RE: WIRED 2021: CEO of Moderna’s Struggle for the Future of Covid-19 Vaccine
Yesterday the New York Times FALL a bombshell report about patents around the Covid-19 vaccine in Moderna. After four years of partnership with the National Institutes of Health, Moderna filed for a patent on the most important ingredient in its vaccine, and did so to include only the scientists ’own names. Much to the NIH’s surprise, all of its scientists were not involved in the patent filing, with many consequences. If the government agency is included in the filing, then in theory, the technology could be licensed in the U.S., which would help make it available faster and more widely, including in more developed countries where the vaccination rates remain low. If the patent is approved as written, it will give Moderna sole control over this technology — and could generate tens of billions in additional revenue. Many in the scientific community view Moderna’s action as a betrayal.
Now on RE: WIRED, our own senior writer Maryn McKenna sat down with Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, along with Drs. Nahid Bhadelia, MD, MALD, is an internationally regarded infectious disease physician. Bhadelia is the founding director of Boston University’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research, as well as associate director of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), a maximum containment research facility at BU.
Moderna’s Bancel says she can’t talk about the specific patent case because it’s an open legal matter, but she notes that making the recipe workable isn’t immediately available with enough vaccines. “There are no factories around the world waiting to make this product,” Bancel said. “Because these factories don’t exist. This is a new type of product. ”
Why Moderna still monitors revenue, he says, “If you think about it, to get innovations to bring products you need a lot of investment.” While Moderna has received billions of dollars from the U.S. government to fund its research as part of Operation Warp Speed, Bancel said the money won’t come much when it comes to actually building manufacturing capabilities for new- its vaccine. When governments and foundations prove unwilling to invest, the company has to go to the capital markets to raise about $ 5 billion. He argues that in order to encourage people to invest in that kind of money, they often have to believe that there is a return on their investment.
For his part, Dr. Bhadelia doesn’t think it’s a / or situation. He thinks it’s about finding the balance to make sure companies get revenues so they can continue their research, while also responding to the call of the world’s health needs during a pandemic that has so far killed at least 5 million people. Vaccine suitability is an important ingredient. “There are still parts of the world where only 5 percent of the population is vaccinated,” he said, while in the U.S. people get a second or third dose and start vaccinating children before the holidays.