[Ip-health] Letter: U.S. leverage over vaccine patent could expand NIH-Moderna vaccine production

Peter Maybarduk pmaybarduk at citizen.org
Thu Mar 25 08:32:28 PDT 2021

This is the subject of a Washington Post story today: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/03/25/moderna-vaccine-patent-nih/

And it’s the issue that kicked off Sunday’s excellent New York Times page one story: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/21/world/vaccine-patents-us-eu.html?smid=em-share  (which goes on to cover several global vax access issues including manufacturing, equitable access and the Waiver, quoting several friends on this list along the way). 

Here is the letter and PrEP4All statement: https://www.prep4all.org/news/nih-letter 

Congrats are due to PrEP4All and to NYU’s Chris Morten, with a special thanks to Zain, who first pointed out the NIH patent application last year.  

Mar. 25, 2021 
Contact: Mike Stankiewicz, mailto:mstankiewicz at citizen.org, (202) 588-7742  Derrick Robinson, mailto:drobinson at citizen.org, (202) 588-7741 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government should use its ownership of patented technology to expand production of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Public Citizen, PrEP4All and leading academics in health and intellectual property wrote in a letter to top government officials.
“The U.S. government has an embarrassing history of giving away publicly-funded and publicly-owned medical technology to corporations, which then ration it back to the people at monopoly prices,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “The U.S. government can help end the pandemic if it uses its legal leverage with Moderna to jumpstart an ambitious vaccine manufacturing program to benefit the world.” 

The U.S. government owns a patent that covers methods of stabilizing coronavirus spike proteins, a technology that Moderna and other manufacturers rely on to make their COVID-19 vaccines, Public Citizen previously found. The patent will issue Mar. 30, and Public Citizen first identified the application in June of last year. A New York Times report found that Moderna has not secured permission from the government to use its technology. 

The PrEP4All-Public Citizen letter, addressed to NIH director Francis Collins, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Tony Fauci and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, asks the government to insist on terms that would expand access to the NIH-Moderna vaccine, in exchange for authorizing Moderna to use the government’s technology. Those terms include empowering the government to manufacture the vaccine itself, sharing technology with the World Health Organization and ensuring accessible pricing.  
Public Citizen has separately asked the U.S. Congress to authorize $25 billion to jump-start a program that would produce 8 billion doses of the NIH-Moderna vaccine, which would massively speed up vaccine production. 

“We must do better,” Maybarduk added. “Many lives are at stake.” 

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