The mysterious deaths of top microbiologists

It all began with Don Wiley.

On November 15th, Harvard Professor Don Wiley left a gathering of friends and colleagues some time after 10:30 PM. The next morning, Memphis police found his rental car stopped on a bridge, with a full tank of gas and keys still in the ignition. There was no financial or family trouble. Indeed Wiley was supposed to meet his family at the Memphis airport to continue on to an Icelandic vacation. Neither was there any history of depression or mental illness.

In the report printed in the New York Times on November 27th, the FBI's Memphis office distanced itself from the case saying that the available facts did not add up to a suspicion of foul play. I guess at the FBI it's a perfectly everyday occurrence for a Harvard Professor to stop his rental car on a bridge in the middle of the night before he is supposed to leave for Iceland and just walk away into the Tennessee dark.

The NYT report of November 27th also downplayed Professor Wiley's expertise in virology, quoting Gregory Verdine, a professor of chemical biology at Harvard, said, "If bioterrorists were to abduct Don Wiley, they'd be very disappointed," because his research was in studying the component parts of viruses, and "that doesn't really help you make a more dangerous version of the virus."

But this statement is not consistent with the facts of Professor Wiley's full range of knowledge. Wiley has, in conjunction with another Harvard Professor, Dr. Jack Strominger, won several academic prizes for their work in immunology, including a Lasker prize. Don Wiley is a Harvard professor, but he is also a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the National Institute of Health. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and performs biological research, sometimes jointly funded by the Department of Defense and the NIH. Don Wiley's peers at Harvard include professors such as John Collier performing research on Anthrax.

So, contrary to the dismissive tone of the New York Times report, Professor Wiley would be of great value to anyone developing biological weapons. This makes the FBI's obvious disinterest in the case highly questionable, indeed reminiscent of the FBI's obvious disinterest in the numerous witnesses in Oklahoma City who had seen Tim McVeigh in the company of additional perpetrators not to mention the witnesses who had seen additional bombs.