Test Tsar owns £ 770,000 in shares in a company that sold us £ 13million in ‘useless’ antibody test kits
A leading government adviser on Covid testing is a shareholder in the Swiss pharmaceutical company which has sold millions of “unnecessary” antibody test kits to the UK, a Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, owns more than £ 773,000 in shares of Roche, the pharmaceutical company that made the kits.
He was also a member of the company’s board of directors as a non-executive director, but resigned in March.
In early May, the government agreed to buy £ 13.5million worth of antibody tests from Roche, which the company said was “100% accurate”. Sir John says he played no part in the decision.
Sir John Bell, pictured, a regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, owns more than £ 773,000 in shares of Roche, the pharmaceutical company that made the kits. He says he played no role in Roche’s decision to buy the antibody kits
There are two types of Covid tests. Diagnostic tests tell patients if they currently have the virus, while antibody tests – like Roche’s – reveal if a person has antibody cells in their immune system that prove they have it. had in the past.
Following the deal, Sir John appeared on Channel 4 News and Radio 4’s Today program, calling the tests a “big step forward” – but did not mention his ties to the company.
However, studies have found that antibodies to Covid-19 decline rapidly, and therefore testing them for them reveals little. At the time of the agreement with Roche, Sir John said: “If you test positive with this test you can say for sure that you have had the infection, so you will have had Covid-19.”
The news comes days after it emerged, UK Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, former chairman of UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, still owns a £ 600,000 stake in the company which is currently involved in the development. of Covid vaccines. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio that Sir Patrick, who also chairs the government’s expert group on vaccines, “played by the rules”.
After signing the contract with Roche, an assessment by Public Health England (PHE) found the tests could be unreliable, so plans to make them available to the NHS and healthcare workers were scrapped.
Jon Deeks, professor of biostatistics at the University of Birmingham, called the tests “unnecessary”.
In early May, the government agreed to buy £ 13.5million worth of antibody tests from Roche, which the company said was “100% accurate” (Photo: File photo)
Sir John told the Mail on Sunday he disagreed with PHE’s assessment but admitted that “the government has no real use for antibody testing at the moment”. When asked if he had declared his interests in Roche to the government, Sir John replied: “Of course they knew – the Department of Health has a long list of my interests.”
He said he was not on the advisory body involved in the decision to purchase the Roche antibody tests, adding: “I was not aware of the Roche contract until it was signed. I advised [diagnostic] home test kits, not those.
While serving on Roche’s board of directors, he received a salary of £ 260,000. He announced his decision to step down in December, but kept his shares in the company, worth £ 773,000.
It has emerged that UK Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (pictured), former chairman of UK drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, still owns a £ 600,000 stake in the company which is currently involved in vaccine development Covid.
The Oxford professor has worked as an advisor to the Department of Health and Social Affairs since 2017 in various roles.
Under former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, he helped explore ways the government could work with pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline.
Among his many high-profile appointments, he also serves on the board of directors of Genomics England, a government-funded company established and funded by the Department of Health and Welfare to sequence 100,000 genomes of NHS patients.
Since March, he has been chairman of the government new test approval group, which evaluates diagnostic tests for viruses.
New coronavirus cases affect less than 1 in 400 people in one of UK’s top 10 virus ‘hot spots’, figures show
- Experts urged people living in virus “hot spots” not to overreact
- In Bolton, with a population of 287,000, new infections account for one in 413
- The same pattern is clear in other Northwest or Northeast hotspots
By Nick Craven for the Mail on Sunday
New cases of Covid-19 affect less than one in 400 people in one of the country’s top ten hotspots, figures show.
As experts urged those in virus hotspots not to overreact, the latest weekly figures available for Bolton – who tops the list – show there have been 696 new cases reported.
But with the city’s population of 287,000, new infections are less than a quarter of a percent – or one in 413 people.
Mortality figures for Bolton over the same period – the week until last Tuesday – show two people died from Covid, compared with 37 people from other causes.
The same pattern is clear in the other hotspots, all located in the northwest or northeast, with only Liverpool fourth and Pendle tenth recording all Covid-related deaths, to one each. In Liverpool, 61 people have died from other causes.
Liverpool also had the highest number of new Covid cases (1,132) in the top ten hotspots, but given its much larger population, that only represented 0.227% of its residents, or one in 440.
Cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora said it was important that the public, including those living in hot spots, not overreact.
People gather near an information board that reads ‘Do not mix with other households’ in downtown Bolton after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on September 22, 2020
“In Spain, currently the worst affected country in Europe where the infection rate is higher than these UK hot spots, the rate is around 320 people per 100,000, which is less than a third one percent – a very small number.
“And then, of course, the number of infected people who are likely to die is much lower again, so you have to keep things in perspective.”
With cancer and heart and circulatory disease responsible for more than 335,000 deaths per year, Professor Sikora added, “There are much bigger killers than Covid-19. If we had figures on cancer and heart disease deaths in the newspapers every day, people could see all of this a little more clearly.
“These conditions need to be treated when they arise and this is really a problem, so patients will suffer more from the delays in accessing treatment that are piling up due to the pandemic.”
Professor Sikora argued that returning to some sort of lockdown risked losing public support for government policy, which he said was already faltering,
“All the time I see people getting more and more fed up with the restrictions, and I imagine this is even more the case in these sensitive areas.”
He added: “If I was in charge of this I would be much more liberal – I would protect those who are known to be vulnerable: the elderly and those with other underlying health issues.
“Then, for the vast majority, we need to slowly release people, not impose a tighter lockdown.”