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[–]wantagh 3740 points3741 points3742 points  (93 children)

This. It’s just a clickbaity, heart tugging headline that paints a completely different picture than what’s actually happening.

This is a private equity company that’s received $100M from the WHO to figure out how to SCALE production of the Moderna vax receipe.

Moderna has provided the formula and free licensed it’s IP, but these countries lack the facilities, workforce, plants, pharma know-how, and supply chains needed to manufacture it.

That’s what this company is doing. They’re learning how to make an mRNA vax at scale - not reverse engineering the vax itself.

To make it sound like Moderna’s profiteering at the expense of Africans is disingenuous.

In reality, they’re profiteering from the coffers of western nations - which is a whole other conversation itself.

[+]gen-float 3 points4 points5 points  (0 children)

My personal path: see title, open, skim comments, then i'll go to Reuters and the next two credible ones that show up in a gogo search.

If it doesn't pan up with credible like information, then it's bullshit or "for likes" news.

Journalists these days are about as useful these days as an ass on your elbow. The few places that actually have journalists reporting, are the ones that prove the rule.

[–]AnomalyNexus 295 points296 points297 points  (55 children)

to figure out how to SCALE production of the Moderna vax receipe.

Moderna has provided the formula

No that's not quite right either. It isn't just scaling. They're very much trying to reverse engineer this and Moderna hasn't shared everything needed. e.g. This quote from one of the people involved.

“We know what lipids they put in, but the ratio is also very important,” Arbuthnot says. “We have a rough idea, but we don’t know what it is exactly and that’s not even available in their patents.”


[–]wantagh 242 points243 points244 points  (20 children)

It’s not like moderna makes everything from scratch at their plant.

Pharmaceutical precursors - lipids, reagents, etc - are purchased from other companies. Those companies will certify to Moderna the material’s attributes, quality l, and purity - but they will certainly not tell Moderna how exactly it’s made.

Like I said, these guys are starting from scratch.

[–]benigntugboat 24 points25 points26 points  (7 children)

If they purchase a component or solution containing the lipids in the set ratio than they would know how to use it in their formula. But moderna wouldnt know the ratio itself and the company they bought it from is not obligated to disclose their own patent.

An ingredient likely wouldnt be used without knowing generally what it is (which is why its known by all parties here). But paying for the convenience or composition instead of figuring out the ratio itself would make sense for moderna where it might not for this african company.

I dont know if thats the exact situation here but its one of many plausible ways it happens. Im not a scientist but ive got some familiarity with big pharma and many parts of the process are less clear than you'd think. While most parts are much more detailed than youd expect.

[–]sdkfhjs 107 points108 points109 points  (14 children)

> upon request we are also willing to license our intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.

That was a year ago. Did they actually do it?


> Despite mounting pressure, the chief executives of Moderna and Pfizer have declined to license their mRNA technology in developing countries, arguing it makes no sense to do so. They say that the process is too complex, that it would be too time- and labor- intensive to establish facilities that could do it, and that they cannot spare the staff because of the urgent need to maximize production at their own network of facilities.

Sounds to me like they haven't actually done the licensing part. There's still an obstacle of facilities being able to do it, but Moderna doesn't seem to have actually done the part they said they would do.

[–]benigntugboat 7 points8 points9 points  (0 children)

I dont know the details here but i know the process has happened with other companies. Merck for example would fund generic producers (often the only pharma manufacturers in 3rd world countries) that wanted to gear up for vaccine production but couldnt afford the risk of the vaccine failing or not recieving all its approvals. That way they were ready tp produce it at the same pace as europe america etc. That could afford to start purchasing and setting up the equipment and supply lines before the vaccines were definite things.

I dont know if moderna completely backed on their word or if they only followed through with disclosing the info and supplying the resources they felt they could do easily or realistically. But i could see either being plausible.

There really has been an unparalleled amount of cooperation and risk taking between governments and pharma companies to make the vaccine exist, be safe, and available as quickly as possible though

[+]International-Ing 6 points7 points8 points  (0 children)

Or if people don’t want to get vaccinated. That’s the answer, by the way.

They have slowed down their deliveries of vaccines because they can’t get enough people to take them at the rate they are receiving. Vaccine hesitancy is strong and they are having these issues at only 35% fully vaccinated.

They currently have 158 days of covid vaccine in stock at current vaccination rates.

[–]elveszett 1 point2 points3 points  (1 child)

It's not that simple at all. If I create a new virus right now and share it with you, your AV will almost certainly block it, even though nobody has seen it before.

AV analyze the instructions that programs want to execute, and certain sets of instructions are red flags. It also analyzes the source of the software to decide whether certain instructions are red flags or not (e.g. maybe Office Word can get away with some instructions that will trigger an "are you sure you want to run this app?" message in mine).

The most successful viruses nowadays usually take advantage of exploits and bugs in some remote part of your system, making them hard to catch because the way they operate is not how you'd code these instructions if they were part of a honest program.

[–]what-the-puck 4 points5 points6 points  (0 children)

There was uproar over that when Bill Gates said it wasn't a good idea to hand out the "recipe" to just anyone. People cried "he's trying to keep it for the West!" or "something something microchips!" but really what Bill actually said was, there had been (a year ago now) enough problems in the manufacturing, transportation, administration, and post-administration monitoring and care processes already that it was causing hesitancy.

The last thing the world needed was a factory producing vaccine that didn't work or made people sick, diluting the reputation of that vaccine globally and especially diluting it's reputation in whatever vaccine-poor country was making it.

And he was right: a factory in Baltimore was shut down for being basically a dump, and that was very heavily publicized, hyped, and outright lies about... particularly in the media that vaccine-hesitant people are likely to consume. That particular vaccine was Janssen which Canada approved yesterday, months after the others.

[–]Shiroi_Kage 34 points35 points36 points  (2 children)

Good luck to them. No, really. I wish them the best of luck. The more facilities that can make it the better.

But seriously, the synthesis of mRNA that long (30 4kbp) at GMP quality is insanely difficult. It wasn't possible to do it at scale just a few years ago, let alone do it with enough cleanliness to inject it into someone.

I don't want to poop all over the story, but I am nowhere near optimistic about this for the short run.

EDIT: Used the wrong size for the gene. Still super difficult and needs a long time before it becomes available to the mainstream.

[–]patssle 16 points17 points18 points  (2 children)

Moderna is a very small player in the pharma world. They were able to accomplish what many of the large players couldn't.

Moderna was researching mRNA long before COVID with multiple funding sources including DARPA. BioNTech was also a startup focused on mRNA.

They are small but focused. And yeah they deserve their payouts.

[–]autotldrBOT 7 points8 points9 points  (1 child)

This is the best tl;dr I could make, original reduced by 81%. (I'm a bot)

Petro Terblanche, the managing director of Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, told Patta that her company's aim is to overcome the vaccine inequalities laid painfully bare by the COVID-19 pandemic by replicating Moderna's coronavirus vaccine.

After pleading with big pharma companies to share their vaccine recipes, the scientists in Cape Town decided there was no more time to wait, and they took the development of a vaccine into their own hands.

Afrigen is working to replicate Moderna's mRNA COVID vaccine together with Wits University in Johannesburg.

Extended Summary | FAQ | Feedback | Top keywords: vaccine#1 Moderna#2 Afrigen#3 Africa#4 Patta#5

[+]SnooPickles860 1 point2 points3 points  (0 children)

Afrigen's technical director Dr. Caryn Fenner said the pandemic was a wake-up call, "because it made us realize if we don't step up and do it ourselves, no one else is going to do it."

Yea, that’s pretty true in everything in life.

Thinking that the rich countries who developed the vaccine would give it them before taking care of their own populace is just naivety.

[+]bell37 3 points4 points5 points  (0 children)

If you read the article, Moderna has provided the formula to these companies, are not enforcing patents and allowing free license to those looking to produce the vaccine.

The article is describing how African countries are trying to create the supply chains, labs and facilities within their borders so they can reproduce the vaccine at scale. The headline of this article is clickbaity, making it seem like Moderna or any of the big pharmaceutical companies are forcing these countries to reverse engineer the vaccine.

Tl;dr: They have the formula and know how on how to create the vaccine, they lack the materials and facilities to mass produce them within their country.

[–]CalzoneFrequency 4 points5 points6 points  (0 children)

Sure they are:

  1. "Overwhelming majority of the funding" does not equal the entirety of the funding

  2. The researcher is going to bring in knowhow, processes, and technologies that the company has developed for other projects. That's a huge value to the project that the company is bringing that won't be reflected in a budget. The US government isn't giving something for nothing.

  3. Specialized and talented researchers don't grow on trees. The company can use those personnel, facility, equipment and administrative resources to develop something profitable instead.

  4. If a researcher develops ancillary technologies while working on the project, the government gets rights to those innovations as well. The company would be inviting ip liability for no gain

  5. If the company has technologies (or sees an economic case to develop some) that show promise to solve the problem, they can develop those with private investment and turn a profit. Time to market will be longer, but that's everyone else's problem. Opportunity cost is cost.

There are other risks, but these are pretty obvious ones if you've ever worked tangentially in research.

The US government funds research to give the public access to the fruits of that research. The case for covid research was straightforward--the government wanted a vaccine as quickly as possible. They facilitate this by shifting the risk calculus by providing funding. It worked.

[–]CalzoneFrequency 5 points6 points7 points  (3 children)

The US government has contracts in place with funded institutions to outline the government's rights to any IP generated from a given research grant. The government builds in assignment rights for itself if a researcher is not bringing the technology to market. Those rights are not exercised arbitrarily.

If the US government stops adhering to its contracts, institutions, individuals, and non-government investors are going to be reticent about accepting that funding in the future. Federal involvement would no longer be an incentive, it would be a poison pill.

Research funding is a lever the people of the United States should want to preserve for the next emergency (or day to day governance for that matter). Let's not make short sighted policy for anti-corporate street cred.

[–]Ambitious_Advisor527 5 points6 points7 points  (2 children)

I'm not suggesting that the federal government not adhere to its contracts or not fund research, I'm suggesting that the results of publicly funded research should be public. The result of Moderna's publicly funded research is the vaccine they produced; the process to make that vaccine should (morally, not lawfully, at least not lawfully yet) fall into the public realm, not be a hidden trade secret.

Moderna offset their 2020 losses ($750 million) 5 times over in the first 6 months of this year ($4 billion profit) thanks to their prior federal contracts (which would still exist, I am not suggesting that the government fund the research only then leave the researchers high and dry). Their profits these first six months have nearly doubled their net loss over the last 5 years. They can and should make the manufacturing process open source and it is the morally correct thing to do for the good of humanity. Unfortunately capitalism doesn't give a shit about morals.

Edit: Added links

[+]jeffjackson90876 1 point2 points3 points  (0 children)

Mortality from covid doesn’t even register as a real problem in most of subsaharan Africa

All of this talk about vaccine equity is absurd. The virus will continue to circulate in North America and Europe at high rates. Vaccinating Africans won’t do anything.

Car crashes and many other diseases kill many more Africans than covid does.

[–]rberg89 1 point2 points3 points  (1 child)

So basically half of my job as a reddit media consumer is to identify when the horde has upvoted an emotionally appealing sentiment that lacks substance.

This is another one of those times. I mean you can see it in the comment section of almost any post. But this post should not be here. Or, it does belong here because tens of thousands of heartthrobbing idiots decided it does.

Fuck those idiots. The liberal trash that makes being left-of-center harder. Our very own QAnon; the unthinking empaths.

[–]hacktivision 3 points4 points5 points  (0 children)

I read the entire thread and Moderna did not license their vaccine in poor countries yet :

Despite mounting pressure, the chief executives of Moderna and Pfizer have declined to license their mRNA technology in developing countries, arguing it makes no sense to do so. They say that the process is too complex, that it would be too time- and labor- intensive to establish facilities that could do it, and that they cannot spare the staff because of the urgent need to maximize production at their own network of facilities.

So be careful with misleading gilded comments, not just misleading articles.