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PowderJect, was 'a vaccine, drug and diagnostics delivery company specialising in the needle-free, pain-free injection of drugs, biophamaceuticals, conventional and DNA Vaccines and diagnostics in dry powder form.'[1] It was 'originally spun out' from the University of Oxford in 1993 with the aid of Isis Innovation.[1] In 2003, PowderJect was acquired Chiron Corporation for $800m. In April 2006 Chiron was bought out by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics part of Novartis.[2] In 2002 PowderJect, 'was caught up in controversy... after winning a £32m smallpox vaccine contract from the government'.[3]

In 2003 PowderJect, 'headed by Labour donor Paul Drayson', was subject to a £542m takeover bid from US pharmaceuticals group Chiron - 'yielding a £100m windfall for Mr Drayson, his father-in-law and their families.'[3]

Mr Drayson, the chief executive, who pumped £250,000 into PowderJect when he joined 10 years ago, will pocket almost £43m from his 8% holding. His father-in-law, Brian Bellhouse, the brains behind the company's much-hyped needle-free injection technology, will pick up £19.5m for his 3.6% stake, while the two men's family trusts will receive £41m of cash.[3]


Papers detail Labour donor's vaccine deal

The Guardian reported:

Paul Drayson, who has since become a life peer, made an estimated £20m for his company Powderject from the government's hasty purchase of smallpox vaccine in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001.
The documents show how Lord Drayson gained a crucial early advantage in winning the contract by securing a deal with the only manufacturer able to supply the vaccine quickly.
The Whitehall files have been released because the health secretary, John Reid, has backed down after a clash with the parliamentary ombudsman, Ann Abraham. She called his refusal to follow her recommendation to publish the documents "a matter of great concern".
The vaccine contract was mired in accusations of sleaze because Lord Drayson gave a second £50,000 donation to the Labour party while the government was deciding who should be handed the contract.[4]

Vaccine withdrawal

In 2002 PowderJect recalled its supply of BCG vaccine throughout the UK and Ireland after routine tests revealed that some batches were not up to specification.[5]

Inspectors from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) visited the PowderJect plant twice in 2001 and once in 2003. During the inspections they found 'significant objectionable conditions' at the plant. Four out of five flu vaccine batches made for the US market failed shelf-life tests. The inspectors also discovered bacterial contamination of the manufacturing process for the flu jab.[6]



PowderJect was a donor to the Science Media Centre in 2002 and 2003 according to the SMC.[7]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Isis PowderJect Pharmaceuticals Plc - part of Novartis AG, accessed 18 August 2013
  2. Thomson Reuters Novartis acquisition of Chiron approved by Chiron shareholders, 19/04/2006, 2006, 6.28 PM CET
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Geoffrey Gibbs £43m windfall for PowderJect chief The Guardian, Tuesday 20 May 2003 02.34 BST
  4. David Leigh and Rob Evans, 'Papers detail Labour donor's vaccine deal', The Guardian, 29 June 2004.
  5. Amy Frizell, 'Powderject withdraws anti-tuberculosis vaccine', The Independent, 9 August 2002.
  6. Elliot Choueka , The irresistible rise of 'Tony's crony', BBC, 17 November 2005.
  7. Data from Internet Archive holdings of the Science Media Centre website, 2002-2013.