September 20, 2013

Did Maine firm seed a Syrian bioweapon?

The company shipped a vaccine in violation of a federal export ban, and several former executives were sentenced to prison, but Maine Biological Laboratories denies its action led to a chemical weapon.

By Colin Woodard
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Brett Gray, of Waterville, packages up bottles of vaccine for shipment while working at Maine Biological Laboratories in Winslow Oct. 12, 2004.

File photo by John Ewing

click image to enlarge

Dave Zacek, president of Lohmann Animal Health International, Maine Biological Laboratories' parent company, photographed on Oct. 12, 2004.

File photo by John Ewing

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But in federal court filings submitted in the 2005 case, prosecutors noted that the preamble to the relevant law – the Export Administration Regulations – "makes clear that they apply to 'vaccines, whether live, attenuated, or dead.'"

The Portland Press Herald asked Butler – an outside public relations contractor – to seek clarification on that point, but he was not able to do so by press time.

According to case records from the Bureau of Industry and Security, Maine Biological Laboratories made the illegal shipments in the period from January 2001 to February 2002. Company officials made at least four such shipments, knowing that they were violating regulations, and in three cases made false statements to federal regulators. The company was banned for five years from shipping regulated exports.


-- Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Matt Hongoltz-Hetling contributed to this report.


Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-632917 or at:


CORRECTIONS: On Sept. 13, 2013, this story was corrected to reflect that Lohmann Animal Health International has invested $19 million in expansions in Winslow since 2008.

This story was updated Sept. 19, 2013 to clarify that the Newcastle virus is a flu-like avian disease, not a type of Avian Influenza.


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