Top Professor Ousted as His Research on Tylenol Became Too Much of a Headache for His University and Big Pharma

Top Professor Ousted as His Research on Tylenol Became Too Much of a Headache for His University and Big Pharma
Top Professor Ousted as His Research on Tylenol Became Too Much of a Headache for His University and Big Pharma

Immunologist and biochemist William Parker is a well-spoken, well-published academic who’s famous for being on time with every deadline. He was part of the research team that discovered the function of the appendix as a harbor for beneficial bacteria.

Working with different surgeons over the years, he would examine transplanted tissue to look for immune markers, train undergraduates and medical school students in the scientific method, and teach students how to set up experiments.

Despite his outstanding record as both an instructor and a scientist, Parker—who’s only 57 years old—was forced to retire from his long-standing position. He was a professor and scientific researcher at Duke University’s medical school for almost 28 years.

It’s unusual for a lifelong academic with such an impressive research legacy to retire before the age of 60.

An email trail from the Duke Department of Surgery administration obtained by The Epoch Times indicated, however, that Parker was forced to leave.

In January 2021, he was informed that the administration wouldn’t be renewing his contract after almost three decades of service to the institution.

‘Not in Their Strategic Best Interest’

With the threat of losing his funding looming over him, Parker found an anonymous donor willing to support his salary and the costs of his experiments. This private donor was willing to support his laboratory work for at least a year and possibly indefinitely.

However, when Parker let the administration know that he had secured funding to keep his lab open and continue some crucial experiments, he was told that Duke was unwilling to accept the money.

“Evidently, donations can be received to support research initiatives that are strategically aligned with the institution, and can be used at the discretion of the beneficiary,” Kent J. Weinhold, chief of the Division of Surgical Sciences, who’s a professor of immunology and pathology, wrote in an email to Parker dated April 5, 2021.

“They cannot be tied directly to a salary line or specific experiments, as such would be regarded [as] a grant, not a gift. So a donor can donate to your laboratory, but cannot donate money specifically for your salary.

“The real issue here is perhaps more direct. To receive a donation for you, it would require that the Department strategically wants to keep your lab open. Unfortunately, the Department feels that [it] is not in their strategic best interest to keep your lab open. With this being the case, receipt of a donation would not be possible.”

Parker told The Epoch Times that shutting down his lab under these circumstances was unheard of in his experience.

An Impressive Scientific Legacy

Parker has published almost 200 papers, replete with discoveries on par with other scientists at prestigious institutions: In addition to discovering the function of the human appendix (a safe house for beneficial bacteria), he was one of the pioneers in evaluating the immune systems of wild animals.

More recently, Parker has researched the beneficial effects of intestinal worms. Living symbiotically with worms—like living symbiotically with beneficial bacteria—may help the human immune system.

Parker’s research has strongly indicated that intestinal worms have a beneficial effect on depression and anxiety. He was also among the first to publicly—and correctly—predict that intestinal worms would help protect people from the most severe cases of COVID-19.

So, given that Parker is such a well-published academic conducting cutting-edge research, why did Duke decide that it was “not in their strategic best interest” to keep his laboratory open?

No one at Duke gave him a clear answer to that question, Parker said. But he also had been noticing a lack of institutional support since 2017.

That year, he and a team of scientists, including a well-known brain researcher in the Department of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, published a review article in the Journal of International Medical Research. The review explored the scientific literature that linked acetaminophen—the main ingredient in Tylenol—to oxidative stress, inflammation, and autism.

In the past, the university supported his research. But in this case, although Parker had the needed research funding in his account at Duke, the administration refused to pay the journal’s publication fee.

A Home Equity Loan to Pay Academic Publication Fees

That had never happened before. Perplexed but undeterred, Parker and his wife, Susanne Meza-Keuthen (who works as a counselor in the local public schools), used a home equity loan to pay the fee themselves.

After the paper was published, Parker was no longer given the teaching assignments that helped support his salary. “I saw a 90 percent reduction in the number of trainees I was assigned to mentor,” he said.

Though he said he can’t establish cause and effect, Parker thinks that the change might have been punitive.

“The justification for my position was based on research funding, teaching, and training,” he said. “So taking some of that away meant that they could then argue that my existence at the university wasn’t ‘justified.’”

Then, in 2020, Duke refused to allow Parker to use his research funds to study the connection between acetaminophen and autism. This decision was only rescinded after lawyers working for donors—who provided the funding specifically for that study—complained that the research wasn’t moving forward.

The next year, the administrative assistant who had been assigned to his lab to help with highly bureaucratic administrative tasks, Beth Weatherspoon, told him she was being reassigned and that someone new would be assigned to help. But that reassignment never happened. So by then, Parker no longer had the administrative support he needed for tasks such as ordering laboratory supplies. His position was terminated the same year.

Ousted for Challenging the Pharma-Funded Status Quo?

Dr. Allan Kirk, who oversees the Department of Surgery at Duke University, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

However, Sarah Avery, director of Duke’s Health News Office, told The Epoch Times via email: “The information we could provide on a former faculty member is limited to the dates of their employment with Duke.” She then confirmed that Parker was employed by the university from Aug. 1, 1993, to June 30, 2021.

However, Parker says it’s likely that he was ousted from his position because his research challenges the pharma-funded scientific status quo.

When scientific inquiry exposes corporate malfeasance and misinformation, universities often seek to shut it down.

In fact, Parker joins a growing number of cutting-edge academic researchers and editors who have lost their positions.

This list includes the co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration and founder of the Nordic Cochrane Center, Dr. Peter Gotzsche, who was ousted for pointing out flaws in research that found the HPV vaccine to be safe, and the now-former editor-in-chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology, Dr. José Luis Domingo, who was forced to resign to maintain his academic independence after he published an important scientific paper showing that the COVID-19 vaccines interfere with crucial immune system signaling.

It also includes one of the world’s foremost experts on aluminum toxicity, Dr. Christopher Exley, whose work on the toxicity of aluminum calls the safety of aluminum-containing vaccines into question.

All of these scientists were shunned for pursuing scientific research that challenged the status quo.

Parker can’t be certain that his work on acetaminophen was the cause of his lab being shuttered.

“I don’t have another reasonable explanation,” he said.

Tylenol Toxic for Tots

One of the most important research projects he has conducted, Parker said, uncovered toxic effects of acetaminophen, particularly on infants and children.

Parker claims, among other things, that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that early exposure to acetaminophen causes autism.

Tylenol is the most common brand name of acetaminophen in the United States. The company’s website shows 10 different products marketed for children, including two for infants.

In 2021, the global market for acetaminophen was valued at $9.44 billion, according to one report.

Despite the research that shows that it’s toxic to the brain and the immune system, physicians continue to recommend giving kids Tylenol. Some doctors remain unaware of 2009 research that showed that administering acetaminophen before or after childhood vaccinations negatively affects the body’s immune response.

The conclusion of that research was that because healthy infants given acetaminophen had a reduced response to antigens, preventive administration of fever-reducing drugs at the time of vaccination should not be routinely recommended.

Yet doctors in the United States and most other countries continue to recommend Tylenol. As a result of this continued endorsement by pediatricians, parents are largely unaware of the overwhelming scientific evidence that acetaminophen is harmful to babies and small children.

Ties to Industry

Two members of the leadership team at Johnson & Johnson, the company that makes Tylenol, are high-level administrators at Duke.

Dr. Mark McClellan is the director of the Duke-Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy. Dr. A. Eugene Washington is Duke’s chancellor for health affairs.

They’ve served on the board of directors for Johnson & Johnson since 2013 and 2012, respectively.

Johnson & Johnson didn’t respond to our request for comment.

Academic Pressure to Abandon Controversial Subjects

Parker said that there’s widespread pressure to ignore or suppress the connection between acetaminophen and autism.

A few days before we spoke to him, a not-for-profit publicity firm backed out of a contract with him and promised to return the almost $10,000 he had paid them to conduct public outreach describing his published work.

“I’ve seen professors back quickly away from this project despite compelling data, and I’ve seen journal editors reject our papers with no valid reason,” Parker said.

He recalled one anonymous reviewer who referred to his work as “bizarre” and another who stated emphatically that acetaminophen is safe when used as directed, despite formal proof that the drug was never shown to be safe and ample evidence that it isn’t safe.

Journal editors have quickly rejected Parker’s work, he said, because of “formatting errors” or “inappropriate subject matter” without any explanation or opportunity to revise.

Nevertheless, Parker said not all journal editors ignore inconvenient truths. For example, Peter de Winter, an editor for the European Journal of Pediatrics, gave one of Parker’s studies serious consideration, ignoring statements by reviewers that were emotional and verifiably false.

He was also impressed with the editors of Minerva Pediatrics, where he and a team of 11 other scientists published an updated literature review in July 2022.

“They took months to examine my work and didn’t rush into a decision, which is what I would expect from somebody who takes the issue seriously. In the end, they accepted solid work for what it was,” Parker said.

If Acetaminophen Causes Autism, a Possible Fix

It isn’t surprising that some people want to sweep under the rug any evidence suggesting that acetaminophen exposure causes neurodevelopmental disorders.

The stakes are high: Scientists working in the field of autism could lose their credibility and even their jobs, and pediatricians could be blamed for causing autism since they’re the ones who recommend that parents dose their children with Tylenol. But Parker believes there may be a simple solution.

“Although acetaminophen has never been shown to save lives and is certainly over-used, it is possible that it could be made safe by adding an antidote for the drug’s toxicity,” he said.

One such antidote, acetylcysteine, is tolerated well by the body. A powerful antioxidant, acetylcysteine is a drug currently used to treat acetaminophen overdose and prevent the resultant liver damage. It’s known more popularly as “N-acetyl cysteine,” often abbreviated to “NAC” when sold as a dietary supplement.

NAC is a synthetic version of cysteine, an important amino acid and a component of glutathione, often referred to as “the master antioxidant.”

People began buying large amounts of NAC in 2020 as a potential treatment or preventive for the symptoms of COVID-19. NAC has been shown to interfere with virus replication and suppress expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines in cells infected with influenza viruses or respiratory syncytial virus. Overproduction of those pro-inflammatory cytokines, known as a cytokine storm, is a primary culprit in many COVID-19 deaths.

However, the FDA responded to this attempt by citizens to protect their own health by issuing warning letters to supplement suppliers and trying to shut down over-the-counter sales of NAC, resulting in many supplement websites temporarily pulling it from their virtual shelves.

Meanwhile, a 2021 study predicted that autism could cost the United States $589 billion per year by 2030. A lot of those dollars go to pharmaceutical companies with a known predilection for hiring federal employees when they tire of civil service salaries.

As for Parker, he said that his team is moving forward despite the hurdles they’ve faced in the academic world.

“I’m doing more work on the cause of autism with my nonprofit than I ever could have done at Duke,” he said.

That nonprofit,, has already published two peer-reviewed papers within the last year, is currently running several experiments to learn about the toxic effects of acetaminophen in early development, and has started a wide-reaching publicity campaign to get the word out about the dangers of acetaminophen.

“Leaving Duke really freed me to address the problem,” he said. “We faced so many problems trying to move the research forward. Everything from public outreach to working with experts got mired in so much bureaucratic nonsense. We’re moving so much faster now than we ever could have before.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Epoch Health welcomes professional discussion and friendly debate. To submit an opinion piece, please follow these guidelines and submit through our form here.

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