Big Pharma Economy Pandemic Sam Pizzigati

Why Are Moderna’s Billionaires Airbrushing Scientists Out of the Vaccine Patent Picture?

U.S. taxpayers helped make Moderna executives super-rich, but those same execs aren't exactly sharing the wealth with scientists who made their COVID-19 vaccine a global success.

Moderna vaccine in a bottle
(Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr)(CC BY 2.0)

By Sam Pizzigati / CounterPunch

Moderna, the world’s hottest new Big Pharma giant, now has four of its top players sitting on the annual Forbes list of America’s 400 richest. In early 2020, Moderna had none.

Moderna’s Forbes 400 billionaire quartet owes its current good fortune completely to the company’s Covid-19 vaccine. And who made that vaccine possible? U.S. taxpayers. Moderna’s Covid vaccine, as Public Citizen research director Zain Rivzi puts it, “would not exist without the massive contribution of the federal government at every step of the way.”

The Biden administration’s chief science officer for the Covid response, David Kessler, calculates that the federal tax dollars handed to Moderna for vaccine development, testing, and initial manufacture total about $10 billion. And that figure doesn’t include the brainpower of the scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health who spent four years actively collaborating with Moderna’s researchers.

Moderna has now filed for a patent on the key vaccine breakthrough these scientists helped produce. The company’s patent application makes no mention of the NIH scientists, a snub that could, notes a Wired analysis, have “major ramifications.”

What sort of ramifications? With a patent that gives the federal scientists the credit they deserve, the U.S. government would be able to “license out the technology” for Moderna’s vaccine to “developing countries where vaccination rates remain low.”

But if Moderna gets its way — gets approval for a crucial patent that denies credit to federal NIH scientists — the company’s billionaires would have “sole control” over the Covid vaccine technology that U.S. scientists and tax dollars did so much to create. That control would enable Moderna to continue placing profits ahead of people. Way ahead of people.

Over the course of this year’s first six months alone, Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times points out, Moderna “pocketed $4 billion in profits on $5.9 billion in revenue, almost entirely from its Covid vaccine, its only product.”

Those super profits drove the net worth of Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel to $15 billion this past August. But that net worth has been sinking ever since, dropping to a mere $7 billion this past week. And that sinking will only accelerate if Moderna loses total control over the licensing and production of its flagship Covid vaccine. Bancel and his fellow Moderna billionaires, in short, have plenty of incentive to write government scientists out of the most important patent for the injection that by all rights ought to known as the “NIH-Moderna” vaccine.

Bancel and the rest of the Moderna billionaire gang have, naturally enough, been diligently working to divert public attention from their personal pecuniary interest in insisting — as the company just did insist — that “only Moderna’s scientists designed” the vaccine now making billions for Moderna. Economic realities, they’re arguing, make continuing Moderna’s control over the vaccine’s distribution absolutely essential — for both battling Covid and any future pandemics that may confront us.

Profit rates on vaccines, argues CEO Bancel, simply must remain robust. Private investors won’t invest in potential breakthrough medications unless they “believe that there will be a return on their investment.” And only Moderna, Bancel and his pals add, have the manufacturing capacity to produce all the Moderna Covid vaccine the world needs.

“Within the next six to nine months,” Moderna chairman Noubar Afeyan asserts, “the most reliable way to make high-quality vaccines and in an efficient way is going to be if we make them.”

Independent experts could hardly disagree more. Count Nahid Bhadelia, the founding director of Boston University’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research, as one.

“In my opinion,” she noted last week, “we need to democratize manufacturing the vaccines moving forward.”

The federal government already has the tools to do that democratizing. The Defense Production Act, legislation enacted in 1950, builds on the War Powers Acts of 1941 and 1942 and now covers both  military and domestic preparedness in emergency situations. Public Citizen’s Rizvi finds it “puzzling why all the authority of the Defense Production Act has yet to be used.”

A dozen U.S. senators and representatives, led by Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and House Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal, have called on the Biden administration’s top two Covid response and research officials to step up efforts to break Moderna’s Covid vaccine lockgrip.

“Despite receiving huge sums of public funding from American taxpayers,” the lawmakers point out, “Moderna has refused calls to share its technology.”

Moderna, the lawmakers also note, has a 2021 vaccine production goal that, even if met, “will still fall far short of the 11 billion doses experts estimate are needed” to get the global vaccination rate up to 70 percent of the world’s population. If vaccinations don’t hit close to that mark, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide — maybe millions of people — will die well before their time.

The Biden administration’s top spokesperson, press secretary Jen Psaki, last month affirmed that the administration “definitely” does want Moderna to share its “know-how with other parts of the world” to help beat back Covid. But Psaki refused, when reporters pressed the issue, to back the invocation of the Defense Production Act if Moderna continues to reject that sharing. The U.S. government, she said, “does not have the ability to compel Moderna to take certain actions.”

But the government does have that authority, independent observers believe, under the Defense Production Act. Might Moderna take the government to court if the Biden administration moves against Moderna’s billionaires? Sure. But people are dying who shouldn’t be. If that doesn’t rate as a reason for risking some intense courtroom combat, what does?

Sam Pizzigati writes on inequality for the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book: The Case for a Maximum Wage (Polity). Among his other books on maldistributed income and wealth: The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970  (Seven Stories Press). 

10 comments

  1. Get real and updated. Covid-19 and, hmm, Moderna, Pfizer, et al? Biggest felons next to the military industrialized Capitalist Complex:

    https://unlimitedhangout.com/2021/10/investigative-reports/moderna-a-company-in-need-of-a-hail-mary/

    Those analyzing the COVID-19 crisis and its effects have mostly focused on how its disruptive nature has led to major shifts and recalibrations throughout society and the economy. Such disruption has also lent itself to a variety of agendas that had required an event of “reset” potential in order to be realized. In the case of the vaccine industry, COVID-19 has led to dramatic changes in how federal agencies manage the approval of medical countermeasures during a declared crisis, how trials for vaccine candidates are conducted, how the public perceives vaccination, and even how the term “vaccine” is defined.

    Such shifts, though obvious, have provoked praise from some and sharp criticism from others, with the latter category being largely censored from public discourse on television, in print, and online. However, in objectively analyzing such seismic changes, it’s clear that most of these shifts in vaccine development and vaccine policy dramatically favor speed and the implementation of new and experimental technology at the expense of safety and thorough study. In the case of vaccines, it can be argued that no one benefitted more from these changes than the developers of the COVID-19 vaccines themselves, particularly the pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Moderna.

    Not only did the COVID-19 crisis obliterate hurdles that had previously prevented Moderna from taking a single product to market, it also dramatically reversed the company’s fortunes. Indeed, from 2016 right up until the emergence of COVID-19, Moderna could barely hold it together, as it was shedding key executives, top talent, and major investors at an alarming rate. Essentially, Moderna’s promise of “revolutionizing” medicine and the remarkable salesmanship and fund-raising capabilities of the company’s top executive, Stéphane Bancel, were the main forces keeping it afloat. In the years leading up to the COVID-19 crisis, Moderna’s promises—despite Bancel’s efforts—rang increasingly hollow, as the company’s long-standing penchant for extreme secrecy meant that—despite nearly a decade in business—it had never been able to definitively prove that it could deliver the “revolution” it had continually assured investors was right around the corner.

  2. I don’t understand why the US government doesn’t have a contractual agreement with these greedy pigs. Why are they giving away 10 millions of taxpayer dollars without contractual agreements that say NIH scientists will be listed and the government has an interest in the product. How difficult can it be?

    1. The government is merely an instrument of corporate power. Common sense measures to promote the public welfare are not profitable for the rulers

  3. Why do ordinary Americans let these bastards get away with this stuff?

    It’s not rocket science. These pricks are worse than the robber barons of the Golden Age yet the population fights amongst themselves when their real enemy stands out like dog’s balls.

    Are they all sleepwalking to thier ultimate destruction?

  4. Despite the propaganda of mainstream media, these vaccines are at best mediocrities, at worst, garbage. Neither Pfizer nor Moderna ever published raw immunological data, never compelled to do so by the feckless US government. This immediately led me to assume in March 2020 that key immune system components of a vaccine to attenuate pandemic spread weren’t present. Else they would’ve touted them. 1] No significant mucosal immunity (sIgA), a key component to stop nasal shedding. 2] No mention of helper-Tcell-derived immune memory. Add to these, 3] side effects that were apparently masked during corrupt trials by a Pfizer subcontractor and 4] these vaccines can act as a selective force to favor appearance of more-virulent viral mutants, and we have the recipe for a gigantic cluster-F on US taxpayers.

  5. The entire government narrative on the “Pandemic” has been false from the get-go. Fauci and Daszak and others have been conspiring for years to develop an mRNA vaccine that would make them rich beyond Bill Gate’s wildest dreams and they almost have it. They fixed the lab leak theory back in early 2020 but it refuses to die thanks only to truly independent researchers who have the guts to look at the truth and publish it on Twitter (and in peer-reviewed papers as well). They have lied consistently about the efficacy of the vaccine. They have bribed, coerced and above all propagandized the public to ‘get the jab’ to save grandma, and now they are hiding the results of the vaccine even as it leaks out on every sports field in the world with top athletes collapsing like the slow walkers of Wuhan in 2019 and health care workers who tell truths that never get published in the MSM. They fixed the trials, they grabbed the patents, they are bent on vaccinating every human being on earth so that there is NO CONTROL GROUP to prove that the vaccines barely work for 90 days, inject a toxic spike chemical into your bloodstream that causes life-altering clotting and myocarditis and they have suppressed any and all drugs that could have been used to TREAT the disease because they only want to sell medicine that THEY HAVE A PATENT on. Follow the money. Its time to lock these guys up.

  6. It was hard to get past the obscene lie of this article’s opening summary referring to the covid-19 ‘vaccine’ as a “global success.” Other than the record-setting profits of the Pharmafia, what ‘success’? The reckless, warped-speed rollout by Mode-RNA and other partners in crime of experimental mRNA technology, corruptly classified as a ‘vaccine’ for legal legerdemain of ’emergency use authorization’ (and complete freedom from liability for manufacturers) upon human lab rats? The record-breaking numbers of injuries (or assaults) and deaths (or murders) already committed by this Frankenscience industry with a history of ties to eugenics and (de)population control?

    Why does Moderna downplay and disappear its ties with the NIH (even if still evading with this article the (fascist) conflicts of interest between a putative public health agency and private corporate capital)? Could it be due as well to NIH contractual stakes with Moderna enabling its chief executives and scientists to cash in on the scamdemic bonanza like their counterparts at Moderna?

    And why should we the people, who – as taxpayers, wage slaves, and consumers of products unsafe at any speed warped or otherwise – have long been robbed by the corporate state to publicly fund R&D for virtually every major and cheaply privatized industry of the economy, want this particular product line packing all manner of toxic ingredients, many of which remain unknown due to the insidious secrecy surrounding them thanks to the medical-military complex and such arch-deep state agencies like DARPA (making ‘informed consent’ impossible, in violation of both Nuremberg Code and Hippocratic Oath), to be all the more the corporate state’s pretended property of the people? Is this to manufacture our consent all the more to crimes against humanity being perpetrated in our name, for our ‘welfare’?

    Spare us the standardized script of progressive propaganda about the need for lifting patent protections in order to distribute these poisons more liberally upon the usual suspects and victims of developed nations’ colonies. As if they’re begging for more “final solution(s)” from their familiar philanthropic nemesis Doktor of Death Bill Gates (investor in Moderna among other pharma companies) and others burdened by White Man’s savior-mania for centuries (and still counting) of merciless exploitation and oppression. The real need to be met here, beyond genocide already inflicted through lockdowns, is further realization of universal ‘vaccination’ so as to create, among other objectives, a global control grid incorporating digital biometrics, central bank digital currency, and social credit scores determining rationed austerity for all proles of the world (see, for example, Gates-funded Aadhaar in India and his patent WO2020060606 for nanotechnological implants and cryptocurrency).

    Why would any of us expect the very institutions and individuals of class rule to offer us anything but the death and destruction they have always wrought as the “masters of mankind” (Adam Smith)? Damn these leftist collaborators with their lies who would make of us all sheeple led to the slaughter.

    (See also Ryan Matters’ “mRNA “Vaccines”, Eugenics and the Push for Transhumanism” and Whitney Webb’s two-part investigative series “Moderna: A Company ‘In Need Of A Hail Mary'” and “COVID-19: Moderna Gets Its Miracle”.)

  7. It was hard to get past the obscene lie of this article’s opening summary referring to the covid-19 ‘vaccine’ as a “global success.” Other than the record-setting profits of the Pharmafia, what ‘success’? The reckless, warped-speed rollout by Mode-RNA and other partners in crime of experimental mRNA technology, corruptly classified as a ‘vaccine’ for legal legerdemain of ’emergency use authorization’ (and complete freedom from liability for manufacturers) upon human lab rats? The record-breaking numbers of injuries (or assaults) and deaths (or murders) already committed by this Frankenscience industry with a history of ties to eugenics and (de)population control?

    Why does Moderna downplay and disappear its ties with the NIH, even if still evading with this article the (fascist) conflicts of interest between a putative public health agency and private corporate capital? Could it be due as well to NIH contractual stakes with Moderna enabling its chief executives and scientists to cash in on the scamdemic bonanza like their counterparts at Moderna?

    And why should we the people, who – as taxpayers, wage slaves, and consumers of products unsafe at any speed warped or otherwise – have long been robbed by the corporate state to publicly fund R&D for virtually every major and cheaply privatized industry of the economy, want this particular product line packing all manner of toxic ingredients, many of which remain unknown due to the insidious secrecy surrounding them thanks to the medical-military complex and such arch-deep state agencies like DARPA (making ‘informed consent’ impossible, in violation of both Nuremberg Code and Hippocratic Oath), to be all the more the corporate state’s pretended property of the people? Is this to manufacture our consent all the more to crimes against humanity being perpetrated in our name, for our ‘welfare’?

    Spare us the standardized script of progressive propaganda about the need for lifting patent protections in order to distribute these poisons more liberally upon the usual suspects and victims of developed nations’ colonies. As if they’re begging for more “final solution(s)” from their familiar philanthropic nemesis Doktor of Death Bill Gates (investor in Moderna among other pharma companies) and others burdened by White Man’s savior-mania for centuries (and still counting) of merciless exploitation and oppression. The only need to be met here is further realization of universal ‘vaccination’ so as to create a global control grid incorporating digital biometrics, central bank digital currency, and social credit scores determining rationed austerity for all proles of the world (see, for example, Gates-funded Aadhaar in India and his patent WO2020060606 for nanotechnological implants and cryptocurrency).

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