Global & Disaster Medicine

Archive for the ‘Ricin’ Category

Soligenex, the company developing a heat-stable ricin vaccine, received an additional $2.5 million in funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), for work on RiVax, their ricin vaccine.

Soligenix

“….RiVax® is Soligenix’s proprietary heat stable recombinant subunit vaccine developed to protect against exposure to ricin toxin. With RiVax®, Soligenix is a world leader in the area of ricin toxin vaccine research.

RiVax® contains a genetically altered version of a Ricin Toxin A (RTA) chain containing two mutations that inactivate the toxicity of the ricin molecule. A Phase 1A clinical trial was conducted with a formulation of RiVax® that did not contain an adjuvant. This trial revealed dose dependent seroconversion as well as lack of toxicity of the molecule when administered intramuscularly to human volunteers. The adjuvant-free formulation of RiVax® induced toxin neutralizing antibodies that lasted up to 127 days after the third vaccination in several individuals…..”

 

“…..About Ricin Toxin

Ricin toxin is a lethal plant-derived toxin and potential biological weapon because of its stability and high potency, and the fact it is readily extracted from by-products of castor oil production.  Ricin comes in many forms including powder, mist or pellet. Ricin can also be dissolved in water and other liquids.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the lethal dose in humans is about the size of a grain of salt.

Ricin toxin illness causes tissue necrosis and general organ failure leading to death within several days of exposure. 

Ricin is especially toxic when inhaled. Ricin works by entering cells of the body and preventing the cells from making the proteins it needs. 

Without the proteins, cells die, which is eventually harmful to the entire body.

There are currently no effective treatments for ricin poisoning.

The successful development of an effective vaccine against ricin toxin may act as a deterrent against the actual use of ricin as a biological weapon and could be used in rapid deployment scenarios in the event of a biological attack…..”


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of NIH has exercised an option to fund animal efficacy and toxicology studies for Soligenix’s RiVax ricin vaccine as a bioterror preparedness measure

Ricin Vaccine 

CDC:  Facts about Ricin

 


Man Gets 16 Years for Attempting to Purchase Ricin

FBI

Shipment Containing Fake Ricin Sent to Cheng Le

04/19/16

It was a very scary scenario: Chinese national Cheng Le, living in New York City, attempted to order ricin through the so-called dark web.

Ricin, of course, is a highly potent and potentially fatal toxin with no known antidote. And the dark web includes a number of extensive, sophisticated, and widely used online criminal marketplaces that allow participants to buy and sell all kinds of illegal and often dangerous items, including drugs, firearms, and hazardous materials, like ricin.

What did Le plan to do with the ricin? Nothing good. According to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, “In Le’s own words, established at trial, he was looking for ‘simple and easy death pills’ and ways to commit ‘100 percent risk-free’ murder.”

While on a particular dark web marketplace in early December 2014, Le asked, “This might sound blunt but do you sell ricin?” Fortunately, the individual at the computer on the other end was not a trafficker in lethal poisons—instead, it was an undercover FBI employee.

For the next couple of weeks or so, Le and the undercover employee exchanged more than 20 encrypted messages. Some of Le’s communications included:

  • “If [the ricin’s] good quality, I’ve already had buyers lining up.”
  • “Does ricin have an antidote? Last I check there isn’t one, isn’t it?”
  • “The client would like to know…if it is wise to use ricin on someone who is hospitalized…Injection will leave needle holes on the body which could be found in regular forensic examinations. But hospitalized people already have needles in them so it wouldn’t be suspicious…”
  • “I’ll be trying out new methods in the future. After all, it is death itself we’re selling here, and the more risk-free, the more efficient we can make it, the better.”
  • “Also, besides that one bottle of pills with one poisonous pill in there, can you send some extra loose powder/liquid ricin? I’d like to test something.”

Sometime during these exchanges, Le revealed to the undercover employee that he had a specific victim in mind: “Someone middle-aged. Weight around 200 pounds.”

Ultimately, Le placed his order, paying with bitcoins, a virtual currency. Bitcoins themselves are not illegal and have known legitimate uses. However, they are also a common form of payment for illegal goods and services on the dark web because of the anonymity they provide.

On December 18, 2014, Le directed his contact to send a quantity of ricin to a rented postal box at a Manhattan shipping store (investigators later determined that Le had rented the postal box using the name of an individual whose identity he had stolen).

The Bureau prepared a mock shipment exactly as Le had requested—with one small difference: the “ricin pill” concealed in a pill bottle and the loose “ricin powder” were fake. And on December 23, the sham shipment was delivered to the requested postal box. Le, wearing latex gloves, retrieved the package, opened it, and took it to his apartment. Agents, armed with a search warrant, entered the apartment, collected the evidence, and arrested Le.

Le was tried by a federal jury and convicted in August 2015 of, among other things, attempting to possess a biological toxin for use as a weapon and aggravated identity theft in relation to a terrorism offense. Last month, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison, a term that had been enhanced by the aggravated identity theft charge.

And as a result of yet another successful joint law enforcement investigation—this one by the FBI, New York Police Department, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service—a criminal who posed a deadly threat to the public is behind bars.


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