A desperate injection of stem cells and hope
Dr. Alawode Oladele, an Atlanta oncologist, said he met with Brown at an Atlanta hotel, where she questioned him about cancer treatments.

Brown told him that BioMark had a team of scientists and reams of unpublished data showing the effectiveness of its treatment. Oladele was impressed.

That was the last he heard from BioMark.

Later, he was perplexed to see himself listed on BioMark's website as a member of the scientific advisory board. He found it odd but figured it didn't really hurt him.

Five other people said they were also surprised to find themselves posted as scientific advisors.

BioMark sent blood to Howard Wajchman, an Atlanta immunologist, who said he isolated the stem cells and sent them to doctors working with the company.

Dr. Dowman Covington, who worked at an Atlanta clinic, said Brown and Van Rooyen convinced him that a 1997 Georgia law — the Access to Medical Treatment Act — would allow him to try experimental therapies for people with incurable illnesses.

One of his first patients, he said, was Laura Brown, who wanted the cells as an anti-aging treatment. It was reassuring that Brown seemed to believe so strongly in the therapy.

Covington said he injected 46 patients for multiple sclerosis, ALS and cancer, receiving $300 or $400 per patient.

But after several months, he became suspicious when BioMark sent him a patient with a severed spinal cord, a condition that he saw no point in treating with the cells. He stopped working with the company in the spring of 2003.

BioMark started sending Atlanta patients to a clinic in Canada.

In October, the family of Craig Lauver, an ALS patient in Mifflintown, Pa., who was convinced that a BioMark injection could cure him, called the FDA with concerns about the company.

The FDA began a fraud investigation, persuading the Lauver family to help set up an undercover operation. Craig Lauver's brother, Nelson, said he asked BioMark to send somebody to inject the cells.

When a BioMark representative arrived from Arizona on Nov. 14, an FDA agent was there posing as Nelson's business colleague. The representative talked about the therapy, while two FDA agents in a bedroom controlled a video camera hidden in a lamp. After about 20 minutes, they entered the living room and pulled out their badges.

The FDA questioned and released the BioMark representative.

The same day, the FDA raided BioMark's office in Miami Beach, according to an e-mail the company sent to a patient.

The FDA froze BioMark's Bank of America accounts, which held $264,554.12, court documents show.

The company was shut down, but on the Internet it still looked like a thriving business. The website was dense with links to news articles about stem cells and diseases. The words "BioTech Advances" were bannered across the top, alongside the image of somebody peering into a microscope. A DNA double-helix spiraled down the left. There were links for "Research and Development," "Scientific Support" and "Testimonials."

Research by Catherine Verfaillie, the website said, proved the power of BioMark stem cells.

But Verfaillie, director of the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota, explained in a March 2004 letter to the FDA that her work had been misrepresented.