|The irresistible rise of Tony's crony (20/11/2005)|
Yet another scandal has broken around the widely tipped successor to Lord Sainsbury as Blair's Science Minister.
Lord Drayson, the former heard former head of the biotech industry lobby group the BioIndustry Association, was peviously at the centre of the cash for contracts scandal over the smallpox vaccine purchased from his Powederject company by the Ministry of Defence, where he now works a Blair Minister.
The smallpox contract made Drayson's fortune. Drayson was made a life peer in 2004 after selling Powderject.
The irresistible rise of Tony's crony
Paul Drayson is the Labour Party's leading businessman in government.
He was made a lord and then the UK defence procurement minister after giving New Labour more than £1m.
In 2004 he was the party's largest individual donor.
The Money Programme can reveal that he also ran a company which sold faulty TB vaccines and kept quiet about it for 21 months, risking the health of thousands of people.
Needle-free injection system
Paul Rudd Drayson was born and brought up in South London, educated at Catford's private St. Dunstan's school.
He got a degree and a PhD at Aston University, and worked in the car business, before moving on to lead a management buy-out of a division of Trebor, the sweet manufacturer.
He then got into the bio-tech business.
It was a time of growth and boom in the sector and new futuristic inventions were being snapped up by entrepreneurs with an eye for a business opportunity.
It was at Oxford University that Paul spotted the value of a revolutionary needle-free injection system.
With the device's inventor he formed a company to develop the technology.
Powderject was its name.
Making a mint
Dr. John Savopoulos, an analyst at Datamonitor who specialises in the vaccine business, recalls the excitement surrounding the PowderJect device.
There are question marks over how that business was conducted that go to the very heart of Drayson's credibility so he must answer those questions
"It signed a $300m (£175m) agreement with Glaxo Wellcome at the time, for DNA vaccines." he says.
"It seemed to be present at all the international conferences as a company pushing forward the frontiers."
Although the company attracted millions of pounds worth of investment and floated on the stock market, the Powderject device has never made it to market. It is still being developed.
In October 2000, Powderject bought a vaccine factory in Speke, Liverpool.
It was a move which was to make Mr Drayson's fortune.
During his ownership of the factory there were a number of problems with four different vaccines - polio, flu, hepatitis A and most worryingly the TB (BCG) vaccine, supplied to the National Health service in Britain.
Official documents from the MHRA, the UK Health regulator, obtained by the Money Programme show that the company had been carrying out monitoring of its own TB (BCG) vaccines.
The tests showed that from 1989 to 2002, nine batches of the BCG vaccine failed to "meet the end of shelf-life potency criteria", as it is written in the document.
This means the vaccine was no longer as effective as it should have been.
To make matters worse, the MHRA was kept in the dark.
The risk to the public is that of the millions of people - nearly all schoolchildren - who have been vaccinated, an unknown number face the real possibility that their TB vaccines were sub-strength and may not provide immunity.
One unofficial estimate, based on health department figures, is that since the tests began in 1989 - long before Drayson bought the factory - nine batches, that is perhaps as many as 900,000 BCG doses, failed shelf-life tests.
If you take a 2% failure rate - which is what happened when a Powderject sub-batch failed in Ireland - then 18,000 people have been vaccinated but may not be protected from TB.
No-one, and that includes the British government, knows for sure.
Dr Savopoulos says of the non-disclosure: "to produce a vaccine that's given to thousands of school children to protect them against TB and-and the vaccine isn't working, is unforgivable".
Although the problems with the TB vaccine are the most alarming failures at the Powderject plant, three different health regulators - the British, the Americans and the Irish - made repeated complaints about Powderject's TB (BCG), polio, hepatitis and flu jabs.
Britain's MHRA visited the plant 16 times during Powderject's ownership.
Inspectors from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) visited the plant twice in 2001 and once in 2003.
They found 'significant objectionable conditions' at the factory, discovered that four out of five flu vaccine batches destined for the US market failed shelf-life tests and, perhaps most worrying of all, bacterial contamination of the manufacturing process for the flu jab.