Autoimmune Therapies was founded in 2007 by Jasper Lawrence and Michelle Dellerba after he was able to put his severe lifelong allergies and severe adult onset asthma into remission by deliberately infecting himself with hookworm.
Having spent 18 months researching the topic starting in the summer of 2004 he went to Cameroon in January of 2006 and obtained hookworm, having been unable to obtain it any other way.
Within four months of his return in february of 2006 his allergies were in remission, and his asthma soon was as well.
Based on his reading of the available science he had always intended to start Autoimmune Therapies if he responded well. It seemed obvious that helminths had the potential to solve the increasing problem of chronic inflammatory conditions related to immunological disorders, and autoimmunity. A problem of epidemic and rapidly increasing proportions.
Jasper Lawrence provided hookworm to the first five clients of Autoimmune Therapies on September 25th, 2007. But because so little research had been done in humans at that point it was necessary to invent even the basic elements of helminthic therapy. Those first clients put up with some rough edges. But by continuous refinement the experience and results obtained from helminthic therapy were improved. First for adults, and later for children.
One of the demonstrable benefits of constantly improving in this way has been the almost complete elimination of side-effects. A great deal of our Questionnaire is devoted to identifying those who have to be treated in particular ways to avoid the strong immune response that can make one's first use of helminths so uncomfortable.
It has also meant the development of a very broad and deep understanding of the sometimes substantial difference in how and when different people respond. Understanding that allows us to apply and manage helminthic therapy differently from person to person to achieve the best results. Experience that also allows us to identify with certainty some of those who will not benefit, saving lost time and false hope.
As a result of this work people were getting well. People with Crohn’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Erythromelalgia, Asthma, Allergies, Coeliac, Colitis, and so on, it appeared that the world would be transformed.
It was when in early November of 2009 the FDA visited Jasper’s and Michelle's home unannounced and required a halt to operations immediately. The FDA informed them that they had chosen to classify helminthic therapy as an Investigational New Drug. That therefore everything he had done had been illegal.
Despite informing Jasper that they had not received any complaints, and offered evidence of the benefits and absence of harm (partly provided by their sister organisation the CDC), the FDA were intractable. In fact they were contemptuous, clearly regarding us as verminous charlatans and lunatics.
Facing the requirement to cease providing helminthic therapy when the results were so extraordinary, and the real possibility of prosecution and incarceration they left the United States very abruptly. The FDA left at exactly 5:30 pm on a Friday evening, and Jasper and Michelle walked into Mexico at the border crossing at Tijuana on the Sunday morning following.
It isn't anything like the movies, being a fugitive from "justice".
But by persisting, AIT has been able to provide helminthic therapy to over a thousand individuals around the world, from 22 months to over eighty years of age. The organisms he obtained later on in Belize are now used by thousands of people around the world to be well. Without side effects, often without having to use any other medications, and extraordinarily cheaply particularly in comparison to the drugs that are offered in helminths' stead by doctors.
Besides providing helminthic therapy to more people than all the research centres combined, AIT is responsible for a remarkable number of innovations. One example is the origination of the theory and practice behind the use of human whipworm (T. trichiura) to effectively treat chronic inflammatory diseases affecting the colon, like Ulcerative Colitis, where hookworm had failed.
AIT was also first to take the then courageous decision to provide helminthic therapy to children, proving the safety and remarkable efficacy of helminthic therapy to even the youngest children. As stories like that of “A”, then less than two years old, attest.
This novel work and the importance of his contributions has been recognised by some segments of the scientific and medical establishment. For instance by an invitation to give a presentation to gathered scientists and doctors at the Autoimmunity Congress of 2012.
At the request of the President of the Congress they took the unusual step of granting an exception to allow him to present, since ordinarily only doctors and scientists are permitted.
Nor is the work finished, we are looking forward to the challenge of increasing response rates further, and to continuing to explore novel therapies. We are also driving changes in attitudes, and in the regulatory status of helminthic therapy, to one day allow its use in a clinical setting.
Given the very high response rates and wonderful results, as well as the low cost and substantial safety advantages when compared to drugs, like the biologics, it is surprising that this has not happened already.
It is a tragedy that Jasper and his wife's families were destroyed as a result of the criminalisation of their work by the FDA, but the greater tragedy is that hundreds of millions of people are and will be sick when none of it is necessary.
While we are certain that it is simply a matter of time until helminthic therapy is widely adopted, we are less sanguine than we used to be about how much time that might entail. Reason and rational thought seem to be the least important element in decision making for our culture.
For that reason, and because we were “chronically and incurably” sick once, too, so long as people continue to ask for our help we will continue to provide it.