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Moderna, The Military, Medicine and Money

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COMMENT: In past posts and pro­grams, we have not­ed the Moderna–one of the com­pa­nies select­ed to devel­op a Covid-19 vac­cine, has been sub­stan­tial­ly under­writ­ten by the Pen­ta­gon (DARPA). 

Key points of dis­cus­sion in that regard:

  1. Mod­er­na is using nov­el vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy using the injec­tion of genet­ic mate­r­i­al to cre­ate anti­bod­ies. This tech­nol­o­gy has nev­er been used on human beings. “. . . . The sec­ond phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny that was select­ed by CEPI to devel­op a vac­cine for the new coro­n­avirus is Mod­er­na Inc., which will devel­op a vac­cine for the nov­el coro­n­avirus of con­cern in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the U.S. NIH and which will be fund­ed entire­ly by CEPI. The vac­cine in ques­tion, as opposed to Inovio’s DNA vac­cine, will be a mes­sen­ger RNA (mRNA) vac­cine. Though dif­fer­ent than a DNA vac­cine, mRNA vac­cines still use genet­ic mate­r­i­al ‘to direct the body’s cells to pro­duce intra­cel­lu­lar, mem­brane or secret­ed pro­teins.’ Moderna’s mRNA treat­ments, includ­ing its mRNA vac­cines, were large­ly devel­oped using a $25 mil­lion grant from DARPA and it often touts is strate­gic alliance with DARPA in press releas­es. . . .”
  2. The tech­nol­o­gy has alarm­ing pos­si­ble neg­a­tive side-effects. “. . . . Both DNA and mRNA vac­cines involve the intro­duc­tion of for­eign and engi­neered genet­ic mate­r­i­al into a person’s cells and past stud­ies have found that such vac­cines ‘pos­sess sig­nif­i­cant unpre­dictabil­i­ty and a num­ber of inher­ent harm­ful poten­tial haz­ards’ and that ‘there is inad­e­quate knowl­edge to define either the prob­a­bil­i­ty of unin­tend­ed events or the con­se­quences of genet­ic mod­i­fi­ca­tions.’ Nonethe­less, the cli­mate of fear sur­round­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break could be enough for the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor to devel­op and dis­trib­ute such con­tro­ver­sial treat­ments due to fear about the epi­dem­ic poten­tial of the cur­rent out­break. . . .”
  3. Loom­ing large in the back­ground of the Mod­er­na vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy is DARPA fund­ing of “gene dri­ve” tech­nol­o­gy. . . . . Con­cerns about Pen­ta­gon exper­i­ments with bio­log­i­cal weapons have gar­nered renewed media atten­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly after it was revealed in 2017 that DARPA was the top fun­der of the con­tro­ver­sial ‘gene dri­ve’ tech­nol­o­gy, which has the pow­er to per­ma­nent­ly alter the genet­ics of entire pop­u­la­tions while tar­get­ing oth­ers for extinc­tion. At least two of DARPA’s stud­ies using this con­tro­ver­sial tech­nol­o­gy were clas­si­fied and ‘focused on the poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tion of gene dri­ve tech­nol­o­gy and use of gene dri­ves in agri­cul­ture,’ accord­ing to media reports. . . . Co-direc­tor of the ETC Group Jim Thomas said that this tech­nol­o­gy may be used as a bio­log­i­cal weapon: ‘Gene dri­ves are a pow­er­ful and dan­ger­ous new tech­nol­o­gy and poten­tial bio­log­i­cal weapons could have dis­as­trous impacts on peace, food secu­ri­ty and the envi­ron­ment, espe­cial­ly if mis­used, The fact that gene dri­ve devel­op­ment is now being pri­mar­i­ly fund­ed and struc­tured by the US mil­i­tary rais­es alarm­ing ques­tions about this entire field.’ . . . . How­ev­er, the ther­a­pies being devel­oped by Inovio, Mod­er­na and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land are in align­ment with DARPA’s objec­tives regard­ing gene edit­ing and vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy. For instance, in 2015, DARPA geneti­cist Col. Daniel Wat­ten­dorf described how the agency was inves­ti­gat­ing a ‘new method of vac­cine pro­duc­tion [that] would involve giv­ing the body instruc­tions for mak­ing cer­tain anti­bod­ies. Because the body would be its own biore­ac­tor, the vac­cine could be pro­duced much faster than tra­di­tion­al meth­ods and the result would be a high­er lev­el of pro­tec­tion.’ . . . .”

Alarm­ing, as well, is the make­up of Don­ald Trump’s “Oper­a­tion Warp Speed” pro­gram to devel­op a Covid-19 vac­cine in record time. (No vac­cine has ever been devel­oped for human use in less than four years.)

“Oper­a­tion Warp Speed”:

  1. Is head­ed by Mon­cef Slaoui, for­mer­ly the chair­man of Mod­er­na’s prod­uct devel­op­ment com­mit­tee: ” . . . . Dr. Slaoui served on the board of Mod­er­na, a biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny that has an exper­i­men­tal coro­n­avirus vac­cine that just entered Phase 2 of clin­i­cal tri­als to deter­mine if it is effec­tive. As the chair­man of the Mod­er­na board’s prod­uct devel­op­ment com­mit­tee, Dr. Slaoui might have been privy to the ear­ly indi­ca­tions of tests of whether the company’s approach appeared promis­ing, now that it is being inject­ed into human sub­jects. . . .”
  2. Is seen by Slaoui as promis­ing by Slaoui, who may well be ref­er­enc­ing tests on Mod­er­na’s mRNA vac­cine: “. . . . Dr. Slaoui, now a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, said that he had ‘recent­ly seen ear­ly data from a clin­i­cal tri­al with a coro­n­avirus vac­cine, and these data made me feel even more con­fi­dent that we will be able to deliv­er a few hun­dred mil­lion dos­es of vac­cine’ — enough to inoc­u­late much of the Unit­ed States — ‘by the end of 2020.’ . . . .”
  3. Will be assist­ed by a four-star gen­er­al: ” . . . . . . . . Mr. Slaoui will serve as the chief advis­er on the effort, and Gen. Gus­tave F. Per­na, a four-star gen­er­al who is in charge the Army Matériel Com­mand, will be the chief oper­at­ing offi­cer. . . .”
  4. Per­na was recruit­ed by the Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs: ” . . . . Gen­er­al Per­na, who runs the Army’s com­plex sup­ply chain, said that he was asked by Gen. Mark A. Mil­ley, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to help run the man­u­fac­tur­ing logis­tics relat­ed to the vac­cine devel­op­ment. . . .”

In addi­tion, Mon­cef Slaoui holds 10 mil­lion dol­lars worth of Mod­er­na stock, which has tripled in val­ue since the Covid-19 out­break began: ” . . . . The for­mer phar­ma exec­u­tive tapped by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to lead the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s hunt for a COVID-19 vac­cine has more than $10 mil­lion in stock options in one of the com­pa­nies receiv­ing fed­er­al fund­ing. . . . Described across four sep­a­rate fil­ings, Slaoui has 155,438 options in Mod­er­na. The stake is worth $10,366,000 at Mod­er­na’s cur­rent share price, $66.69 at the time of pub­li­ca­tion. Mod­er­na shares have almost tripled in val­ue dur­ing 2020. The $66.69 fig­ure rep­re­sents an increase of  184% from the $23.46 it was trad­ing for on Jan­u­ary 1. . . .”

1.  “Trump Vows Vac­cine by End of Year, and Mobi­lizes Mil­i­tary to Help” by David E. Sanger, Mag­gie Haber­man and Noah Wei­land; The New York Times; 5/15/2020.

. . . .The new chief of what Mr. Trump calls Oper­a­tion Warp Speed, Mon­cef Slaoui, a for­mer chair­man of vac­cines at Glax­o­SmithK­line, called Mr. Trump’s goal “very cred­i­ble,” even though the fastest a new vac­cine has been devel­oped and dis­trib­uted is four years and most have tak­en con­sid­er­ably longer.

Dr. Slaoui, now a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, said that he had “recent­ly seen ear­ly data from a clin­i­cal tri­al with a coro­n­avirus vac­cine, and these data made me feel even more con­fi­dent that we will be able to deliv­er a few hun­dred mil­lion dos­es of vac­cine” — enough to inoc­u­late much of the Unit­ed States — “by the end of 2020.”

He did not iden­ti­fy which vac­cine he was refer­ring to, but until Fri­day, when he resigned to take on the new job with the White House, Dr. Slaoui served on the board of Mod­er­na, a biotech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny that has an exper­i­men­tal coro­n­avirus vac­cine that just entered Phase 2 of clin­i­cal tri­als to deter­mine if it is effec­tive.

As the chair­man of the Mod­er­na board’s prod­uct devel­op­ment com­mit­tee, Dr. Slaoui might have been privy to the ear­ly indi­ca­tions of tests of whether the company’s approach appeared promis­ing, now that it is being inject­ed into human sub­jects. . . .

. . . . Mr. Slaoui will serve as the chief advis­er on the effort, and Gen. Gus­tave F. Per­na, a four-star gen­er­al who is in charge the Army Matériel Com­mand, will be the chief oper­at­ing offi­cer.

Mr. Slaoui said he dis­cussed the job with Jared Kush­n­er, the president’s son-in-law and senior advis­er, who had been search­ing for a so-called czar for ther­a­peu­tics and vac­cine devel­op­ment, and Dr. Deb­o­rah L. Birx, the White House’s coro­n­avirus response coor­di­na­tor.

Gen­er­al Per­na, who runs the Army’s com­plex sup­ply chain, said that he was asked by Gen. Mark A. Mil­ley, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to help run the man­u­fac­tur­ing logis­tics relat­ed to the vac­cine devel­op­ment. Beyond the vac­cine itself, there are also sub­stan­tial chal­lenges in ensur­ing ade­quate capac­i­ty of the sup­plies need­ed to dis­trib­ute and admin­is­ter it, start­ing with the spe­cial glass in which vac­cine dos­es are trans­port­ed.

Mr. Slaoui and Gen­er­al Per­na met for the first time on Wednes­day, and they have been in fre­quent con­tact since then, the gen­er­al said in a sep­a­rate inter­view. They will have offices in the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices, where the sec­re­tary, Alex M. Azar II, helped devel­op Oper­a­tion Warp Speed at the president’s request. . . .

2.   “Bats, Gene Edit­ing and Bioweapons: Rec­cent DARPA Exper­i­ments Raise Con­cerns Amid Coro­n­avirus Out­break” by Whit­ney Webb; The Last Amer­i­can Vagabond; 1/30/2020.

. . . . Con­cerns about Pen­ta­gon exper­i­ments with bio­log­i­cal weapons have gar­nered renewed media atten­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly after it was revealed in 2017 that DARPA was the top fun­der of the con­tro­ver­sial ‘gene dri­ve’ tech­nol­o­gy, which has the pow­er to per­ma­nent­ly alter the genet­ics of entire pop­u­la­tions while tar­get­ing oth­ers for extinc­tion. At least two of DARPA’s stud­ies using this con­tro­ver­sial tech­nol­o­gy were clas­si­fied and ‘focused on the poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tion of gene dri­ve tech­nol­o­gy and use of gene dri­ves in agri­cul­ture,’ accord­ing to media reports. The rev­e­la­tion came after an orga­ni­za­tion called the ETC Group obtained over 1,000 emails on the military’s inter­est in the tech­nol­o­gy as part of a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act (FOIA) request. Co-direc­tor of the ETC Group Jim Thomas said that this tech­nol­o­gy may be used as a bio­log­i­cal weapon: ‘Gene dri­ves are a pow­er­ful and dan­ger­ous new tech­nol­o­gy and poten­tial bio­log­i­cal weapons could have dis­as­trous impacts on peace, food secu­ri­ty and the envi­ron­ment, espe­cial­ly if mis­used, The fact that gene dri­ve devel­op­ment is now being pri­mar­i­ly fund­ed and struc­tured by the US mil­i­tary rais­es alarm­ing ques­tions about this entire field.’ . . . .

. . . . The sec­ond phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny that was select­ed by CEPI to devel­op a vac­cine for the new coro­n­avirus is Mod­er­na Inc., which will devel­op a vac­cine for the nov­el coro­n­avirus of con­cern in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the U.S. NIH and which will be fund­ed entire­ly by CEPI. The vac­cine in ques­tion, as opposed to Inovio’s DNA vac­cine, will be a mes­sen­ger RNA (mRNA) vac­cine. Though dif­fer­ent than a DNA vac­cine, mRNA vac­cines still use genet­ic mate­r­i­al ‘to direct the body’s cells to pro­duce intra­cel­lu­lar, mem­brane or secret­ed pro­teins.’ Moderna’s mRNA treat­ments, includ­ing its mRNA vac­cines, were large­ly devel­oped using a $25 mil­lion grant from DARPA and it often touts is strate­gic alliance with DARPA in press releas­es. . . .

. . . . Both DNA and mRNA vac­cines involve the intro­duc­tion of for­eign and engi­neered genet­ic mate­r­i­al into a person’s cells and past stud­ies have found that such vac­cines ‘pos­sess sig­nif­i­cant unpre­dictabil­i­ty and a num­ber of inher­ent harm­ful poten­tial haz­ards’ and that ‘there is inad­e­quate knowl­edge to define either the prob­a­bil­i­ty of unin­tend­ed events or the con­se­quences of genet­ic mod­i­fi­ca­tions.’ Nonethe­less, the cli­mate of fear sur­round­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break could be enough for the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor to devel­op and dis­trib­ute such con­tro­ver­sial treat­ments due to fear about the epi­dem­ic poten­tial of the cur­rent out­break.

How­ev­er, the ther­a­pies being devel­oped by Inovio, Mod­er­na and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land are in align­ment with DARPA’s objec­tives regard­ing gene edit­ing and vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy. For instance, in 2015, DARPA geneti­cist Col. Daniel Wat­ten­dorf described how the agency was inves­ti­gat­ing a ‘new method of vac­cine pro­duc­tion [that] would involve giv­ing the body instruc­tions for mak­ing cer­tain anti­bod­ies. Because the body would be its own biore­ac­tor, the vac­cine could be pro­duced much faster than tra­di­tion­al meth­ods and the result would be a high­er lev­el of pro­tec­tion.’

Accord­ing to media reports on Wattendorf’s state­ments at the time, the vac­cine would be devel­oped as fol­lows:

‘Sci­en­tists would har­vest viral anti­bod­ies from some­one who has recov­ered from a dis­ease such as flu or Ebo­la. After test­ing the anti­bod­ies’ abil­i­ty to neu­tral­ize virus­es in a petri dish, they would iso­late the most effec­tive one, deter­mine the genes need­ed to make that anti­body, and then encode many copies of those genes into a cir­cu­lar snip­pet of genet­ic mate­r­i­al — either DNA or RNA, that the person’s body would then use as a cook­book to assem­ble the anti­body.’

Though Wat­ten­dorf assert­ed that the effects of those vac­cines wouldn’t be per­ma­nent, DARPA has since been pro­mot­ing per­ma­nent gene mod­i­fi­ca­tions as a means of pro­tect­ing U.S. troops from bio­log­i­cal weapons and infec­tious dis­ease. ‘Why is DARPA doing this? [To] pro­tect a sol­dier on the bat­tle­field from chem­i­cal weapons and bio­log­i­cal weapons by con­trol­ling their genome — hav­ing the genome pro­duce pro­teins that would auto­mat­i­cal­ly pro­tect the sol­dier from the inside out,’ then-DARPA direc­tor Steve Walk­er (now with Lock­heed Mar­tin) said this past Sep­tem­ber of the project, known as ‘Safe Genes.’ . . .

. . . . Now, as fear regard­ing the cur­rent coro­n­avirus out­break begins to peak, com­pa­nies with direct ties to DARPA have been tasked with devel­op­ing its vac­cine, the long-term human and envi­ron­men­tal impacts of which are unknown and will remain unknown by the time the vac­cine is expect­ed to go to mar­ket in a few weeks time.

Fur­ther­more, DARPA and the Pentagon’s past his­to­ry with bioweapons and their more recent exper­i­ments on genet­ic alter­ation and extinc­tion tech­nolo­gies as well as bats and coro­n­avirus­es in prox­im­i­ty to Chi­na have been large­ly left out of the nar­ra­tive, despite the infor­ma­tion being pub­licly avail­able. Also left out of the media nar­ra­tive have been the direct ties of both the USAMRIID and DARPA-part­nered Duke Uni­ver­si­ty to the city of Wuhan, includ­ing its Insti­tute of Med­ical Virol­o­gy. . . .

3. “The Ex-Phar­ma Exec Lead­ing Trump’s Covid-19 Vac­cine Pro­gram Has $10 Mil­lion in Stock Options for a Com­pa­ny Get­ting Fed­er­al Fund­ing’ by Kier­an Cor­co­ran; Busi­ness Insid­er; 3/16/2020.

The for­mer phar­ma exec­u­tive tapped by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to lead the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s hunt for a COVID-19 vac­cine has more than $10 mil­lion in stock options in one of the com­pa­nies receiv­ing fed­er­al fund­ing.

Dr Mon­cef Slaoui, a Bel­gian-Amer­i­can, was this week named Chief Sci­en­tist for Trump’s “Oper­a­tion Warp Speed,” which aims to devel­op a work­ing vac­cine as fast as pos­si­ble. . . .

. . . . In order to take up the posi­tion, Slaoui resigned his role on the board of direc­tors for Mod­er­na Inc., a biotech com­pa­ny based in Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts. Accord­ing to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Slaoui’s White House role is unpaid. . . .

. . . . How­ev­er, fil­ings with the US Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion show that Slaoui con­tin­ues to hold valu­able stock options in Mod­er­na.

Described across four sep­a­rate fil­ings, Slaoui has 155,438 options in Mod­er­na. The stake is worth $10,366,000 at Mod­er­na’s cur­rent share price, $66.69 at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Mod­er­na shares have almost tripled in val­ue dur­ing 2020. The $66.69 fig­ure rep­re­sents an increase of  184% from the $23.46 it was trad­ing for on Jan­u­ary 1.

Part of this sharp increase was fueled by an injec­tion of more than $400 mil­lion from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to assist tri­als of a coro­n­avirus vac­cine. . . .

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