RE: WIRED 2021: Moderna CEO on the fight over the future of the Covid-19 vaccine

Tuesday New York times Projection bomb report About Patents on the Covid-19 Moderna Vaccine. After four years of partnering with the US National Institutes of Health, Moderna has applied for a patent on the most important ingredient in its vaccine, and has done so by including only the names of its scientists. To the consternation of the National Institutes of Health, all of its scientists were excluded from patenting, which could have major repercussions. If the government agency were included in the filing, the United States would in theory be able to license the technology, which would help it spread faster and more widely, including in more developing countries where vaccination rates remain low. If the patent is approved as written, this would give Moderna sole control of the technology — and potentially tens of billions of profits. Many in the scientific community see Moderna’s move as a betrayal.

today in Renewable Energy: Wired, our senior writer Marine McKenna met with Moderna CEO, Stefan Bancel, along with Nahid Bhadelia, an internationally respected infectious disease physician. Bhadelia is the founding director of the Boston University Center for Emerging Infectious Disease Policy and Research, as well as the associate director of the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories, a maximum containment research facility at Boston University.

Bancel said he couldn’t say much about the specific patent issue because it’s an open legal question, but he noted that simply making the prescription available won’t immediately lead to enough vaccines. Bancel said, “There are no factories all over the world waiting to manufacture this product, because these factories do not exist. It is a completely new type of product.”

On why Moderna continues to keep an eye on profits, he said, “If you think about it, to get innovations to bring in products, you need a lot of investments.” While Moderna has received billions of dollars from the US government to fund its research as part of Operation Warp Speed, Bancel said the money was less out of the question when it came to building manufacturing capacity for the new vaccine. When governments and institutions proved unwilling to invest, the company had to go to the capital markets to raise about $5 billion. He argues that in order to motivate people to invest this kind of money, they usually need to believe that there will be a return on their investment.

For her part, Bhadelia doesn’t think it’s either/or a situation. She believes it’s about finding the balance to make sure companies get profits so they can continue their research, while also responding to the call of global health needs during a pandemic that has killed at least 5 million people. Equity in vaccines is a critical component. “There are still parts of the world where only 5 percent of the population has been vaccinated,” she said, while in the United States people are getting the second or third doses and starting to vaccinate children before the holiday.

Part of the solution is to make life-saving vaccines more affordable globally. For poor countries, up to 70 percent of healthcare budgets are spent on vaccines. In the United States, it has traditionally been less than 1 percent. Bhadelia acknowledges that there are many other barriers to vaccines getting where they are needed, but supply is still one of them.

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