Alison Singer: autism parent, IACC seat usurper, industry front group founder, recent guest on The Dr. Oz Show, and now - loyal Pharma-funded wife. Of course, that’s what she’s always been. We just didn’t know it, until now.
Mrs. Singer is married to Dan Singer, a longtime employee of McKinsey and Company: a global management consulting firm. Singer’s firm sponsors one of the awards given out by the British Medical Journal, which published and even endorsed British Pharmaceutical Industry sock puppet Brian Deer’s false allegations of fraud against Dr. Andrew Wakefield. McKinsey is not Pharma, you might say. True to an extent, but McKinsey’s commitment to the industry is significant. In the “industry practices” category of “client service,” McKinsey and Co. has a whole page on “Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products,” where they offer a wide range of consultation services to the pharmaceutical industry on everything from prescription pharmaceuticals, to over the counter medicines, to biotechnology and medical products and diagnostics. In 2006, in the company’s quarterly, an article was even run entitled “Avian flu: Expanding global vaccine production.” The avian flu vaccine is preserved in 49 micrograms of mercury, approximately twice that of a season flu shot.
But on January 12 McKinsey did more than consult for the pharmaceutical industry; they partied with its leading vaccine spokesman, millionaire vaccine industrialist Dr. Paul Offit. An email invitation sent out by Alison Singer’s group, the Autism Science Foundation, read:
“Please join us for the book launch and signing
at the offices of McKinsey & Company 55 East 52nd Street, 21st floor New York, NY 10022 Wednesday, January 12, 2011 6P-8P
Hosted by: Autism Science Foundation
RSVP: Julie Martin
Underneath that message is a bio of Paul Offit and next to it is a picture of Offit’s book cover. Below the book cover, it says:
“All proceeds from sales of Deadly Choices will be donated to the Autism Science Foundation”
It’s more than a little odd that McKinsey would be promoting the work of the Autism Science Foundation (ASF). Ever sensitive to the prestige and standing of its partners, McKinsey would seem a more natural partner of Autism Speaks, the Park Avenue charity of the autism world rather than an upstart run out of Singer’s garage (actually, ASF rents Singer a desk and receptionist from a “Sunshine Suites” property in Noho). Understanding their ASF promotion requires understanding McKinsey’s longstanding role in the autism-vaccine controversies.
And McKinsey partners have been closely connected to the debate, up to the highest levels of the firm. Up until recently, McKinsey was headed by Ian Davis, younger brother of GlaxoSmithKline board of directors member Sir Crispin Davis, and twin brother of Sir Nigel Davis - the judge who denied appeals from MMR litigation claimants to have their legal aid continued.
Though Ian Davis would eventually step down from his position at McKinsey in 2009, it was not before Alison Singer resigned from Autism Speaks. Her resignation was prompted by the charity rightfully condemning the IACC’s backhanded removal of research into some pharmacologic etiologies of autism from its mission. Mrs. Singer’s justification was that there are limited funds for autism research that could be better spent, even though Singer supports such funding being dumped into the money pit of genetic research, and even though not only pharmacologic, but environmental factors overall, have been horribly understudied by comparison.
So she founded a front group posing as an autism charity - the Autism Science Foundation - with millionaire pharmaceutical industrialist Dr. Paul Offit. ASF is the only autism research organization founded on the basis of the science it won’t pursue (it’s been “asked and answered, vaccines don’t cause autism”) than that it will do. And despite the fact that she was originally appointed to a public seat on the IACC as an Autism Speaks representative, she was allowed to keep her position as representative of her own corporate fringe offshoot, effectively usurping Autism Speaks’ representation on the committee.
During the time Singer resigned from Autism Speaks and began her front group, Ian Davis was still head of the company where her husband continues to work. Here’s a brief sequence of events. For more than 20 years, Dan Singer has been a loyal employee of McKinsey, joining the company out of Harvard Business School in 1989 and climbing the ladder until being promoted to director in 1994. That same year, he married his Harvard and Yale sweetheart, Alison Tepper, now Alison Tepper-Singer, whom we all know as Alison Singer. She would take up a job at NBC later that year and the couple would have a daughter together.
Then in 1999, Singer quit her job as a vice president of the network when that daughter was diagnosed with autism. She recently told CNN about her decision about giving MMR to her next child:
“I split the vaccine for my second daughter.”
Her second daughter now remains neurotypical. And the choice to vaccinate against measles, mumps and rubella separately seems not to have harmed Singer’s second daughter in any way. So Alison Singer not only followed Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s advice (and conceivably is benefiting from it), but was even an advocate for his cause in the popular press – at least in one instance.
When NBC ran an episode of “ER” in 2001 that featured a child who died of the measles presumably because he was not vaccinated with MMR, Singer reacted with outrage. According to The New York Daily News:
“Alison Tepper Singer, a former vice president in NBC's desktop video division, faulted the "ER" episode for its "complete belittling of another viewpoint," she told The News. Singer resigned from NBC in 1999 when her older daughter was diagnosed with autism.
"It was so irresponsible and so callous and so heartbreaking for parents who are dealing with this issue that I found it sad," she said of the "ER" episode.”
Then in 2003, Ian Davis became McKinsey’s worldwide managing director. In other words, he became Dan Singer’s boss. Did this change of leadership bring a new kind of influence into the Singer household? Only the Singers know for sure. But one thing is clear, that Alison Singer, after previously splitting up the MMR for her younger, neurotypical daughter and speaking out against a biased TV show, began changing her public position about what she thought might cause autism.
Now, I already have a good idea what Alison Singer might say to all this, her reading of the “science” convinced her otherwise. In response to a January 14, 2010 article I wrote about Kevin Leitch speculating that guilt over giving his daughter a vaccine that triggered her autism drove him to finding solace in the neurodiversity movement, Singer wrote the following comment on the Leftbrain/Rightbrain blog:
What a strange story. Many parents question whether vaccines are involved in autism because of the media coverage of the issue, but then they read the science and realize the studies are there and the science clearly indicates no causal role for vaccines. Kev, although I find your point of view refreshing and your posts unique, I dare say you are hardly alone at coming to this conclusion. Jake will have to try harder next time.
What a strange position for her to take. Not only did she not read my article but there was already plenty of purported “research” in 2001 claiming to disprove a link between MMR and autism, virtually all of which was thrown out as useless junk science in an international review by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2005, which also conceded the evidence of the vaccine’s safety was “largely inadequate.” Many of those sorts of studies published since 2001, including the CDC’s own study, were actually positive findings reported as negative ones. Perhaps most disturbing of all was the confirmation of vaccine-strain measles virus in the terminal ileums and cerebrospinal fluid of children with autism and bowel disease in the O’Leary paper published in Molecular Pathology and the Bradstreet paper published in JPandS respectively (contrary to the propaganda machine, the later Hornig paper did not falsify these findings). Finally, one would think the HHS concessions of children like Bailey Banks and Hannah Poling who developed autism after their vaccines becoming public knowledge would have ended this debate altogether.
I don’t know what “science” Ms. Singer is referring to, but scientifically, consumers have far more reasons to fear vaccines and the MMR vaccine in particular in 2011 than they ever had back in 2001. Whatever motive the Singers’ would develop for no longer believing the MMR causes autism, it was certainly not scientific. If the twin brother of a person who denied justice to personal injury claimants and the younger brother of a man helping to facilitate a smear campaign against one of the claimants’ expert witnesses became my boss, I would not want to say anything potentially favorable about that witness for fear of jeopardizing my job. I certainly would not want my wife to do the same, either.
Alison Singer had a very different opinion by the time NBC President Bob Wright founded Autism Speaks along with his wife Suzanne compared to her opinion in the Daily News piece in 2001. Whatever changed Mrs. Singer’s mind about what causes autism, it likely happened within a time period no sooner than 2001 but probably no later than 2005 when she joined Autism Speaks. Ian Davis becoming head of McKinsey occurred right in the middle of that, also happening at around the same time his brother Crispin joined Glaxo’s board of directors. She has kept this connection between her husband’s company and the pharmaceutical industry to herself.
Alison Singer cannot honestly call her group an “autism charity” when its activities are focused on promoting and defending drugs (ie vaccines) for the pharmaceutical industry. She has actually traveled with Paul Offit to Atlanta to speak at an immunization conference on how to compel parents to vaccinate recklessly. Autism Science Foundation is a corporate front group with an agenda that predetermines its approach to autism. Its non-profit status should be revoked.
Jake Crosby is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Policy and contributing editor to Age of Autism.