An advocacy group has asked the Department of Defense to investigate what it called “an apparent failure” by Moderna (MRNA) to disclose millions of dollars in awards received from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in patent applications the company filed for vaccines.

In a letter to the agency, Knowledge Ecology International explained that a review of dozens of patent applications found the company received approximately $20 million from the federal government in grants several years ago and the funds “likely” led to the creation of its vaccine technology. This was used to develop vaccines to combat different viruses, such as Zika and, later, the virus that causes Covid-19.

In arguing for an investigation, the advocacy group maintained Moderna is obligated under federal law to disclose the grants that led to nearly a dozen specific patent applications and explained the financial support means the U.S. government would have certain rights over the patents. In other words, U.S. taxpayers would have an ownership stake in vaccines developed by the company.

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“This clarifies the public’s right in the inventions,” said Jamie Love, who heads Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that tracks patents and access to medicines issues. “The disclosure (also) changes the narrative about who has financed the inventive activity, often the most risky part of development.”

One particular patent assigned to Moderna concerns methods and compositions that can be used specifically against coronaviruses, including COVID-19. The patent names a Moderna scientist and a former Moderna scientist as inventors, both of which acknowledged performing work under the DARPA awards in two academic papers, according to the report by the advocacy group.

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The group examined the 126 patents assigned to Moderna or ModernaTx as well as 154 patent applications. “Despite the evidence that multiple inventions were conceived in the course of research supported by the DARPA awards, not a single one of the patents or applications assigned to Moderna disclose U.S. federal government funding,” the report stated.

[UPDATE: A DARPA spokesman sent us this over the weekend: “It appears that all past and present DARPA awards to Moderna include the requirement to report the role of government funding for related inventions. Further, DARPA is actively researching agency awards to Moderna to identify which patents and pending patents, if any at all, may be associated with DARPA support. This effort is ongoing.”]

We asked Moderna for comment and will update you accordingly.

The missive to the Department of Defense follows a recent analysis by Public Citizen, another advocacy group, indicating the National Institutes of Health may own mRNA-1273, the Moderna vaccine candidate for Covid-19. The advocacy group noted the federal government filed multiple patents covering the vaccine and two patent applications, in particular, list federal scientists as co-inventors.

The analyses are part of a larger campaign among advocacy groups and others in the U.S. and elsewhere to ensure that Covid-19 medical products are available to poor populations around the world. The concern reflects the unprecedented global demand for therapies and vaccines, and a race among wealthy nations to snap up supplies from vaccine makers.

In the U.S., the effort has focused on the extent to which the federal government has provided taxpayer dollars to different companies to help fund their discoveries. In some cases, advocates argue that federal funding matters because it clarifies the rights that the U.S. government has to ensure a therapy or vaccine is available to Americans on reasonable terms.

One example has been remdesivir, the Gilead Sciences (GILD) treatment being given to hospitalized Covid-19 patients. The role played by the U.S. government in developing remdesivir to combat coronaviruses involved contributions from government personnel at such agencies as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

As for the Moderna vaccine, earlier this month, the company was awarded a $1.525 billion contract by the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. The agreement also includes an option to purchase another 400 million doses, although the terms were not disclosed.

In announcing the agreement, the government said it would ensure Americans receive the Covid-19 vaccine at no cost, although they may be charged by health care providers for administering a shot.

In this instance, however, Love said the “letter is not about price or profits. It’s about (Moderna) not owning up to DARPA funding inventions. If the U.S. wants to pay for all of the development of Moderna’s vaccine, as Moderna now acknowledges, and throw in a few more billion now, and an option to spend billions more, it’s not unreasonable to have some transparency over who paid for their inventions.”

This is not the first time Moderna has been accused of insufficient disclosure. Earlier this month, Knowledge Ecology International and Public Citizen maintained the company failed to disclose development costs in a $955 million contract awarded by BARDA for its Covid-19 vaccine. In all, the federal government has awarded the company approximately $2.5 billion to develop the vaccine.

  • Moderna went from $400 Million Dollars Company To A $100 Billion Dollar Companies within the same week I submitted the Coronavirus cure to them so they are lying about funding don’t brainwash me I know that $100 Billion From The Government Trump Signed a deal 400 Million does at $74 a dose.

  • More than disclosure is required here. A detailed forensic audit of these “expenditures” is required to curtail these endless raids on the Treasury by Executive Branch insiders without Congressional oversight. Sounds like Juan Peron at his worst.

  • Ownership rights in patents depend on the affiliations of the named inventors and on contracts. In essentially all cases, funding requires signing a contract that addresses giving credit in publications to the funding source, and in some cases to rights to patents and other intellectual property resulting from the funded research. Generally, federal funding to a for-profit does not include access to patent rights, but could. Most for-profit companies would not agree to federal funding that gave the government the right to produce or regulate prices on the companies’ products. If Moderna’s DARPA funding was contingent upon an agreement that they acknowledge the federal funding in all publications related to the funded work, and the patents do not do that, they are in error. It cannot be concluded on that basis that they have avoided other government rights in the inventions, except if explicitly (and unusually) provided for in the pertinent contracts.
    As a former director of intellectual property at a major university and medical school, which included
    I can state that it is not typical for patents to disclose the source of funding for the research that resulted in the invention. In fact, I have never seen this in patents, despite it being the norm in research journal publications.

  • I don’t care who donated what for this drug. I just read how dangerous this drug is to humans and how it can alter our DNA Bill Gates and Soros are evil greedy people and all about population control.

  • … by saying hey look into this” it means the contract of the grant has to be looked at, but the grant money probably isn’t equal to the government owning the results, possibly a small percentage or refunding the grant money. And believe me more than 20 mill was invested by Moderna to develop the vaccine idea and deliver the working vaccine. Also we don’t know that the patent is clear about requesting that small grant from a time ago. Hope the author of this article follows up with more info. By the way great writing author 😉

  • Hmmmmm wanna bet they once again fail to produce anything but fat portfolios? Something smells rotten here.

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