Kent Heckenlively is a science teacher, an attorney, and a founding editor of Age of Autism. During college Heckenlively worked for U.S. Senator Pete Wilson and was the school's Rhodes Scholar candidate. In law school he was a writer and editor of the school's law review and spent his summers working for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco.
In the summer of 2010 and 2011, Heckenlively attended the Teacher Research Academy at Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratories, spending eight weeks in a virus lab investigating the expression of micro-RNAs in a monkey model of Ebola infection. Kent is also a member of the Compass group, a consortium of autism parents, leading scientists, and philanthropists in Silicon Valley looking for answers to neuro-immune diseases.
Heckenlively served on the Executive Council of the San Ramon Valley Education Association for several years and was the Health and Safety Committee Chairman for the teacher's union, representing more than sixteen hundred educators, therapists, and psychologists.
"I must confess that the two years spent writing PLAGUE have changed many of my views," says Heckenlively. "I've been deeply impressed by the humanity and compassion of so many scientists, while at the same time have become more keenly aware of the political and financial obstacles that prevent scientists from making the kind of significant contributions to the well-being of society that they dreamed of at the beginning of their careers."
In the fight against chronic diseases, Kent finds great wisdom in the strategy used by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Mandela believed change could only come about when one engaged in satyagraha, a Buddhist concept which insists on speaking the absolute truth, while at the same time practicing ahisma?, a commitment not to harm those who might be your adversaries.
PLAGUE is being released by Skyhorse Publishing, which also publishes the work of Mo Yan, the
2012 recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature.
Kent and his wife Linda live in Northern California with their two children, Jacqueline and Ben.
Fun fact: Kent played football for De La Salle High School? whose Spartans had a 151-game winning streak from 1992 to 2003, a record unequaled by any American sport. This accomplishment is depicted in the film, When the Game Stands Tall, starring Jim Cazaviel and Laura Dern, released in 2014. Kent firmly believes that even though all this success happened after he stopped playing football it was "just a coincidence" and not a reflection of his athletic skills.
On July 22, 2009, a special meeting was held with twenty-four leading scientists at the National Institutes of Health to discuss early findings that a newly discovered retrovirus was linked to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), prostate cancer, lymphoma, and eventually neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
When Dr. Judy Mikovits finished her presentation the room was silent for a moment, then one of the scientists said, "Oh my God!" The resulting investigation would be like no other in science.?
For Dr. Mikovits, a twenty-year veteran of the National Cancer Institute, this was the midpoint of a five-year journey that would start with the founding of the Whittemore-Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease at the University of Nevada, Reno, and end with her as a witness for ?the federal government against her former employer, Harvey Whittemore, for Illegal campaign contributions to U. S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid.
On this journey Dr. Mikovits would face the scientific prejudices against CFS, wander into the minefield that is autism, and through it all struggle to maintain her faith in God and the profession to which she had dedicated her life. This is a story for anybody interested in the ?peril and promise of science at the very highest levels in our country.?
To order your copy of Plague: ?One Scientist's intrepid Search For the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism, and Other Diseases
Click on any of the links -
About ten months ago I started writing a new book, INOCULATED: How Science Lost Its Soul in Autism, which would utilize the CDC whistleblower story as a way to review the corruption in science regarding vaccines and autism. I knew Andy Wakefield was working on his documentary, and when I interviewed him for this book he mentioned it, but in my wildest dreams I never imagined VAXXED would explode onto the scene the way it has. I have been writing furiously to make sure that story is included as well.
In the meantime, I got a powerhouse agent, Johanna Maaghoul of the Waterside Literary Agency, the world's #1 agency for New York Times non-fiction bestsellers. Johanna has been taking the book around to publishing companies, getting some positive interest, but they are absolutely terrified of the subject. Publishing companies like to sell books, so that's where you come in. I want you to read the chapter outline and if this is a book you would like to buy, leave a comment to that effect. How's that for simple? That way when my agent is talking to a publisher she can say something like, "Five hundred and seventy two people said they would buy this book immediately!" Thanks in advance for your comments.
Chapter One: The Call – Dr. Brian Hooker, a university biology professor was working in his office when he got a call from a senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist, Dr. William Thompson. The two worked together years earlier when parent groups were clamoring for the CDC to conduct research into vaccines and autism. Thompson reveals that the CDC found such evidence, but covered it up. Thompson had retained these documents and eventually turned them over to Congressman William Posey. The most explosive of these allegations is that earlier administration of the MMR vaccine is causing a 3.36-fold increase in autism among African-American males. With Thompson's guidance, Hooker publishes this information in the summer of 2014.
Chapter Two: The Insanely Good Soul of Dr. Andrew Wakefield – British researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield first published his findings suggesting the MMR vaccine was linked to autism in The Lancet in 1997, even going so far as to share these results with the CDC prior to publication. In the ensuing years, Wakefield was subjected to unbelievable persecution and his name was vilified throughout the world. Hooker brings the Thompson documents to Wakefield's attention. Hooker also initiates contact between Thompson and Wakefield, with Thompson apologizing for participating in the cover-up of research that would have vindicated Wakefield's research. Wakefield accepts Thompson's apology.
Chapter Three: The Lipkin-Hornig Team – No two scientists are more frequently quoted in the media regarding vaccine issues then Drs. Ian Lipkin and his collaborator, Mady Hornig of Columbia University. And yet the picture is more complex than painted in media accounts. The author reviews the Lipkin/Hornig publication of 2004 and their Congressional testimony which DID show a link between the mercury in vaccines and autism in laboratory animals. Also reviewed is their "debunking" investigations regarding the XMRV retroviruses and chronic fatigue syndrome/ME, the MMR vaccine and autism, and the simple flaws in their experiments which would be clear to anyone with a passing familiarity in scientific principles.
Chapter Four: The Documents – On December 22, 2015, science teacher and author Kent Heckenlively applied for and was granted access by the office of Congressman William Posey to the documents turned over by Dr. William Thompson. Heckenlively reviews some of the most damaging documents and also reflects on how his own struggle with his daughter's autism would have been significantly different if this information had been publicly released in 2001. There would have been no "Vaccine War" or dismissal of autism parents as being "anti-science", just researchers and parents working together to find solutions for their disabled children.
Chapter Five: The CDC Runs Away to Simpsonwood Retreat Center to Defend Mercury in Vaccines – On June 7-8, 2000 more than fifty scientists from the CDC, private universities, and vaccine makers gathered at Simpsonwood Retreat Center in Norcross, Georgia to discuss findings that suggested thimerosal in vaccines, a mercury derivative, were linked to increasing rates of autism and other neurological disorders. The meeting was supposed to be secret, and the "study" was not published until more than two years later, after a lot of the incriminating information was eliminated. Using the actual transcript of the meeting, Heckenlively shows how the science was twisted by the same individuals who would later prevent Dr. Thompson from honestly reporting his own findings about the MMR vaccine.
Chapter Six: The View from Congress – Heckenlively interviews Beth Clay, a former senior staff member of the House Oversight Committee chaired by Congressman Dan Burton which had looked into the mercury issue and issued a report in 2003 called "Mercury in Medicine: An Unnecessary Burden." The report concluded that mercury was probably linked to the autism epidemic and made numerous suggestions for change, none of which were adopted. Clay's memories of the investigation provide a chilling look at scientists who do not want to honestly investigate one of their most cherished practices. The chapter ends with a speech in 2004 by another Congressman, Dave Weldon, a medical doctor, in which he reviews the shameful conduct of the CDC in this investigation. Weldon's talk got minimal press coverage.
Chapter Seven: The Legal View – Most Americans don't realize they cannot sue a vaccine manufacturer for injuries. That right was taken away by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which established a special "Vaccine Court" which hears all claims. Injured parties are not allowed to obtain documents from the companies which manufactured the vaccines, or are they allowed to call researchers who worked on those products. Even with all of these obstacles, the court has paid out more than three billion dollars in claims, including to several children whose injuries included autism. This chapter features an interview with a judge who worked in the "Vaccine Court" for twenty-two years as well as a Stanford law professor who conducted an in-depth investigation of the court, ultimately concluding it did not provide a good model for other proposed alternative courts.
Chapter Eight: Those Who Oppose Goliath - Brandy Vaughn was a pharmaceutical sales representative for Merck pharmaceuticals, selling the medication, Vioxx, which was later pulled off the market because it was causing heart attacks among those who took it. The experience forced Vaughn to more deeply consider what she had been a part of, and led her to research vaccine ingredients when she had her own child. Vaughn went on to found the "Council for Vaccine Safety" and has been a leader against efforts in her own state to mandate vaccines for all children. The story of Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, an autism doctor who died under mysterious circumstances is also profiled.
Chapter Nine: Curious Alliances - After publication of his article, Dr. Brian Hooker becomes part of a group of individuals trying to work in concert with other groups trying to get to the bottom of Thompson's allegations. Most groups turn away, but significant and enthusiastic support is given by three unlikely groups: right-wing Republicans, the Nation of Islam under Louis Farrakhan, and the Church of Scientology.
Chapter Ten: De Niro, Tribeca and the Real Goodfellas – Wakefield and Hooker's documentary film about CDC whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson, VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, is accepted to the Tribeca Film Festival in March of 2016, immediately becoming the subject of controversy. De Niro supports the film at first, then pulls it, then later on The Today Show says he regrets pulling the film and everybody in America should see it and make up their own mind. The film is also pulled from the Houston International Film Festival under pressure from the mayor and a local judge on the grounds that it conflicts with the city's immunization program. The film is now opening in theaters across the country, attracting record crowds, and provoking a long overdue national conversation.
Chapter Eleven: Can Science End the Autism Epidemic? - Can the autism epidemic be reversed? Can we give those people who currently suffer from this affliction a normal life? Heckenlively sounds a hopeful note by interviewing a leading scientist from the University of California, San Diego, who has been using a century-old drug to reverse autism in animal models, and has had similar success in his initial human trial. Sometimes science can make quantum leaps, and this research holds the promise of not only transcending the current bitterness, but pointing towards treatment for many other diseases. A doctor in private practice who is working with the UC San Diego team also shares his perspective on the difficulties inherent in bringing new approaches to the public.
Chapter Twelve: Justice – What steps can be taken to punish those responsible for this epidemic and insure that a similar tragedy does not take place in the future? Heckenlively lays out four recommendations to end the autism epidemic, as well as punishment for those who have concealed information and distorted the scientific process.