In a recent debate with Alan Dershowitz, Robert Kennedy Jr. claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci holds a patent for one of the drugs in vaccine trials for coronavirus. “The problem is Anthony Fauci put $500 million of our dollars into that vaccine [being produced by Moderna]. He owns half the patent,” said Kennedy. “He and these five guys who are working for him were entitled to collect royalties from that.”
The claim was then repeated by outlets and media figures like Rush Limbaugh, InfoWars, and Gateway Pundit. Kennedy made the same claim during an interview in April and similarly claimed that the National Institutes of Health—which houses the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of which Fauci is director—“Owns Half of Moderna Vaccine” in early July in an article he wrote for Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccination advocacy group that Kennedy founded and for which he now serves as president and chairman.
The vaccine that Kennedy was referring to is one being created by biotech company Moderna, but similar claims have been made before. Claims that Fauci had a financial stake in drug Remdesivir were debunked, as was a claim that Fauci and Bill Gates invested in an unnamed coronavirus vaccine. One conspiracy theory posited that Fauci was the first CEO of Moderna and attempted to connect the company with Gates, George Soros, and Jeffrey Epstein. (No such connection exists.)
Moderna’s vaccine is a part of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, a project that “aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021, as part of a broader strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics (collectively known as countermeasures).” As a part of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government has committed “up to $483 million” to accelerate production of Moderna’s vaccine. The Moderna vaccine has been one of the most successful thus far, and is one of only three vaccines in the world so far to reach Phase Three of clinical trials, the last stage before approval. It is the first vaccine in the United States to begin this stage of trials. During Phase Three, the vaccine is administered to thousands of volunteers and researchers compare the rate of infection to a control group that is given a placebo. In order to be deemed effective, the FDA says it expects the vaccine “would prevent disease or decrease its severity in at least 50% of people who are vaccinated.”
Analysis by Axios found that the National Institutes of Health may own intellectual property that is key to the production of the Moderna vaccine. This finding is backed up by comments made by Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, who said during an interview in May that the NIH has a stake in intellectual property being used in the vaccine. The Axios article, which Kennedy cited in his article claiming the NIH owned half the Moderna vaccine, does not say what percentage of the patent would be owned by the NIH or, indeed, even attempt to put any number on the percentage of the NIH’s ownership.
Axios also found that a disclosure in a pending scientific paper revealed four NIH scientists filed a provisional patent application for a “2019-nCoV vaccine.” A statement the NIH sent to Axios said that the scientists’ contribution to the vaccine was “creat[ing] stabilized coronavirus spike proteins for the development of vaccines against coronavirus.” Fauci was not among the four scientists named in the paper: Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Nianshuang Wang, Jason S. McLellan, and Barney S. Graham. While these four NIH scientists may receive royalties from the vaccine, federal law prevents their compensation from exceeding $150,000 a year.
The National Institutes of Health appears to have a financial stake in the Moderna vaccine, but it’s unclear how much that stake is. What is clear, however, is that there is no evidence to support claims that Fauci has a financial stake in Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.
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Photograph by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images.
Correction, August 24: This article initially claimed that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appeared on a Gateway Pundit podcast. That was an error. Kennedy did an interview on a podcast that Gateway Pundit then wrote about, quoting Kennedy.