Moderna is corporate greed at its worst

SUMMARY: The U.S. government has provided Moderna with nearly $10 billion in taxpayer money for research and development and the purchase of 500 million doses of this mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. This includes almost the entire cost of clinical development. Additionally, Moderna used patents and non-exclusive rights that the U.S. government made available to them to make this COVID-19 vaccine. But Moderna wants all the profits for themselves.

In 2015, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an institute within the NIH, signed a cooperative R&D agreement with Moderna on basic research, including new vaccines. While the U.S. government has spent money on COVID-19 vaccines made by other companies, its close involvement in the R&D stages of Moderna’s sets it apart.

In July 2021, Moderna made it clear that it would not name government scientists as co-inventors in a patent application covering a much more significant vaccine component: the mRNA sequence used to produce the vaccine, known as mRNA-1273.

If the NIH is a co-owner of the vaccine, then Moderna is unduly using a legal tool to achieve a position of market control – a reward it does not deserve. This offset some of Moderna’s financial risk, even as the company projects to make $15 billion to $18 billion in revenue from vaccine sales in 2021 alone, with much more expected in 2022.

But Moderna, who now has four executives on the most wealthy list because of the vaccine, wants ALL the profits and the government to be damned.

The U.S. government and private donations heavily funded Moderna. The company was given $2.5 billion for the development of its vaccine and to pay for doses once approved. The U.S. invested $20 billion in pharmaceutical companies to quickly move forward on clinical trials, development, and production capabilities. Moderna had never before produced an approved drug, so the government paid for its production capability and virtually “de-risked” the enterprise for making the vaccines by committing to buy them when brought to market.

“U.S. taxpayers made the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine possible,” said Dr. Carrie Teicher, director of programs for MSF-USA. “The company must be accountable to the public effort to vaccinate the world, and the U.S. must use its vast legal powers to force or compel Moderna to share the tech and help boost global production of the vaccine. Time is running out for the U.S. to make good on its claim to be a global leader on COVID-19.” 

As of 9 October 2021, Moderna had provided only 1 million doses to low-income countries. Less than six percent of people in low-income countries—including many places where MSF works—have received their first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna has not delivered any of its committed doses to COVAX, the global procurement mechanism supposed to ensure COVID-19 vaccine equity.

Make no mistake about it. This is corporate greed at its worst. Moderna is another reason why pharma can’t be trusted.