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Years Before Heading Offshore, Herpes Researcher Experimented On People In U.S.

By Kaiser Health News  
   November 22, 2017

According to the emails between Halford and the patients and extensive interviews with the participant, Halford did not procure written informed consent as required by federal law when testing a live virus on humans.

This article first appeared November 21, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Marisa Taylor

Three years before launching an offshore herpes vaccine trial, an American researcher vaccinated patients in U.S. hotel rooms in brazen violation of U.S. law, a Kaiser Health News investigation has found.

Southern Illinois University associate professor William Halford administered the shots himself at a Holiday Inn Express and a Crowne Plaza Hotel that were a 15-minute drive from the researcher’s SIU lab. Halford injected at least eight herpes patients on four separate occasions in the summer and fall of 2013 with a virus that he created, according to emails from seven participants and interviews with one participant.

The 2013 experiments raise further questions of misconduct by Halford, who pursued a herpes vaccine for years while working at Southern Illinois University, which claims to have been unaware of his unorthodox research practices.

Halford, who died this summer from cancer, ran a clinical trial out of a house on St. Kitts in 2016 to test the experimental vaccine and did not alert U.S. or St. Kitts and Nevis authorities.

Following a KHN report that Halford completed the 2016 trial with no independent safety oversight, the Department of Health and Human Services demanded the university account for the research.

SIU, in an initial response to U.S. authorities, said the university’s institutional review board found “serious noncompliance with regulatory requirements and institutional policies and procedures.”

SIU, like many universities receiving federal research funds, pledged to follow U.S. standards for all clinical trials.

In 2013, Halford, who was a microbiologist not a physician, noted a need for secrecy in one email to a participant, writing that it would be “suicide” if he became too public about how he was conducting his research.


Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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