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24.12.20

Death of a Vaccine Scientist

Update on the death of geneticist and molecular and cellular biologist Alexander Kagansky in St Petersburg last week. 

He was a former employee of the Wellcome Trust in Scotland and was also connected with the Maryland-based National Cancer Institute. The Nevskie Novosti publication reports that in recent months Kagansky had also worked in Edinburgh on a vaccine against coronavirus infection. Izvestia suggested this research was in the UK.



 Alexander Kagansky (YouTube)

He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 2004 after spending three years at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. In 1998 he got his MS in Biophysics from from St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University in Russia.

mRNA INJECTABLES

Kagansky was a pioneer in synthetic epigenetics. This is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. He had published papers on the manipulation of mRNA.

Note mRNA type injectables are being rolled out across the world. These do not work like conventional vaccines. Indeed, the six or so "vaccine candidates" seem to have been forgotten by governments to be replaced by an exclusive focus on mRNA injectables.

The Gates-lobby group GAVI says mRNA cannot alter DNA as it "will only hang around inside a cell for about 72 hours, before being degraded." GAVI further adds, "Some viruses like HIV can integrate their genetic material into the DNA of their hosts, but this isn’t true of all viruses, and HIV can only do so with the help of specialised enzymes that it carries with it. MRNA vaccines don’t carry these enzymes."

In Australia the University of Queensland and CSL COVID injectables trial was abandoned after some volunteers "falsely tested positive for HIV," which officials feared would undermine trust in the vaccine, the NYT reported. "The HIV protein fragment posed no risk to human health, but could interfere with HIV screening tests," wrote Live Science.

The late scientist would have been a leading expert on precisely this aspect of mRNA injectables (see his research below).

DEATH & MOTIVE

Of course, Kagansky may have stabbed himself and jumped out of a 14th-floor window. 

On the other hand  he was a rising star and would not be the first person to be killed as a result of business rivalry or jealousy and it could be wholly unrelated to his vaccine or mRNA research. 

The Daily Mail points the finger at the Russian government but given the high-stakes competition within Big Pharma, it stands to reason that a rival, non-Russian competitor could also have an interest in silencing or disrupting Russian scientists.

If we imagine, for a moment, that his death is related to his work, one point comes to light. The 46-year-old was most recently working in the Far East of Russia, in Vladivostok… harder for a Western agent to penetrate and far easier for the Russian authorities to control. Yet he was killed while visiting a friend in St Petersburg which is easily reached across the Finnish border. Kagansky headed the Center for Genomic and Regenerative Medicine at the Far Eastern Federal University. While there he continued research collaboration with Edinburgh University.

The Fontanka.ru news website reported that he had been visiting an old schoolmate for a birthday party on the day of his death. The friend denied that he had stabbed Kagansky and claimed that the scientist had wounded himself, thought he paper did not name the source of that information.

According to this account, the friend said they woke up in the morning after a party and the friend went to prepare a brunch. Kagansky went to the bathroom, grabbed a knife, stabbed himself and jumped from the 14th floor.

Izvestia interviewed a mutual friend who suggested Kagansky had suffered stress in recent months. The following could equally suggest that he was facing external rather than internal pressure: "he became nervous, easily fell into depression, talked about imminent death. The acquaintances of the deceased note that the scientist had an exhausting schedule, he worked a lot and traveled around the country and abroad."

The friend at whose flat he stayed is, according to Russian news outlets, a media manager or journalist named Igor Ivanov. Reminiscent of Ivan Ivanov, which Russophiles will know is the equivalent of John Doe.

It did not take long for joint efforts in the face of Covid's "existential threat to humanity" to break down into familiar, humdrum, geopolitical rivalry. In July 2020, the BBC reported, Russian spies target Covid-19 vaccine research -- the usual evidence-free allegations of hacking but a consensus of Western intelligence services (95% certain) and a denial from the Russian presidential spokesman.

Then in September, The Guardian alleged, Russia is spreading lies about Covid vaccines, says UK military chief, alongside a clichéd and unflattering image of an urgent and constipated-looking military chief.

We are not privy to whether the data dumps actually happened, whether the threat materialized -- or if Western military intelligence took any action against any individual to pre-empt such a threat. 

EXPERTISE

Kagansky worked in Scotland between 2005 and 2012 (or for 13 years until 2017 by some accounts), including as a Chancellor's fellow at the Edinburgh-based Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit, which "discovers how changes in our DNA impact our lives."

On the University of Edinburgh web site, Kagansky listed his research activities:

My research in a nutshell: One of the most fundamental problems in modern biology is to determine mechanisms that underlie changes in genome regulation at the level of chromatin structure, as it defines gene expression and chromosome function and is linked to cancer, differentiation, ageing, and brain function. To address that, we must understand what changes occur upon the transformation between active and repressed chromatin states. Our goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms and role of such transitions in mammalian cells. To achieve this, we induce targeted chromatin changes using locus-specific targeting of chromatin modifiers. We also develop new chemical approaches to changing the chromatin structure.

Chromatin is a substance within a chromosome consisting of DNA and protein. The DNA carries the cell's genetic instructions. 

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small, endogenous RNAs of 21–25 nucleotides (nts) in length. They play an important regulatory role in animals and plants by targeting specific mRNAs for degradation or translation repression.

In 2009 he published a paper on MicroRNAs: "Recent studies from transcription, pre-mRNA splicing, and miRNA-processing perspectives have investigated these relationships and yielded interesting, yet somewhat controversial findings. Here we discuss major studies in the field."

This paper is well worth reading: it shows just how experimental mRNA work remains. 

Kagansky was also joint author of a paper that looks at the commercialization of nature under the guise of protecting biodiversity. Towards policies that capture the expected value of biomolecular diversity for drug discovery, human health, and well-being -- Biologia Futura, Sep 2020.

Given the potential for overexploitation and the unknown amount of compounds lost, this scenario of biodiversity—a focus on drugs lost from species extinction—is largely unexplored.
Several action teams have been recently established, including the Commission on Planetary Health by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Rockefeller Foundation (Planetary Health commission), Digital Forest (started in Brazil to evaluate genomic and metabolomic diversity in the Amazon), and the Biodiversity for Survival via Biomedicine (Bio2Bio) consortium put forward by the Global Young Academy.

The objectives include:
  • Create open interdisciplinary international dialogue among conservation and molecular scientists, physicians, patients, policy-makers, and commercial bodies in the areas of medicine, health, and well-being.

  • Establish best practices, including ethical and legal considerations, for sustainable natural product exploration, collection, production, storage, preparation, and purification of compounds.

  • Standardize high capacity bio-molecular and cell-based assays to test natural products against cell-based disease models.

  • Implement best practices in sustainable commercialization of natural products, considering the balance of ecosystem, community, and commercial interests.

  • Promote equitable sharing of benefits obtained from drug discoveries among stakeholders and the sustainability of natural products and the systems to which they are integral.


To be continued.


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