By Conor Dever
American tech billionaire Peter Thiel has again found himself in ethical hot water. It emerged last week that Thiel’s latest philanthropic endeavor Rationale Vaccines, had been operating in the Caribbean outside of the purview of the FDA or any oversight body.
Rationale Vaccines had claimed that it was working at the leading edge of vaccination technology specialising in a herpes vaccine. However, RV hit the headlines after it was made public last week that they had not taken adequate steps to ensure the safety of the subjects in the study.
The trial, which ended over a year ago, had subjects predominantly from St. Kitts and the West Indies and even encouraged Thiel a year later to invest a further $4 million into the project. However, this was before the ethics of the operation was called into question.
Peter Thiel made his fortune alongside of the iconoclastic Elon Musk building PayPal, but has witnessed the opposite side of public affection to the South African. This year alone, Thiel has been the subject of ‘Nobody Speak’ a popular Netflix documentary about the case brought against Gawker by Terry ‘The Hulk’ Hogan.
The case led to the closure of the much-maligned Gawker, but lead to the precedent of a publication being bankrupted by legal costs of defending a story. The case turned out to be secretly funded by Peter Thiel. This was viewed as laying the groundwork for attacking freedom of speech, all funded by an outspoken Trump supporter in Thiel.
In an age of overnight billionaires in the tech industry, tales about CEO’s of Tech giants become folklore. A sort of Sci-fi writer’s dream, young, energetic, geniuses with now endless resources attempting to take on the world, (or universe in Musk’s case).
However, Thiel doesn’t strike as the traditional hero. He has a cold clinical demeanor. His guiding philosophy seems to be efficiency mixed with some libertarian values, and it is unclear where human happiness ranks on his list of criteria for success.
This has lead some to be highly skeptical of him. Stories have even begun to circulate, that he spends vast amounts of money on blood plasma transfusions from younger donors, in an effort to stave off the rigours of middle age.
But if Elon Musk is the protagonist in the world’s strife toward a utopia, it seems Peter Thiel is destined to play the role of antagonist. However, Thiel and Rationale Vaccines have vowed that all further work will comply with the highest of clinical and ethical standards. As for Thiel, it is not yet clear what he will do, although one thing is for certain, it will be watched closely.
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