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More COVID nonsense

An article on the Wales Online website entitled “Wales to take part in UK trial for plant-derived Covid-19 vaccine” explains how a new clinical trial exploring the effectiveness of a “plant-derived coronavirus vaccine” is to go ahead. It details how the “large scale” study involving just 1,500 people (so not large then) “across the UK” is going to recruit 18-39 year olds in Swansea and the local areas (so not across the UK then) and after those two ridiculously contradictory statements links to the trial website and quotes…

“This investigational vaccine is produced in a form of coronavirus-like particles, known as CoVLPs, which are about the same shape and size and look very similar to live coronaviruses.”

Yes, this is Science folks. If it looks similar, and is “about the same size and shape”, it’ll do. The razor-like precision of this is truly awe-inspiring. They go on to say…

“The similarity between CoVLPs and live coronaviruses may help our immune system to recognise and respond to the vaccine particles. The next step in the development of the CoVLP Covid-19 vaccine is to conduct this large clinical study to determine whether the CoVLP Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective at protecting people from Covid-19.”

How reassuring. For anyone concerned that this all sounds like more brand new, never-before used pharmaceutical tech, fear not. This dates right back to 2020 and possibly even before that. If we look at the companies behind this which are GlaxoSmithKline and Medicago and take a peek at GSKs press release from the 7th July 2020 we can get a bit more detail of who the interested parties are.

GSK obviously need no introduction, but for those who have been living under a rock, GSK is the company our intrepid Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance worked for and owns hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of shares in, but is definitely not conflicted because Matt Hancock says so. If you’re not sure who Matt Hancock is, he’s the one who has shares in Topwood Ltd that won hundreds of thousands of pounds in Government contracts but had acted “entirely properly” because… well because Matt Hancock says so. He is the Health Secretary after all, as he is so keen to remind us. Somehow being the Health Secretary must automatically make you incapable of acting improperly. Magic.

There is much to be said about GSK generally, but for now let’s look at the New Kid on the Block, Medicago. According to that GSK press release, Medicago is

“a privately held company jointly owned by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma (MTPC) and Philip Morris International (PMI)”

Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma is a Japanese pharmaceuticals company formed from a merger in 2001 and then merged in 2007 with another company. As with most of these big companies they’ve merged, acquired and been acquired more times than you or I have had hot dinners. It is in turn owned by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group which is considered a Keiretsu, i.e. a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings. This financial group is (according to Wikipedia) Japan’s largest financial group and the world’s second largest bank holding company and has historical connections to the Japanese Government and The Bank of Tokyo, Japan’s International Bank. So some significant financial clout and interest in making some “dollar”.

Philip Morris International is, for those unaware one of the largest multinational cigarette and tobacco companies. Even Wikipedia lists a number of multi-billion dollar/pound fines for things like smuggling, instances where they have tried to sue Countries for banning the display of tobacco products in shops, or insisting on plain packaging. If this sounds at odds with Medicago’s mission which is “to improve global health outcomes” to you then you’re not alone. It is also apparent to Philip Morris International, as the press release also says…

“PMI has signalled that it is willing to evaluate offers for its shareholding from parties that may be better suited to help Medicago on the next phase of its journey and has initiated preliminary review to determine the optimal shareholding and governance structure for Medicago’s future success.”

Yes. Some self-awareness coupled with the obvious chance to flog those shares at a massive profit now Medicago has hit the big-time with the whole COVID thing, dressed up in standard corporate talk about next phases and future successes.

Don’t worry about any of that though. Please rest assured GSK, a giant Japanese corporate banking group and Philip Morris really, really want to help you and save humanity from the COVIDs.