surprisingly made some headway!”

But Insel moved swiftly to reverse this vote. In a surprise move during the next IACC meeting on January 14, 2009, Insel singled out this vaccine safety research provision and put it back up for a revote. According to the meeting transcript, Insel made a remarkable admission, “Let me introduce another issue, and I'm sensitive to Lyn's concern about reopening things we voted on…[but] this is perhaps the only issue that we've dealt with that is now part of litigation that involves the department; that  it's a HRSA issue, and I'm concerned about the optics.”

In layman’s terms, the “optics” Insel was referring to was the simple issue of conflict of interest. He was asking how NIH, as part of the Department of Human Health and Services (HHS), could investigate issues relating to the programs of one its agencies (CDC) as it was adjudicating vaccine injury claims under another one of its agencies (HRSA). (The proceedings of the so-called “vaccine court”, including the Omnibus Autism Proceedings into the link between autism and some vaccine injuries, are managed by HRSA under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Act).

Insel claimed not to like how this looked. “So the optics of having HRSA vote on issues related to autism and vaccines, when they have a large court case, the optics of having people who could be perceived to have or to represent those who have a financial investment in this issue. It takes it out of the realm of a scientific question, a research question, and it raises the possibility that some could see whatever comments we make as being biased by non-scientific issues.”

So just two weeks before releasing the final strategic plan, Insel singled out the prior vote on vaccine research, and asked for a new vote. With full support from the HHS members on the panel (HHS holds a solid majority of the votes), the vaccine research was voted out of the plan.

NIH has not been so reticent to fund vaccine safety investigations when the charter and investigator team has been friendlier to vaccine manufacturers. In addition to Richard Insel, one of the three Rochester researchers credited by Porter Anderson and David Smith was Michael Pichichero. Pichichero describes himself on his web-site as “a member of the discovery team at the University of Rochester that invented, tested and licensed a Haemophilus influenza b (Hib) conjugate vaccine (HibTITER®) now universally given to children in the U.S.” But unlike Richard Insel, Michael Pichichero has conducted research into the toxicity of thimerosal. In two NIH funded publications, Pichichero gave thimerosal a clean bill of health. Nowhere in either publication did he mention his personal connection to HibTITER®.

Autism Community Concerns over Thomas Insel’s Leadership

In his remarkable admission, Insel worried aloud about the “optics” of NIH investigating the vaccine programs managed by its sister agency, the CDC, while claims of vaccine injury were being adjudicated by another sister agency, HRSA. His concern appears well-founded. Within the HHS family, there are no clear checks and balances on the power of the department to suppress one public interest (vaccine safety) in favor of another (vaccine promotion) when the department leadership chooses to retain potentially conflicting activities within the family.

But what about his brother’s vaccine? Interestingly, Thomas Insel has never matched his expressed concern over the “optics” of investigations within the HHS family with similar sensitivity to the optics problem within his own family.  It’s a fair question. Could Thomas Insel be using his position as IACC chair to prevent funding of research that risks tarnishing his brother’s accomplishments?

Although Insel’s public posture on the connection on autism and vaccines has shifted over time, he has appeared consistently eager to reject any connection to the Hib vaccine. Himself a vaccine developer (he conducted an HIV vaccine research earlier in his career), he told one of us (DO) in an 2007 interview that while vaccines might be involved, the thimerosal theory had been “disproven.” When asked by a parent at the 2007 NAA conference for his views on the vaccine-autism link, he gave a noncommittal response. But then he went on to make an unsolicited remark. Out of either a desire to be provocative or insensitivity (or both), he told the audience that perhaps scientists would invent “a vaccine for autism” some day.

More recently, Insel’s position has hardened. In testimony in front of a Senate committee this month, he told Senator Tom Harkin that funding more research into the effects of the dramatic increase in childhood vaccines would be “a waste of money.”

When asked whether this information affected their trust in Insel’s capacity to direct autism research resources, autism advocates had more to say. IACC member Lyn Redwood of SafeMinds commented, “That certainly explains his bias with regard to vaccine research, it’s an obvious conflict of interest”, but preferred not to elaborate further.
Redwood’s organization, SafeMinds, issued an official statement, however, calling for institutional changes in the oversight of autism research. “"These revelations on conflicts of interest held by Insel are disturbing and help explain why he has abandoned scientific inquiry in favor of blocking any research relating to vaccines as a cause of autism.  His claim during the Harkin hearing earlier this month that the vaccine-autism science is ‘done’ is in direct conflict with the recommendations of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) and others calling for baseline data on the health of unvaccinated children.  A policy of deliberate ignorance is not an acceptable substitute for sound science.  Our community would be better served by the leadership of an agency such as The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) whose mission is clearly aligned with biomedical research for children who are sick or the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) whose mission focuses on finding individual susceptibilities and environmental triggers to disease."

Others were more focused on Insel’s personal leadership and argued that he should resign from his post as head of IACC. "How can any autism organization or parent believe Insel will give vaccines a thorough look with his brother, at the very least, whispering in his ear?”  asked JB Handley of Generation Rescue. “With a topic as sensitive and combustible as vaccines and autism, Insel needs to move on and hand the reigns over to someone with no conflicts, real or perceived."

Wendy Fournier from the National Autism Association was also critical of Insel’s IACC performance. “Tom Insel has lost the confidence of the autism community in his role as chairman of the IACC.  He has wasted precious years for our children with his poor leadership and blatant bias.  Our country is facing the biggest health crisis of our time.  We need answers now, and that means following the science wherever it leads – even if it implicates the vaccine program.” Ms. Fournier also called for Insel to resign as IACC chair, saying, “This community desperately needs and deserves leadership that puts our children first.  Tom Insel is clearly not the man for the job.  How many more children will we allow to be lost under his watch?” 

Although he now researches another chronic childhood onset illness at JDRF, Richard Insel has stayed away from autism research, but between his Rochester colleague Michael Pichichero’s research exonerating thimerosal and his brother Thomas’ efforts blocking research into vaccines in the autism strategic plan, his Hib vaccine has had ample defense. This is scant comfort for parents of autistic children, many of whom believe their children are vaccine injured and are losing faith in the integrity of the vaccine safety system as currently managed within the HHS family of agencies. Revelations like this go further than concerns over “optics”, and only serve to reinforce their perception that the system is rigged against them.

This is true for both weak and powerful autism parents. Katie Wright is the daughter of the founders of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism research organization. Her son Christian was the inspiration for her parents to start Autism Speaks and she has been a harsh critic of Insel’s leadership over the few years.

We asked Ms. Wright what she thought about Insel’s family conflict. She made the following statement. “The reason why parents do not trust the medical establishment regarding vaccine safety is because they see the pervasive conflicts of interest throughout the CDC and the NIH. The very same people who have long standing biases or financial interests in our vaccination program are the ones who work so hard to block any vaccine safety research. We need transparent and objective leadership at IACC, and Insel will never be able to provide that. It is time for Insel to go.”

Rebecca Estepp, of Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) concurred, arguing that Insel’s family conflict is only part of this greater concern over a rigged system of vaccine safety and wonders how HHS can defend its oversight of that system. "There’s an ancient dilemma about the problem of checks and balances on the powerful,” Estepp points out. “It goes in the form of a question. ‘Who is guarding the guards?’” She suggests that Insel’s personal connection to the vaccine business is part of this larger problem. “How can we expect impartiality from a regulator who himself has developed vaccines? How can we expect objectivity from a man whose own brother developed one of the vaccines in question?"
Dan Olmsted is Editor and Mark Blaxill Editor at Large of Age of Autism. Blaxill is also a director of Safe Minds.



Glad to hear your organization questioning the qualifications of Thomas Insel, who has served as the director of the National Institutes of Mental Health. Unfortunately, there are so many more problems with this organization -- this is just the tip of the iceberg. When I first heard the NIMH was going to be doing autistic research, I rolled my eyes. I figured most of their approach was going to be pushing psychopharmaceutical prescriptions, instead of finding the root cause of autism. After all, they have cement ties with the pharmaceutical industry, and their scientists moonlight with some of these companies. Ever the revolving door and conflict of interest. I certainly would NEVER expect holistic medicine, strengthening the immune system, detox, or identifying environmental insults. Sorry to say -- they can dress up their research with fancy words, Ph.D's, and M.D.'s, but in my opinion most of their research is GARBAGE.


Great reporting!

NIH overseas CDC? Fascinating.

BMJ May 16, 2013 Doshi, Peter

The BM Friiggin' J directly calls out CDC officials as duplicitous liars, actually calls them salespersons for vaccine industry.

At long last, the truth outs....

michael framson

I agree with Roger about the rotten system we have dominated by rotten corporatism in every aspect of our lives. I also agree with John Stone, but the screams, John, are not being heard. The government and all the corrupt corporate institutions are so entangled, they can just ignore those who try, to point out the horrendous damage and gross injustice, they inflict on all of us.

There's an Insel in ever agency who runs interference to protect corporatism, industry, and government. There's an Insel in the media, academia, etc. Insels are there, to make sure the boat isn't rocked.

How loud must we scream.....apparently louder if we ever hope to rock-the-boat so that we are no longer ignored.


The comments on this page increasingly frighten me.
First it was Adriana's comment regarding the dedication to our children from the NIMH. To see it in writing what they are targeting for treatment and all there is is symptom suppression through drugs is tragic. Next to see the long list "including Risperdal, Zyprexa, Geodon, Haldol, Zoloft, Anaphranil, Luvox, Prozac, Ativan, Valium, Tegretol, Lamictal,Topamax, and last but not least, a drug acknowledged by government attorneys during the Omnibus to be an actual cause of autism, Depakote."
My son was prescribed depakote throughout the entire 2 year drug therapy he was put on from age 5 until 7 at which point his abnormal EEG and vocal tic ended. In those 2 years he was put on 4 of those 14 drugs, but one drug was always part of the drug intervention and that was depakote. They never prescribed anything alone. It was always depakote and tegretol and he would have a allergic reaction so then it was depakote and topomax and finally depakote and lamictal and in the end he was taking 3 different drugs at one time...always sick and sicker. It makes me sick to think of what poor hands I had placed my son's health.
My son does not have autism although sometimes it would seem like his neurologist thought he did.
My son is now 1 year free of drugs and the tic of which I am greatful, but I will always question if I did more damage than benefit from the medical profession. Where would he be today if I had never brought him to the pediatrician or where would he be if I had never visited the neurologist. One Doctor that I will always be thankful for was his neurosurgeon whom was the first one whom immediately questioned the purpose of the drugs and prescribed us to end the drug regimen regardless of the results of the drug free EEG that he ordered. Miraculously his EEG came out normal at which time he experienced his last tic.
I thank those here for making my son better needless to say.


The utter hippocracy for Dr. Trevathan as a member of the IACC to claim a COI to block vaccine safey studies when he worked as a paid consultant to GSK.

In 2006 while employed at the CDC, Trevathan was paid by GSK to consult on the drug Lamotrigine (aka Lamictal), an anti-seizure drug for use in children. Trevathan was involved in the drug trial study below

The study concluded that: "Adjunctive lamotrigine therapy seems effective in controlling primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures among patients 2 to 20 years of age."

So in other words this study would help expand the market for this drug so it could be used in children including those with ASD who suffer from seizures. Unbelievable.
I wonder if he holds shares of stock in this drug too?

Here's the study:

Lamotrigine Adjunctive Therapy Among Children and Adolescents With Primary Generalized Tonic-Clonic Seizures

John Stone.

Of course, conflicts of interest are inevitable and not a reason for inaction. They are a problem if not disclosed, and/or if someone is engaged in investigating themselves or their close associates. In this case someone with a hidden interest has blocked research.


It's a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

Pharma has succeeded in embedding people like Insel in positions of power so they can control from within.

Another example is Dr. Ed Trevathan who is also on the IACC and has served as a consultant to GSK. It was Trevathan who advised Insel to drop the vaccine studies from the strategic plan citing COI's. BTW, Dr. Trevathan is a mitochondrial expert and was a dept head of childhoood disabilities at the CDC under Gerberding. What doesn't he want the public to know?

Senator Harkin and his appropriations commitee should be told the truth about know who's running the show at the IACC, who they're really working for and how the parents have been treated.

Time to clean house!


Interesting, this is the one of the shots my son had at 16 months old when he struck a 105 fever never letting up for days within hours of this shot and then lost all his words within days of this innoculation and began looking at the ground not us and lost his ability to point which he once had. Thanks for the article! Just was reading that this shot and Hep B have something in common with the new Swine flu vaccine coming out they all have adjuvants...nice!


Thank you for the great report. I have a sinking feeling that, as much as Insel was planted in his various positions to service certain agendas, he'll be extremely difficult to uproot. So interesting how family inculcation seems to be key to some of these pivotal appointments, just like in the UK for this issue.

Preventing or healing autism is contrary to psychopharmaceutical drug profits as well as vaccine sales. If you can prevent the disorder and all the related disorders, drug sales would plummet. Then the sale of drugs to treat the side effects of other drugs would plummet. If children recover, same thing. That's Insel's other conflict of interest. I fully believe Insel was appointed in 2002 by the Bush administration via pharmaceutical advisors to both block investigations of vaccine links to the epidemic of child cognitive disorders and also to maximize drug sales on the back of the disaster.

As an exercise, try to find any intervention on the NIMH's website for autism mentioned MORE than drugs:

To use Noam Chomsky's simple method of calculating an agenda, the word count for the NIMH site on autism is roughly 9000 words, most of which are dedicated to simply describing the disorder and indicating genetic links. Of the 563 words used to very, very vaguely outline educational interventions, 125 words are used to describe ABA (can't recommend that too strongly: the DOE wouldn't like it if schools were forced to pay for it). 354 words are used in discussing dietary interventions, surprisingly mentioning the gluten-free/casein-free diet, but only as an option "some parents" use.

Then 152 words are used to deny vaccine cause. Then 1070 are used to describe drug interventions. 14 drugs are named by brand, including Risperdal, Zyprexa, Geodon, Haldol, Zoloft, Anaphranil, Luvox, Prozac, Ativan, Valium, Tegretol, Lamictal,Topamax, and last but not least, a drug acknowledged by government attorneys during the Omnibus to be an actual cause of autism, Depakote.

Brand names and the trade mark symbol repeatedly appear whenever a drug is mentioned except quite notably in the very short, obtuse paragraph describing adverse warnings for SSRIs. For this paragraph, Prozac and Zoloft are mentioned by drug names-- sertraline and fluoxetine-- omitting brand names.

Kathy Blanco

Natasa, HLA/DR4 to be specific...and interstingly, those with autoimmunity in family, lyme disease, react STRONGLY/Negatively to vaccines. One might go there and wonder, how much of the population has that gene, and I would venture to guess, more than fifty percent. I go there to think, that this vice of vaccines is really a eugenics tool.

John Stone.

One facet of this is the extraodinary career risk that a successful person like Insel has taken fending off the investigation of vaccines and autism: why would you do this if you believed the science was unchallegeable?

I believe Insel should go but there should be a full and transparent investigation.

Autism Grandma

Tommy baby, how can you SLEEP at night? (Oh I forgot, people with sociopathic personality disorder don't have a conscience and therefore can sleep like a rock...sleep hard as a rock...because they are as hard as a rock)

Personality Traits of a Psychopath
Characteristics of Sociopathic Personality Disorder:

Psychopathy, also known as sociopathy, is a personality disorder characterized by selfishness, ruthlessness and the inability to feel guilt or empathy.

The psychopath is a social predator. He is ruthless, manipulative and often charming. Once referred to as “moral imbeciles,” psychopaths exhibit a marked lack of conscience. They are callous, remorseless and spectacularly self-centered, willing to use and abuse others to achieve their ends, and they are inclined to blame others, including their [autism] victims, for their problems and bad behaviour.

Read more:

Benedetta Stilwell

Sorry in my excitment I got mixed up. I meant thanks to Anna B not Natasha

Benedetta Stilwell

Natasha I am running your thing on Hib B off. yeah, that is my daughter. Damn them all! Damn Tom Insel, Damn Richard Insel.

Benedetta Stilwell


Tom Insel also said during this meeting that these autistic children will grow up to be engineers, scientist, researchers - they could have these big jobs but just does not require being social! He never said much about sheltered work shops though.


A little something to add in my IACC comments today.........


J Rheumatol. 1998 Sep;25(9):1687-93.
The development of rheumatoid arthritis after recombinant hepatitis B vaccination.
Pope JE, Stevens A, Howson W, Bell DA. Department of Medicine, the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
OBJECTIVE: Hepatitis B vaccination has been associated with reactive arthritis and rarely rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We defined the clinical, serologic, and immunogenetic background of patients developing RA, soon after recombinant hepatitis B vaccination. METHODS: The clinical, serologic, and HLA antigens of a cluster of firefighters who developed arthritis after prophylactic recombinant hepatitis B vaccination (5 subjects), as well as a second group of sporadic cases of arthritis (6 patients) after hepatitis B vaccination are described. RESULTS: Ten of 11 patients fulfilled revised American College of Rheumatology criteria for RA. All cases had persistent arthritis for more than 6 months; at 48 months followup 2 cases no longer had inflammatory arthritis. Nine patients required disease modifying antirheumatic drugs. Five subjects were HLA-DR4 positive. HLA class II genes expressing the RA shared motif were identified in 9/11 patients genotyped for HLA-DRbeta1 and DQbeta1 alleles (0401, 0101, or 0404). All the firefighters shared the HLA-DRbeta1 allele 0301 and the DQbeta1 allele 0201, with which it is in linkage disequilibrium. CONCLUSION: These polymorphic residues in the binding site of the MHC class II molecules of the affected patients appear capable of binding some peptide sequences of the recombinant vaccine peptides they received and may be responsible for hepatitis B vaccine triggering development of RA in these cases. Recombinant hepatitis B vaccine may trigger the development of RA in MHC class II genetically susceptible individuals. PMID: 9733447

Rev Rhum Engl Ed. 1997 Apr;64(4):227-32.
Inflammatory joint disease after immunizations. A report of two cases.
Ferrazzi V, Jorgensen C, Sany J. Immunorheumatology Department, Lapcyronie Hospital, Montpellier, France.
Serious adverse effects of immunizations are uncommon. The hepatitis B vaccine has been implicated in a few dozen cases of extraarticular, systemic, or inflammatory joint disorders. We report two cases in which hepatitis A vaccination (Havrix, Smith Kline Beecham) was followed by a connective tissue disorder or a spondylarthropathy in two healthy males aged 50 and 24 years, respectively. Both patients were HLA B27-negative but carried the HLA DR1 and/or DR4 antigen. The outcome was favorable after treatment with a corticosteroid or a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agent. The pathophysiology of immunization-related rheumatic disorders may involve circulating immune complexes and/or a mechanism similar to that seen in reactive arthritis, i.e., a genetically-determined susceptibility to the bacterial or viral antigens contained in vaccines. PMID: 9178394

Scand J Rheumatol. 1995;24(1):50-2.
Arthritis after hepatitis B vaccination. Report of three cases.
Gross K, Combe C, Krüger K, Schattenkirchner M.
Rheumatology Unit, LM University of Munich, Germany.
Side effects of hepatitis vaccination are rare. Only a few cases of arthritis after hepatitis vaccination have been published. We report on three cases of vaccination-induced arthritis with different resulting disease. Two cases show the pattern of reactive arthritis. None of them was associated with HLA-B27. In the third case onset of rheumatoid arthritis was triggered by hepatitis vaccination. These three cases show that arthritis after hepatitis B vaccination probably is more common than reported so far, especially in a genetically predisposed subject (two of our patients expressed HLA-DR4). PMID: 7863281

Br J Haematol. 2000 Jul;110(1):230-3.
Severe pancytopenia triggered by recombinant hepatitis B vaccine.
Viallard JF, Boiron JM, Parrens M, Moreau JF, Ranchin V, Reiffers J, Leng B, Pellegrin JL. Clinique de Médecine Interne et Maladies Infectieuses, Service d'Hématologie, Laboratoire d'Anatomopathologie, Hôpital Haut-Lévêque, Pessac, France.
We describe the case of a teenager who developed fever, arthritis, cutaneous vasculitis and severe pancytopenia 3 weeks after the third vaccination boost with a recombinant hepatitis B vaccine. Bone marrow examination showed paucity of late myeloid elements and, subsequently, maturation arrest. Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells from the patient was dramatically increased. An underlying immune predisposition (HLA-DR3) may have indirectly enabled the vaccine to trigger a hepatitis B virus-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte response. It is therefore possible that the pancytopenia was induced by a dysregulation of the CD8+ T-cell compartment via increased IFN-gamma production. PMID: 10931005

“interesting” some of the suceptibility HLA mentioned above are prevalent in ASD (kids and parents)


Just when we thought Thomas Insel couldn't possibly betray us any more than he already this.

Excellent research Dan and Mark. Thank you.

Benedetta Stilwell

Insel also said that even though the number of vaccines had increased over the years it was okay because the number of antigen in those vaccines had decreased. I understood what he said, I just don't understand the science of how that is? Telling flibs to the public now a days is so common that if the feds were to put them in jail for lying, well there wouldn't be anybody left to run the government. The rest of what Insel said made my eyes cross and put me into a trance like sleep. Unless you are a genius it would be hard to read. I could not even stand to listen to it let alone read it!

move faster

How does anyone with decision power look over conflicts of interest like these? Change please - hurry IACC needs a leader who doesn't have these personal ties

Benedetta Stilwell

He had a way with words. That is I understood a word or two every once in a while. Most people would think, wow, can he talk! He is elite, way above us- (well me anyway) certainly super intelligent, when his mouth opens big words just flow out, but it is in no way communicating. He is like the whole federal government that has learned a new language, not English but but something else! But the words I understood now and then was a metophor and a very poor metaphor at that! it was something about we have looked under that rock 16 times now and there is no use looking under it again. (he was talking about vaccines being the cause of autism).

Alison macNeil

Insel Out.Repeat 100 trillion times. Can we as an Autism community demand his removal?


Where can I read the transcripts for the august 5 congress hearings. I would like to read word for word what insel wrote...
I know it will make me madder, but I it would be interesting to know what kind of garbage he is spewing for his family. I don't have time to sit and watch the hearing... I want to read his words.. especially the "asked and answered" part


Yes, gave IACC my 2 cents worth and also asked for Insel's resignation. He must either lead, follow or get the heck out of the way. Laying there like a big old speed bump on the road to progress and recovery is not good enough anymore. He's an anchor on the ship of science.


At the NAA Conference in Atlanta in Nov 2007, two items stood out to me about Tom Insel's presentation: 1) his comment at the beginning of his presentation that "what we really need is a vaccine for autism" and 2) his strident defense of the Hib vaccine (he asked the audience to raise hands if they'd seen a child die of Hib).

I chalked the 'vaccine for autism' statement up to an adherence to the traditional orthodoxy of public health officials, but was puzzled by the stridency in which he defended the Hib vaccine. It seemed to me to go far beyond the standard public health viewpoint ... now it makes sense what was driving this in the background.

Kathy Blanco

why are there any thoughts of funding the number one denail agency in our government, the NIH/CDC? To me we can save a lot by funding independent researchers, but I live in LA LA LAND, and that ain't going to happen...

Pamela Felice

Use Public Comment to Ask for Insel's Resignation - See Following Post for Link

Notice folks, the post following this one links us to the form for submitting public comment to IACC. I don't think it is a coincidence that AoA ran these two posts side by side.

I answered the questions in the public comment link and asked for Insel's resignation. We should also ask for the two studies that Insel had removed to be reinstated which includes the feasibility study for a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study and that all autism related research recommended by NVAC be added.

We have every opportunity to let Insel and IACC know exactly how we feel about all of this.


Thank you, samaxtics and Teresa, for pointing out the link between the Hib vax and type 1 diabetes. The Classens have clarified that here is a vaccine that undeniably has a greater risk attached to it than the calculated benefits. So - what happens?

The info gets buried by the Powers that Be.

Well - no more, that sort of skullduggery, with the likes of the Autism Community starting to look more closely at this matter, of the damaging effects of vaccines.

Keep it up, folks. The truth WILL out, with your admirable help.

Jake Crosby

Great article, Thomas Insel should change his last name to "Inept."

John Stone

But the point is Roger that you make progress by showing what a charade the present system is, and that's all we can do bit by bit - and you go after people like Insel. How did he get there? Everyone should be screaming for his resignation and an apology for misleading everyone. That's how you change things.


Why was Insel appointed in the first place?

Teresa  Conrick


Interesting so I just checked and saw this:

BMJ. 1999 October 23; 319(7217): 1133.

PMCID: PMC1116914
1999, British Medical Journal
Association between type 1 diabetes and Hib vaccine
Causal relation is likely
J Barthelow Classen, president
Classen Immunotherapies, 6517 Montrose Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21212, USA, Email:
David C Classen, infectious disease physician
Division of Infectious Diseases, LDS Hospital, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Editor—We initiated and funded a collaborative study with Tuomilehto on the effect of the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine on type 1 diabetes and found that the data support a causal relation (paper submitted for publication). Furthermore, the potential risk of the vaccine exceeds the potential benefit. We compared a group that received four doses of the vaccine, a group that received one dose, and a group that was not vaccinated. The cumulative incidence of diabetes per 100 000 in the three groups receiving four, one, and no doses of the vaccine was 261, 237, and 207 at age 7 and 398, 376, and 340 at age 10 respectively.

then this: note they don't use the word "Hib":

Richard A. Insel, M.D.
Executive Vice President, Research

Richard A. Insel, M.D., is the Executive Vice President of Research for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, where he has responsibility for heading up the strategic direction and oversight of all JDRF research projects.

Dr. Insel has had a distinguished medical and research career in pediatric immunology. Prior to joining JDRF in 2003, he held various leadership positions at the University of Rochester Medical Center during a 26-year tenure there. Dr. Insel was the founding director of the Center for Human Genetics and Molecular Pediatric Disease and a member of the departments of pediatrics and microbiology & immunology. Among other responsibilities, Dr. Insel served as Acting Chair of Pediatrics; Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology & Immunology, and the Cancer Center; Associate Chair for Pediatric Research; Director of the Strong Children's Research Center; and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology.

Dr. Insel was the scientific co-founder of Praxis Biologics, a biotechnology company established in 1983 and subsequently acquired by Wyeth, the global pharmaceutical and health care products company. Praxis Biologics was responsible for bringing a new vaccine to market that resulted in the virtual elimination of the most common form of childhood meningitis among American infants and children.

Dr. Insel has served on the National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Diseases Council of the National Institutes of Health. He has been a Visiting Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, a fellow in pediatrics (research) at Harvard Medical School, and a fellow in medicine (immunology) at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston. He also served in the Laboratory of Parasitic Immunochemistry at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

and just happened upon this:
Eli Lilly and Company has been
a type 1 diabetes treatment
pioneer for 85 years, ever since
it introduced the world’s first
commercially available insulin.
Today, it is continuing that tradition
by helping JDRF fund research to
identify biomarkers for type 1

Roger Kulp

I honestly believe the situation is pretty much hopeless,and will remain just the way they are,unless there is a radical restructuring of the way research,and funding for said research is carried out,in much of the industrialized world.The ties between research into all disease,not just autism,and the vaccine/pharmaceutical makers are simply too strong.The research institutes,big hospitals,and universities,are,like the US government,completely owned by a small number of corporations,who have only their own interests to protect,and the hell with the rest of the world.

For all of the noise the right has made about Obama and socialist/Nazi health care,it was clear from the start,to anybody who bothered to follow what was being proposed,instead of listening to what Glenn Beck,or Michael Savage had to say about it,that any plan would end up being more corporate welfare to the big insurance providers and drug companies.

Autism research is just a microcosm. Corporations call the shots,and run the show. Everyone else is either their puppet,or a disposable pawn,be it your kid with autism,or your spouse off in Afghanistan,dying to make Xe/Blackwater wealthier.

What I don't understand,is what any doctor who really cares about improving the lot of people with autism is doing working for a "regular" hospital,instead of working independently as a DAN!


I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that I read that there was a causal association between the Hib vaccine and Type 1 Diabetes. If so, Richard Insel makes an interesting choice for Executive Vice President for Research of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, don't you think?


These unsavory conflict revelations describe yet another criminally deliberate delay in healing and preventing vaccine-induced autism. Hmmm... "help and collaboration" from Michael E. Pichichero... what a surprise.

I'd like to see a flowchart detailing the corrupted connectivity within the vaccine bureaucracy -- a "Who Did Who" to track this nasty ethical form of social disease.

My father, a farmer, uttered one famous declaration whenever an apparatus failed and became useless: "Haul it out behind the barn and turn it on its side." Are you more comfy lying on your right side, Insel, or your left?


Gee whillickers, you guys are good. It's amazing what journalists can uncover if they really want to. Time for Insel to write his third act. Which is it going to be, Tommy boy? Slink off into the night and crawl under the rock where you belong? Remain obstinately in the spotlight until we force them to give you the hook? Or man up, forsake your family ties, and let the truth set you free while you do a service to all mankind?


It's another new chapter in Evidence of Harm. That book could be as long as War and Peace by now. Unfreakinbbelievable.

Jill E

An excellent piece, thank you! I don't know how any parent could watch Insel's testimony and retain any faith in the NIH.

My only persistent question is why the focus on thimerosal and not on the effect of administering multiple inflammation-causing adjuvants to babies and toddlers, especially since we now know that autism is related to neuroinflammation? Can anyone illuminate me on the adjuvant topic? Perhaps the research has been sufficient?

Louis Conte

There are 270,000,000+ Americans who could have ended up chairing the IACC. Yet, this one person ended up chairing the committee that voted and then, in violation of federal meeting protocols, quickly un-voted funding to research a vax/un-vax study.

Now we find out that it his family has been in the vaccine business.

Tom Insel should be removed from the IACC by the end of the day and should be fired at NIMH for failing to to disclose a clear conflict of interest.

Now, it is the optics.

Kelli Ann Davis

Surprise, surprise....Gomer Pyle style!

"Oh the tangled web we weave" comes to mind right now...

Insel needs to exit stage left -- PRONTO!

Anne Dachel

Thank you Mark and Dan for giving us this important background. The one motivating issue for those charged with looking into autism seems to be: IT CAN'T BE VACCINES. Unless we have truly independent, honest individuals willing to address the most heated controversy in medicine today, all the impressive initials and fancy meetings mean nothing. We're losing a generation of children. It's that simple. We can't continue to be a prosperous country with more and more citizens dependent on the taxpayers for their support and care. If for no other reason, the economics of autism should wake us up. How much more time will people like Insel waste trying to prove that IT CAN'T BE VACCINES. The tangled web of conflicts involving this man should disqualify him from any role in researching autism. Watching him at the Appropriations Subcommittee meeting pretending that it would be unethical to conduct a study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated kids was an outrage. He of all people should know that there are lots of unvaccinated kids to study--he doesn't want to look. If people like Insel truly believe IT CAN'T BE VACCINES, then they should be everywhere calling for a vax/non-vax study. It would be the proof to settle the controversy. One has to ask if the reason behind Insel's refusal to conduct such a study is that he already knows but can't face the truth.
Anne Dachel

Leslie P.

I attended the NAA conference in 2007 and heard Dr. Insel speak. After his address, I was with a small group speaking privately with him, where I definitely detected angst on his part. I misinterpreted this as concern for the children and felt, for the first time, confident that he would use his influence to pursue useful avenues of research. In fact, about a year ago when I first met Rebecca Rex, co-founder of PROVE (Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education), I told her about this incident and my belief that angst, unlike other emotions, is difficult to fake. But I was by then very concerned by the IACC's lack of progress under his leadership. She told me, and I'll never forget this, "If he is a man of integrity, he will step up soon and the progress will come." Now I know the angst was due to a conflict of interest. No matter what he says publicly, that day in that room at NAA, I know he realized we were correct and he would have to resort to outright deceit for the remainder of his career. The acting director of the NIEHS also presented at NAA, and spoke at length about how autism HAD to have an environmental trigger along with genetic vulnerability. He spoke to us as if we were in Kindergarten, and Dr. Richard Deth, called him on it, saying, "You don't know us." It's time for Insel to go, but more importantly, it's time for vaccine safety and vaccine promotion to be completely independent of one another. HOW MUCH LONGER can this fundamental conflict be allowed to continue?

John Stone

Mark and Dan - beautiful piece of research. Good heavens, you never would have suspected it!

There is an exhibition of medals of dishonour at the British Museum at the moment.

Perhaps, we should hand out a few -particularly for those outside the UK who haven't been awarded knighthoods.



great article, Dan and Mark -keep pushing!!!!!!!!! TInsel needs to go. I'm waiting with interest to see how many people are willing to roll up their sleeves for the swine flu vaccine and it doesn't seem like it's gonna be too many.

Benedetta Stilwell

What should we do? Should we contact Senator Harkin again and complain to him? Should I contact my senator again too? Contacting who gets the most attention?

Benedetta Stilwell

Wow! Good detail work! But it seems that the days have long passed that it matters if there is a conflict of interest. I don't know what has happened in this country? And that is not a retoric question!

Julie Obradovic

Just when you think the tangled web can't be woven any more...

I am speechless.

Teresa  Conrick

Thank you Dan and Mark for that very thorough and important history lesson. It doesn't shock me as it has become a pattern that those who object to following science and the connection to vaccines in autism are so very often connected to vaccines.

It is to me, as a parent, despicable and so conflicted that these types of people, dishonest and lacking a shred of integrity, are the ones calling the shots, no pun intended.

Thomas Insel needs to step down, resign, hit the road or whatever the right term would be for someone who is obstructing honest research. If not, there must be a process to file a formal complaint to have him ousted for clear conflict, obfuscation, and Houdini voting -ie- he is an impediment to the whole purpose of the Combating Autism Act.

david burd

A closely related front page news story on the Federal plans on Swine (H1N1) Flu vaccination preparaton carried in the August 20 edition of Washington Times, reporter Ann Geracimos quotes HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with this astounding statment at a Wednesday Washington press conference commenting on 'vulnerable populations' who should, or should not, get the new flu vaccine:

"Vaccines are not recommended for babies, so keeping guardians or parents vaccinated helps protect those babies."

By babies, she meant those under the age of 6 months, made clear by her expanded comments.

Nevertheless, we now have the HHS Secretary explicitly saying "vaccines are not recommended for babies!"

Yet, the U.S. Child Vaccination Schedule has 18 doses of vaccines (some combined such as DTaP, all three together) encouraged to be given by the threshhold of the 6 month mark!

How does Secretary Sebelius explain her stated belief implicitly acknowledging the dangers of vaccinations in babies and infant? How does this danger magically disappear at age 6 months?!


Thank you Dan and Mark for that very thorough and important history lesson. It doesn't shock me as it has become a pattern that those who object to following science and the connection to vaccines in autism are so very often connected to vaccines.

It is to me, as a parent, despicable and so conflicted that these types of people, dishonest and lacking a shred of integrity, are the ones calling the shots, no pun intended.

Thomas Insel needs to step down, resign, hit the road or whatever the right term would be for someone who is obstructing honest research. If not, there must be a process to file a formal complaint to have him ousted for clear conflict, obfuscation, and Houdini voting -ie- he is an impediment to the whole purpose of the Combating Autism Act.


Katie Wright hit the proverbial nail on the head.

It is not alarmed, and sometimes bankrupt, parents who undermine "public health" - it is the greedy and corrupt system itself. How can parents reasonably believe that what they tell us is true? The pediatricians cite studies sanctioned by "the system" which blatantly refuses to police its own!

IMHO Insel should slink away in shame for this connection. If he truly cared for "public health" - the holy grail of science - he would fall on his sword and resign his post. But I suspect he will not.

Nepotism Inc.

At this moment we also recall the remarkable stories of the Davis brothers:

and Paul Nuki who hired Brian Deer to investigate Andrew Wakefield but was conflicted by the fact that his dad, George Nuki, was on the committee that licensed MMR for use in the UK:

And Prof Denis McDevitt, another committee member who passed MMR as safe, who was originally appointed to chair the panel trying Wakefield.

The most basic rules for a well ordered civil society seem to be being widely treated with contempt across international borders.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)