Canadian Scientist At Center Of Chinese Bio-Espionage Probe Found Dead In Africa?
Update (1135ET): It seems that Mr. Plummer made a habit of getting the biological material he was working on “stolen,” as we found a report from 2009 in the Winnepeg Free Press that details the theft of 22 vials of biological material was “confirmed by scientific director Dr. Frank Plummer.”
Plummer, allegedly, alerted authorities to the missing material on the same day a former vaccine researcher was arrested by FBI special agents after U.S. Customs discovered the vials stuffed in a glove in the trunk of his car at the Manitoba-North Dakota border crossing.
Some of the vials included genes from the deadly Ebola virus, but local scientists say the material is not infectious.
But more than a week after the theft came to light, police said no one from the lab has reported the incident.
Plummer has said the researcher signed a form declaring he did not steal anything from the lab and understood he was not allowed to. The national lab does not conduct searches of staff when they exit the lab and does not routinely take inventory of the thousands of vials containing non-infectious biological substances.
However, court documents allege the former researcher stole the vials on his last day of work at the virology lab in January because “he did not want to start his research over from the beginning when he entered into his next fellowship” with the National Institutes of Health at the Biodefense Research Laboratory in Maryland.
According to CBC, Plummer, 67, was in Kenya, where he was a keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the University of Nairobi’s collaborative centre for research and training in HIV/AIDS/STIs.
Dr. Larry Gelmon, who helped set up that meeting, said Plummer collapsed and was taken to hospital in Nairobi, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
No confirmed cause of death has yet been released.
Plummer was born and raised in Winnipeg, where he headed up Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory for several years.
He was also involved in an innovative research partnership between the University of Manitoba and the University of Nairobi, established before the world was very aware of HIV/AIDS.
“He helped to identify a lot of the key factors that are involved in HIV transmission in the early days,” said Keith Fowke, a professor in the medical microbiology and infectious diseases department at the University of Manitoba.
“He was so hopeful that he was on the path that would end with discovery of the HIV vaccine — the road he had started down almost 30 years ago,” said Plummer’s colleague, Dr. Allan Ronald.
Infact, as GreatGameIndia reported in our exclusive report on Coronavirus Bioweapon, as Scientific Director Frank Plummer was the one who acquired the SARS Coronavirus sample of the Saudi patient at the NML Winnipeg Lab from Ron Fouchier, a leading virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center (EMC) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands who was sent the virus by Egyptian virologist Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki who isolated and identified a previously unknown type of Coronavirus from the Saudi patient’s lungs.
Fouchier sequenced the virus from a sample sent by Zaki using a broad-spectrum “pan-coronavirus” real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method to test for distinguishing features of a number of known coronaviruses known to infect humans.
Research was done in conjunction with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s national lab, the National Centre for Foreign Animal Diseases which is housed in the same complex as the National Microbiology Laboratory.