Sunday, June 13, 2021

If Your Profession Is "Lying For Billionaires" You're In Trouble When The People Catch On...,

statnews  |  To understand why billionaires are a sign of moral and economic failure, look no further than the Covid-19 pandemic.

Drug corporations could earn $190 billion from Covid-19 vaccine sales this year. Pharmaceutical profits have minted nine new pandemic billionaires, and helped eight existing billionaires enlarge their fortunes. Several of these are founders and private investors in three pharmaceutical corporations — Moderna, BioNTech, and CureVac — whose vaccines use mRNA technology that was largely developed from publicly funded research.

Their financial bonanzas provide a disturbing contrast with vaccine apartheid. By the end of May, only 0.3% of all vaccine doses worldwide had been administered in low-income countries.

Facing condemnation for hoarding doses, the G-7 countries, which are meeting this weekend in England, are under pressure to launch a new plan to expand Covid-19 immunization globally. One hotly contested issue is whether they will call for mandatory sharing of mRNA vaccine technologies, including a proposed waiver of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 technologies.

Pandemic billionaires are speaking out against government intervention, warning it would undermine innovation and claiming that their firms can satisfy global demand for Covid-19 vaccines.

Because the public sector was largely responsible for developing mRNA technology and sharing it with corporations, the pandemic fortunes of these founders and investors stands in stark and repugnant contrast to billions of unvaccinated people.

Moderna, BioNTech, and CureVac are each led by founders or longtime executives with a key role in company decision-making: Stéphane Bancel is Moderna’s CEO, Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin are BioNTech’s co-founders, and Franz-Werner Haas is CureVac’s CEO. In addition to getting head starts from publicly funded research, these companies also relied on private investment provided through venture capital or family offices (privately held companies that handle investment and wealth management for wealthy families). Venture capital investors include Flagship Pioneering, a Boston-based firm whose founder, Noubar Afeyan, also serves as Moderna’s chair, and MIG AG, a German venture capital firm that made early investments in BioNTech. Other large investors in BioNTech and CureVac were German family offices, including investments by Dietmar Hopp in CureVac and the Struengmann brothers in BioNTech.

Founders, executives, venture capitalists, and family offices all held substantial ownership stakes in the three mRNA companies heading into the pandemic. All of them had a choice at the start of the pandemic: maximize profits or maximize low-cost, global production of vaccines.

The three firms chose profit maximization, partnering with multinational companies or forging partnerships with a few contract manufacturers. This year, these companies will have sold nearly all their limited supply of vaccines to wealthy countries at high prices.

They could have instead chosen to avoid scarcity and hoarding by sharing technology, know-how, and intellectual property with other manufacturers, thereby expanding and decentralizing production. It wouldn’t be like they were giving away their intellectual property for free: sharing would allow these companies to earn royalties — and profits.



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