- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009


French pharmaceutical company Ipsen objects to The Washington Times focusing a spotlight on their well-documented relationship with the University of Tehran and Pasteur Institute, both of which are on the U.S. and British lists of organizations with suspected links to terrorism. As explained in the letter printed nearby on this page, Ipsen states that we erroneously claimed that they sold the botulinum toxin to these institutions, which they steadfastly deny. In fact, they gave - not sold - the toxin to the Iranians, which strikes us as worse than selling it.

The University of Tehran and Pasteur Institute are capable of playing an active part in an Iranian biological weapons program. A new recombinant protein facility at the Pasteur Institute could be used to weaponize botulinum toxin, which is one of the deadliest pathogens in the world. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Tehran is a major center for biological research suspected of contributing to bioweapons research. Ipsen supplied purified botulinum toxin to both of these institutions, an act that would be illegal under U.S. law.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved Dysport, Ipsen’s answer to Botox, for sale and use in the United States. Last summer, Ipsen signed an agreement with pharmaceutical company Vernalis to acquire its U.S. operations as a platform to market Dysport. Under the Iran Sanctions Act, U.S. companies - or those with a U.S. presence - are probited by law from doing business with Iran. Given Ipsen’s activities in Iran, the Justice Department should step in where the FDA did not and investigate whether Ipsen would be open to punitive action under U.S. laws governing trade with Iran.

Congress should take a closer look at Margaret Hamburg, President Obama’s nominee to head the FDA. Ms. Hamburg’s resume states that she is an expert in bio-defense. Before she is confirmed, Ms. Hamburg should be asked about the Ipsen-Iran connection and the FDA’s approval of Dysport. The American public needs to know how serious the Obama administration is about bio-defense.

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