Statement: In Vaccine Patent Fight, NIH Shows a Modicum of Verve at Last

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins told Reuters that “legal authorities” will have to settle a dispute regarding inventorship of the NIH-Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the U.S. government will take Moderna to court. Public Citizen pointed to Moderna’s failure to name NIH as a joint inventor in COVID vaccine patents in a letter to Director Collins last week, imploring NIH to “ensure the contributions of federal scientists are fully recognized.” The New York Times reported Tuesday that NIH and Moderna have been in talks to resolve the “bitter dispute” for more than a year. Public Citizen long has documented the U.S. government’s critical role in inventing and developing the NIH-Moderna vaccine and called for the Biden administration to share the NIH-Moderna vaccine recipe with the World Health Organization (WHO), to help scale up production. Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicine’s program, issued the following statement:

“The U.S. government is showing a modicum of verve at last, suggesting it will not allow federal scientists’ role in the invention of the NIH-Moderna vaccine to be erased. Recognition as the vaccine’s joint inventor can help the U.S. government finally responsibly steward the vaccine’s use, including by helping secure access for the billions of people still awaiting a safe path out of the pandemic.

“NIH-Moderna is the most effective COVID-19 vaccine in the world. We, the people, paid for its development. Federal scientists pioneered the understanding of coronaviruses and then worked in partnership with Moderna.

“But Moderna has turned this people’s vaccine into a rich people’s vaccine; refusing to share technology with WHO or developing country manufacturers and sharing very few doses with COVAX while overcharging poor nations.

“Let this be a belated beginning. More than ten million people have died from the pandemic so far. Humanity cannot afford the U.S. government’s passivity. It is past time to share NIH-Moderna with the world.”