Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.
The tag 'coronavirus' is associated with 3 posts.

FTR #1131 Bio-Psy-Op Apocalypse Now, Part 7: Moderna Uber Alles

We begin by Intro­duc­ing the top­ic of Mod­er­na’s SARS Cov‑2 vac­cine as a mon­ey mak­er for both Mod­er­na and as a dri­ver for the mar­ket as a whole, we note last Mon­day’s announce­ment which gen­er­at­ed a major boost in the val­ue of Mod­er­na’s stock and a strong, gen­er­al ral­ly. The lat­ter appar­ent­ly stems from opti­mism that a sucess­ful vac­cine will alle­vi­ate the eco­nom­ic dam­age from Covid-19.

A Mar­ket­Watch piece about the rapid fluc­tu­a­tion of Mod­er­na’s stock under­scores the sig­nif­i­cance of the tim­ing of an announce­ment cast­ing Mod­er­na’s vac­cine tri­al in over­ly opti­mistic light:

1.–Moderna’s CEO (Stephen Ban­cel) and CFO (Lorence Kim) both sold stock on Fri­day, in accor­dance with pre­arranged trans­ac­tions. Bear in mind, that (as dis­cussed in FTR #1130) Mod­er­na’s stock was trad­ing at $23.46 at the begin­ning of the year, and the company–which has nev­er mar­ket­ed a vaccine–was the ben­e­fi­cia­ry of $483 mil­lion dol­lars in fed­er­al fund­ing ear­li­er in the year.) ” . . . . On Fri­day, Ban­cel sold 11,046 shares at a weight­ed aver­age price of $65.56 for about $724,200, as part of a pre­de­ter­mined trad­ing plan adopt­ed Dec. 28, 2018, accord­ing to a Form 4 fil­ing with the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion. He also dis­posed of 1,577 shares as part of a ‘bona fide’ gift. . . . Also, on Fri­day, Kim sold 20,000 shares at a weight­ed aver­age price of $65.53 for about $1.31 mil­lion, as part of a pre­de­ter­mined trad­ing plan. . . .”

2.–Kim also simul­ta­ne­ous­ly bought and sold shares of his firm for a net prof­it of $16.79 mil­lion on Mon­day, the day of an over­ly opti­mistic announce­ment by Mod­er­na. The for­tu­itous­ly timed Mod­er­na announce­ment made the fir­m’s CFO rough­ly $4 mil­lion: ” . . . . On Mon­day, he [Kim] exer­cised options to buy 241,000 shares at a weight­ed aver­age price of $12.45 for about $3 mil­lion, also as part of a pre­de­ter­mined plan. At the same time, Kim exe­cut­ed sales of 241,000 shares, at a weight­ed aver­age price of $82.12 for about $19.79 mil­lion. That means Kim net­ted about $16.79 mil­lion on the simul­ta­ne­ous buy and sale of shares. . . . with Monday’s stock price surge fol­low­ing the announce­ment of ear­ly data on its vac­cine can­di­date poten­tial­ly adding $4 mil­lion to Kim’s cof­fers. . . .”

3.–The above-ref­er­enced announce­ment by Mod­er­na led to a dra­mat­ic increase in Mod­er­na’s stock and boost­ed the mar­ket as a whole. Mod­er­na announced that evening that it would sell $1.34 bil­lion in stock to help its vac­cine oper­a­tion: ” . . . . Shares of Mod­er­na closed at a record high of $80.00 on Mon­day after the com­pa­ny released a slice of pos­i­tive inter­im clin­i­cal data from the first phase of its COVID-19 vac­cine tri­al. That night it announced it would sell $1.34 bil­lion in stock to help fund man­u­fac­tur­ing costs asso­ci­at­ed with the exper­i­men­tal COVID-19 vac­cine. . . .”

4.–Moderna’s stock nose­dived at the end of the trad­ing day on Tues­day, due to a crit­i­cal arti­cle from Stat News: ” . . . . The stock took a nose dive on Tues­day, clos­ing at $71.67, like­ly due in some degree to a Stat News sto­ry that ques­tioned a lack of clin­i­cal clar­i­ty in the data it pro­vid­ed to investors. . . .”
Mod­er­na’s announce­ment was crit­i­cal­ly assessed by Stat News, which point­ed out that the results were incom­plete at best: ” . . . . In a clin­i­cal-tri­al data dis­clo­sure on Mon­day, Mod­er­na shared that eight out of 45 par­tic­i­pants in its COVID-19 vac­cine study devel­oped neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies, a deci­sion that Stat’s Helen Bran­swell described as a ‘rea­son for cau­tion.’ It didn’t share infor­ma­tion about the immune response to the exper­i­men­tal vac­cine in the remain­ing 37 par­tic­i­pants. . . .”

5.–Nonetheless, Mod­er­na’s stock–bolstered by gov­ern­ment investment–has been on a dra­mat­ic upward swing: ” . . . . The company’s stock was up 3.8% in trad­ing on Wednes­day. Year-to-date, it has soared 270.2%, even though the com­pa­ny has no approved prod­ucts. . . .”

There are seri­ous ques­tions about the sub­stance of Mod­er­na’s state­ment:

1.–Moderna’s much tout­ed report on its vaccine—which trig­gered an upsurge in the mar­kets on Monday—appears to have been incom­plete, at best, and pur­pose­ful­ly decep­tive, at worst. “ . . . . While Mod­er­na blitzed the media, it revealed very lit­tle infor­ma­tion — and most of what it did dis­close were words, not data.. . . . If you ask sci­en­tists to read a jour­nal arti­cle, they will scour data tables, not cor­po­rate state­ments. With sci­ence, num­bers speak much loud­er than words. Even the fig­ures the com­pa­ny did release don’t mean much on their own, because crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion — effec­tive­ly the key to inter­pret­ing them — was with­held. . . .”

2.–Part of the rea­son for alarm and skep­ti­cism con­cerns the behav­ior of the NIAID—whose direc­tor is Antho­ny Fau­ci: “ . . . . The Nation­al Insti­tute for Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases has part­nered with Mod­er­na on this vac­cine. Sci­en­tists at NIAID made the vaccine’s con­struct, or pro­to­type, and the agency is run­ning the Phase 1 tri­al. This week’s Mod­er­na read­out came from the ear­li­est of data from the NIAID-led Phase 1. NIAID doesn’t hide its light under a bushel. The insti­tute gen­er­al­ly trum­pets its find­ings, often offer­ing direc­tor Antho­ny Fau­ci . . . or oth­er senior per­son­nel for inter­views. But NIAID did not put out a press release Mon­day and declined to pro­vide com­ment on Moderna’s announce­ment. . . .”

3.–To begin with, Moderna’s announce­ment was only sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sub­stan­tive for 8 of the 45 vol­un­teer sub­jects: “ . . . . The company’s state­ment led with the fact that all 45 sub­jects (in this analy­sis) who received dos­es of 25 micro­grams (two dos­es each), 100 micro­grams (two dos­es each), or a 250 micro­grams (one dose) devel­oped bind­ing anti­bod­ies. Lat­er, the state­ment indi­cat­ed that eight vol­un­teers — four each from the 25-micro­gram and 100-micro­gram arms — devel­oped neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies. Of the two types, these are the ones you’d real­ly want to see. We don’t know results from the oth­er 37 tri­al par­tic­i­pants. . . .”

4.–It is pos­si­ble that neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies may have been devel­oped in the 37 test sub­jects whose data was not released because the test­ing process is exact­ing. Still the state­ment war­rants cau­tion, at the least. “ . . . . This doesn’t mean that they didn’t devel­op neu­tral­iz­ing antibodies.Testing for neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies is more time-con­sum­ing than oth­er anti­body tests and must be done in a biose­cu­ri­ty lev­el 3 lab­o­ra­to­ry. Mod­er­na dis­closed the find­ings from eight sub­jects because that’s all it had at that point. Still, it’s a rea­son for cau­tion . . . .”

5.–In addi­tion, the age of the sub­jects was not released and that is rel­e­vant. “ . . . . Sep­a­rate­ly, while the Phase 1 tri­al includ­ed healthy vol­un­teers ages 18 to 55 years, the exact ages of these eight peo­ple are unknown. If, by chance, they most­ly clus­tered around the younger end of the age spec­trum, you might expect a bet­ter response to the vac­cine than if they were most­ly from the senior end of it. And giv­en who is at high­est risk from the SARS-CoV­‑2 coro­n­avirus, pro­tect­ing old­er adults is what Covid-19 vac­cines need to do. . . .”

6.–In addi­tion, there was no data released as to the dura­bil­i­ty of the neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies. If, for the sake of argu­ment, they are not long-last­ing, the util­i­ty of the vac­cine is neg­li­gi­ble. “ . . . . The report of neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies in sub­jects who were vac­ci­nat­ed comes from blood drawn two weeks after they received their sec­ond dose of vac­cine. Two weeks. ‘That’s very ear­ly. We don’t know if those anti­bod­ies are durable,’ said Anna Durbin, a vac­cine researcher at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty. . . .”

7.–Still anoth­er point of contention/alarm con­cerns the vari­abil­i­ty in neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies among recov­ered patients: “ . . . . But stud­ies have shown anti­body lev­els among peo­ple who have recov­ered from the ill­ness vary enor­mous­ly; the range that may be influ­enced by the sever­i­ty of a person’s dis­ease. John ‘Jack’ Rose, a vac­cine researcher from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty, point­ed STAT to a study from Chi­na that showed that, among 175 recov­ered Covid-19 patients stud­ied, 10 had no detectable neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies. Recov­ered patients at the oth­er end of the spec­trum had real­ly high anti­body lev­els. So though the com­pa­ny said the anti­body lev­els induced by vac­cine were as good as those gen­er­at­ed by infec­tion, there’s no real way to know what that com­par­i­son means. . . .”

8.–It is less than encour­ag­ing that Mod­er­na dis­closed that more rel­e­vant data will be dis­closed in a report to be released in con­junc­tion with NIAID: “ . . . . STAT asked Mod­er­na for infor­ma­tion on the anti­body lev­els it used as a com­para­tor. The response: That will be dis­closed in an even­tu­al jour­nal arti­cle from NIAID, which is part of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health. . . .”

9.–Ann Durbin was struck by the word­ing of Moderna’s release: “ . . . . Durbin was struck by the word­ing of the company’s state­ment, point­ing to this sen­tence: ‘The lev­els of neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies at day 43 were at or above lev­els gen­er­al­ly seen in con­va­les­cent sera.’ ‘I thought: Gen­er­al­ly? What does that mean?’ Durbin said. Her ques­tion, for the time being, can’t be answered. . . .”

10.–Jack Rose com­ment­ed on the opaque nature of Moderna’s release: “. . . . Rose said the com­pa­ny should dis­close the infor­ma­tion. ‘When a com­pa­ny like Mod­er­na with such incred­i­bly vast resources says they have gen­er­at­ed SARS‑2 neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies in a human tri­al, I would real­ly like to see num­bers from what­ev­er assay they are using,’ he said. . . .”

10.–To date, Mod­er­na issues press releas­es, not papers that can be vet­ted by the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty: “ . . . . It doesn’t pub­lish on its work in sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals. What is known has been dis­closed through press releas­es. That’s not enough to gen­er­ate con­fi­dence with­in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty. ‘My guess is that their num­bers are mar­gin­al or they would say more,’ Rose said about the company’s SARS‑2 vac­cine, echo­ing a sus­pi­cion that oth­ers have about some of the company’s oth­er work. ‘I do think it’s a bit of a con­cern that they haven’t pub­lished the results of any of their ongo­ing tri­als that they men­tion in their press release. They have not pub­lished any of that,’ Durbin not­ed. . . .”

After sum­ma­riz­ing a high­ly tech­ni­cal arti­cle warn­ing that of the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of intro­duc­ing a SARS Cov‑2 vac­cine that gen­er­ates inad­e­quate­ly high lev­els of anti­bod­ies, we detail a 2016 STAT News arti­cle about Mod­er­na high­lights a num­ber of areas of con­cern, giv­en the speed and rel­a­tive­ly opaque nature of the poten­tial intro­duc­tion of its Covid-19 vac­cine.

The financ­ing of the com­pa­ny by DARPA, and Mon­cef Slaoui’s join­ing with Four Star Gen­er­al Per­na (ele­vat­ed by the Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen­er­al Mark A. Mil­ley) are of addi­tion­al con­cern.

1.–As of 2016, Mod­er­na had the largest val­u­a­tion of any pri­vate biotech firm and for­mer employ­ees felt that Mod­er­na prized mon­ey over sci­ence. Note that, as will be reviewed lat­er in the pro­gram, its stock has risen expo­nen­tial­ly as a result of the injec­tion of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars. Bear in mind that Mod­er­na has also been under­writ­ten by DARPA. “ . . . . Mod­er­na is worth more than any oth­er pri­vate biotech in the US, and for­mer employ­ees said they felt that Ban­cel prized the company’s ever-increas­ing val­u­a­tion, now approach­ing $5 bil­lion, over its sci­ence. . . .”

2.–Moderna has main­tained a cul­ture of secre­cy, which in 2016, applied to the first two prod­ucts under­go­ing phase 1 tri­als: “ . . . . Mod­er­na just moved its first two poten­tial treat­ments — both vac­cines — into human tri­als. In keep­ing with the cul­ture of secre­cy, though, exec­u­tives won’t say which dis­eases the vac­cines tar­get, and they have not list­ed the stud­ies on the pub­lic fed­er­al reg­istry, ClinicalTrials.gov. List­ing is option­al for Phase 1 tri­als, which are meant to deter­mine if a drug is safe, but most com­pa­nies vol­un­tar­i­ly dis­close their work. . . .”

3.–Protein ther­a­py has been a dri­ving eco­nom­ic and ther­a­peu­tic fac­tor in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal busi­ness: “ . . . . For decades, com­pa­nies have endeav­ored to craft bet­ter and bet­ter pro­tein ther­a­pies, lead­ing to new treat­ments for can­cer, autoim­mune dis­or­ders, and rare dis­eases. Such ther­a­pies are cost­ly to pro­duce and have many lim­i­ta­tions, but they’ve giv­en rise to a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar indus­try. The anti-inflam­ma­to­ry Humi­ra, the world’s top drug at $14 bil­lion in sales a year, is a shin­ing exam­ple of pro­tein ther­a­py. . . .”

4.–Moderna aims at doing an end run around that tech­nol­o­gy with the injec­tion of mRNA (mes­sen­ger RNA) or DNA. This is a risky tech­nol­o­gy: “ . . . . Moderna’s tech­nol­o­gy promised to sub­vert the whole field, cre­at­ing ther­a­peu­tic pro­teins inside the body instead of in man­u­fac­tur­ing plants. The key: har­ness­ing mes­sen­ger RNA, or mRNA. . . . . It’s high­ly risky. Big phar­ma com­pa­nies had tried sim­i­lar work and aban­doned it because it’s exceed­ing­ly hard to get RNA into cells with­out trig­ger­ing nasty side effects. . . . .”

5.–CEO Ban­cel has main­tained the company’s cul­ture of secre­cy: “ . . . . Under Ban­cel, Mod­er­na has been loath to pub­lish its work in Sci­ence or Nature, but enthu­si­as­tic to her­ald its poten­tial on CNBC and CNN, tak­ing part in seg­ments on the world’s most dis­rup­tive com­pa­niesand the poten­tial “cure for can­cer.” . . .”

6.–Moderna had dra­con­ian atti­tude toward employ­ees from its incep­tion: “ . . . . From the begin­ning, Ban­cel made clear that Moderna’s sci­ence sim­ply had to work. And that any­one who couldn’t make it work didn’t belong. The ear­ly Mod­er­na was a chaot­ic, unpre­dictable work­place, accord­ing to for­mer employ­ees. One recalls find­ing him­self out of a job when a quick-turn­around exper­i­ment failed to pan out. Anoth­er helped train a group of new hires only to real­ize they were his replace­ments. . . .”

7.–Joe Bolen exem­pli­fied the treat­ment Mod­er­na met­ed out: “ . . . . Most stun­ning to employ­ees was the abrupt depar­ture of Joseph Bolen, who came aboard in 2013 to lead Moderna’s R&D efforts. Bolen was a big-name hire in biotech cir­cles, an expe­ri­enced chief sci­en­tif­ic offi­cer who had guid­ed Mil­len­ni­um Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to FDA approval for a block­buster can­cer drug. . . ‘No sci­en­tist in his right mind would leave that job unless there was some­thing wrong with the sci­ence or the per­son­nel,” said a per­son close to the com­pa­ny at the time.’ . . .”

8.–Bolen had com­pa­ny: “ . . . . Bolen wasn’t alone. Chief Infor­ma­tion Offi­cer John Reyn­ders joined in 2013 to make Mod­er­na what he called the world’s “first ful­ly dig­i­tal biotech,”only to step down a year lat­er. Michael Morin, brought in to lead Moderna’s sci­en­tif­ic efforts in can­cer in 2014, last­ed less than 18 months. As did Greg Licholai, hired in 2015 to direct the company’s projects in rare dis­eases. The lat­ter two key lead­er­ship posi­tions remain unfilled. . . .”

9.–The expla­na­tion of CFO Lorence Kim is less than reas­sur­ing from the stand­point of prod­uct safe­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty: “ . . . . ‘We force every­one to grow with the com­pa­ny at unprece­dent­ed speed,’ Mod­er­na Chief Finan­cial Offi­cer Lorence Kim said. ‘Some peo­ple grow with the com­pa­ny; oth­ers don’t.’ . . .”

10.–Beginning in 2013, Mod­er­na part­nered with a series of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal giants, includ­ing AstraZeneca, which has been select­ed to devel­op a Covid-19 vac­cine: “ . . . . That’s when Mod­er­na — which had just 25 employ­ees — signed a stag­ger­ing $240 mil­lion part­ner­ship with UK phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal giant AstraZeneca. It was the most mon­ey phar­ma had ever spent on drugs that had not yet been test­ed in humans. . . .”

11.–The firm has been lav­ish­ly cap­i­tal­ized: “ . . . . In ear­ly 2015, Mod­er­na dis­closed a $450 mil­lion financ­ing round, the largest ever for a pri­vate biotech com­pa­ny. This month, the com­pa­ny broke its own record, rais­ing anoth­er $474 mil­lion. . . . Though it has yet to reveal data from a sin­gle clin­i­cal tri­al, Mod­er­na is now val­ued at $4.7 bil­lion, accord­ing to Pitch­book. . . .”

12.–Initially, Mod­er­na aimed at devel­op­ing prod­ucts that would be admin­is­tered for a peri­od of years: “ . . . . From the start, Mod­er­na her­ald­ed its abil­i­ty to pro­duce pro­teins with­in cells, which could open up a world of ther­a­peu­tic tar­gets unreach­able by con­ven­tion­al drugs. The most rev­o­lu­tion­ary treat­ments, which could chal­lenge the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar mar­ket for pro­tein ther­a­py, would involve repeat­ed dos­es of mRNA over many years, so a patient’s body con­tin­ued to pro­duce pro­teins to keep dis­ease at bay. . . .”

13.–Instead of pro­duc­ing treat­ments that would be admin­is­tered over a peri­od of years, the com­pa­ny focused on vac­cines: “ . . . . But Moderna’s first human tri­als aren’t so ambi­tious, focus­ing instead on the crowd­ed field of vac­cines, where the com­pa­ny has only been work­ing since 2014. . . . The choice to pri­or­i­tize vac­cines came as a dis­ap­point­ment to many in the com­pa­ny, accord­ing to a for­mer man­ag­er. The plan had been to rad­i­cal­ly dis­rupt the biotech indus­try, the man­ag­er said, so ‘why would you start with a clin­i­cal pro­gram that has very lim­it­ed upside and lots of com­pe­ti­tion?’” . . . .”

14.–The answer to Moderna’s focus on vac­cines may be due to issues of prod­uct safe­ty: “ . . . Deliv­ery — actu­al­ly get­ting RNA into cells — has long bedev­iled the whole field. On their own, RNA mol­e­cules have a hard time reach­ing their tar­gets. They work bet­ter if they’re wrapped up in a deliv­ery mech­a­nism, such as nanopar­ti­cles made of lipids. But those nanopar­ti­cles can lead to dan­ger­ous side effects, espe­cial­ly if a patient has to take repeat­ed dos­es over months or years. . . .”

15.–Vaccines will only admin­is­ter mRNA at the time of vac­ci­na­tion, rather than over a long peri­od of time: “ . . . . ‘I would say that mRNA is bet­ter suit­ed for dis­eases where treat­ment for short dura­tion is suf­fi­cient­ly cura­tive, so the tox­i­c­i­ties caused by deliv­ery mate­ri­als are less like­ly to occur,’ said Katal­in Karikó, a pio­neer in the field who serves as a vice pres­i­dent at BioN­Tech. . . That makes vac­cines the low­est hang­ing fruit in mRNA, said Franz-Wern­er Haas, CureVac’s chief cor­po­rate offi­cer. ‘From our point of view, it’s obvi­ous why [Mod­er­na] start­ed there,’ he said.’ . . .”

16.–Moderna’s expla­na­tion for its focus on vac­cines is not reassuring—the speed with which it can pro­ceed to human tri­als. The firm’s secre­cy has gen­er­at­ed alarm: “ . . . . Mod­er­na said it pri­or­i­tized vac­cines because they pre­sent­ed the fastest path to human tri­als, not because of set­backs with oth­er projects. ‘The notion that [Mod­er­na] ran into dif­fi­cul­ties isn’t borne in real­i­ty,’ said Afeyan. But this is where Moderna’s secre­cy comes into play: Until there’s pub­lished data, only the com­pa­ny and its part­ners know what the data show. Every­one out­side is left guess­ing — and, in some cas­es, wor­ry­ing that Mod­er­na won’t live up to its hype. . . .”

17.–Moderna applies soft­ware and a busi­ness mod­el derived from Tes­la, Ama­zon and Uber: “ . . . . Mod­er­na has pio­neered an auto­mat­ed sys­tem mod­eled on the soft­ware Tes­la uses to man­age orders, Ban­cel said: Sci­en­tists sim­ply enter the pro­tein they want a cell to express, and testable mRNA arrives with­in weeks. . . . That has always been part of the plan, for­mer employ­ees said, point­ing to Bancel’s fas­ci­na­tion with the tech indus­try. Uber and Ama­zon were not the first to come up with their respec­tive busi­ness ideas, but they were the ones that built enough scale to ward off com­pe­ti­tion. And Mod­er­na is posi­tion­ing itself to do the same in mRNA. . . .”

Mon­cef Slaoui’s  opti­mistic state­ment on the Fri­day before the Mon­day announce­ment, presents impor­tant con­text for Moderna’s Mon­day announce­ment. That announce­ment moved mar­kets based on inad­e­quate data. “Oper­a­tion Warp Speed” (head­ed by Slaoui) sug­gests that can­di­date Trump  is very inter­est­ed in those pre­lim­i­nary results as well. 

Eliz­a­beth War­ren scored Slaoui’s con­flict of interest–a con­sid­er­a­tion that will be dis­cussed at length: ” . . . . Fol­low­ing Mon­cef Slaoui’s Fri­day appoint­ment as a co-leader of the Warp Speed pro­gram, he’s set to sell about 155,000 shares in Mod­er­na, accord­ing to press reports. They were worth an esti­mat­ed $10 mil­lion Fri­day, but after Monday’s stock run-up on pos­i­tive ear­ly data, they’re now val­ued at about $12.4 mil­lion. . . . Fol­low­ing Slaoui’s selec­tion, Sen. Eliz­a­beth War­ren tweet­ed that it’s a ‘huge con­flict of inter­est’ for him to keep the Mod­er­na stock as he assumes the new role. She said he should ‘divest imme­di­ate­ly.’ In a now-delet­ed tweet, Slaoui respond­ed that there ‘is no con­flict of inter­est, and there nev­er has been,’ Busi­ness Insid­er reports. . . .”

Even after agree­ing to sell his Mod­er­na stock, Slaoui’s invest­ments raise alarm­ing questions–note that he is a “ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist” and a long­time for­mer exec­u­tive at Glaxo-Smithk­line:

1.–The cir­cum­stances of his appoint­ment will per­mit him to avoid scruti­ny: ” . . . . In agree­ing to accept the posi­tion, Dr. Slaoui did not come on board as a gov­ern­ment employ­ee. Instead, he is on a con­tract, receiv­ing $1 for his ser­vice. That leaves him exempt from fed­er­al dis­clo­sure rules that would require him to list his out­side posi­tions, stock hold­ings and oth­er poten­tial con­flicts. And the con­tract posi­tion is not sub­ject to the same con­flict-of-inter­est laws and reg­u­la­tions that exec­u­tive branch employ­ees must fol­low. . . .”

2.–He will retain a great deal of Glaxo-Smithk­line stock: ” . . . . He did not say how much his GSK shares were worth. When he left the com­pa­ny in 2017, he held about [500,000 in West­ern Print Edi­tion] 240,000 shares and share equiv­a­lents, accord­ing to the drug company’s annu­al report and an analy­sis by the exec­u­tive com­pen­sa­tion firm Equi­lar. . . .”

3.–Further analy­sis of Slaoui’s posi­tion deep­ens con­cern about the integri­ty of the process: ” . . . . ‘This is basi­cal­ly absurd,’ said Vir­ginia Can­ter, who is chief ethics coun­sel for Cit­i­zens for Respon­si­bil­i­ty and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton. ‘It allows for no pub­lic scruti­ny of his con­flicts of inter­est.’ Ms. Can­ter also said fed­er­al law barred gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors from super­vis­ing gov­ern­ment employ­ees. . . . Ms. Can­ter, a for­mer ethics lawyer in the Oba­ma and Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tions, the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion and oth­er agen­cies, point­ed out that GSK’s vac­cine can­di­date with Sanofi could wind up com­pet­ing with oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers vying for gov­ern­ment approval and sup­port. ‘If he retains stock in com­pa­nies that are invest­ing in the devel­op­ment of a vac­cine, and he’s involved in over­see­ing this process to select the safest vac­cine to com­bat Covid-19, regard­less of how won­der­ful a per­son he is, we can’t be con­fi­dent of the integri­ty of any process in which he is involved,’ Ms. Can­ter said. In addi­tion, his affil­i­a­tion with Medicxi could com­pli­cate mat­ters: Two of its investors are GSK and a divi­sion of John­son & John­son, which is also devel­op­ing a poten­tial vac­cine. . . .”

Mod­er­na stands to make bil­lions of dol­lars if their vac­cine goes to mar­ket:

1.–” . . . . What investors are bet­ting on, for Mod­er­na and oth­ers devel­op­ing vac­cines against the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus, is that a third of the devel­oped world’s pop­u­la­tion will get vac­ci­nat­ed every year. That could amount to a $10 bil­lion annu­al busi­ness, at an esti­mat­ed price of $30 per vac­ci­na­tion. . . .”

2.–” . . . . Mor­gan Stan­ley ana­lysts this past week­end sug­gest­ed that pric­ing might start at $5 to $10 a dose dur­ing this first pan­dem­ic cri­sis, then rise to a range of $13 to $30 for pre­ven­tive dos­es in future years. But at BMO Cap­i­tal Mar­kets, ana­lyst George Farmer spec­u­lat­ed that Mod­er­na could start charg­ing $125 per treat­ment in the U.S. mar­ket and raise that price over time to $200. . . . ”

We close the pro­gram with a reminder of the extent to which fed­er­al fund­ing dri­ves the val­ue of Mod­er­na: ” . . . . ‘Instead of wait­ing for the data and then scal­ing up with man­u­fac­tur­ing process … we can make as many dos­es as we can. We are doing both in par­al­lel,’ he said. The com­pa­ny plans to hire up to 150 peo­ple to sup­port the effort. Ban­cel said the com­pa­ny ‘couldn’t have done this’ with­out the fund­ing com­mit­ment from the Bio­med­ical Advanced Research and Devel­op­ment Author­i­ty, which is part of the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices. . . .”


French Athletes Competing at the Military World Games May Well Have Been Infected

In FTR #‘s 1118 and 1122, we spec­u­lat­ed at some length about the pos­si­bil­i­ty that infect­ing the very healthy, superbly-con­di­tioned indi­vid­u­als par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Mil­i­tary World Games in Chi­na might have been an excel­lent vehi­cle for spread­ing the virus around the world. Reports are now emerg­ing of pos­si­ble Covid-19 infec­tion among ath­letes who par­tic­i­pat­ed at the games.


Is the Economic Meltdown as Good as Gold? Maybe for the Far Right Powers that Be

Now that West­’s regime change cam­paign against Chi­na is now play­ing out in the mid­dle of a glob­al COVID-19 pan­dem­ic that threat­ens to stran­gle vir­tu­al­ly all major economies at the same time far right gov­ern­ments are in pow­er across the globe, per­haps it’s time to ask an unset­tling ques­tion: Is col­laps­ing the glob­al econ­o­my and bank­rupt­ing major world pow­ers for the pur­pose of push­ing the world to the gold stan­dard on the agen­da on top of col­laps­ing Chi­na? That’s what we’re going to explore in this post. It’s a high­ly spec­u­la­tive and we bet­ter hope it’s very wrong. But if it’s cor­rect you bet­ter hope you have to gold. And guns. And what­ev­er else is required to sur­vive a social col­lapse because social col­lapse is what the far right has been hop­ing to see for decades and with far right gov­ern­ments in con­trol around the globe in the mid­dle of a glob­al pan­dem­ic that is stran­gling the every econ­o­my we are now clos­er than ever to ‘achiev­ing’ that night­mar­ish far right dream.