DARPA announces investigation into Moderna’s failures to disclose mRNA vaccine patents.

(More on Moderna here: https://www.keionline.org/moderna)

On August 28, 2020, KEI asked DARPA to investigate apparent failures to disclose U.S. government funding into Moderna’s patents and applications. The request, which was first covered by the Washington Post, and subsequently by Statnews, Law360, the Financial Times and Bloomberg, stems from our analysis of DARPA support for Moderna’s mRNA vaccine research since 2013. The KEI report examined in particular 11 patents where DARPA funding appears to have been relevant, given the subject matter, inventors and published papers linking the research to DARPA grants.

On August 29, 2020, DARPA spokesman Jared Adams gave these comments to the Financial Times:

      “It appears that all past and present Darpa awards to Moderna include the requirement to report the role of government-funding for related inventions,” Darpa spokesman Jared Adams said in an emailed response to the Financial Times.

      “Further, Darpa is actively researching agency awards to Moderna to identify which patents and pending patents, if any at all, may be associated with Darpa support,” he said.

      Mr Adams declined to comment further, saying the investigation was continuing. US federal law required government funding to be disclosed in these circumstances, he noted.

Bloomberg reported on the FT report regarding the DARPA investigation, but added the statement “at least one Darpa-linked patent shows government support was disclosed” and Moderna has made this claim to the FT after its original story was published.

KEI’s research into Moderna failures to disclose DARPA funding involved an examination of 126 patents granted by USPTO and 154 patent applications published by USPTO.

Moderna appears to be referring to a single Moderna international application made to the World International Property Organization, which manages the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). This international application – WO2019136241A1 – acknowledged support from the DARPA awards, is directed to Chikungunya antibodies and also lists Vanderbilt University as one of the applicants.

WO2019136241A1 was not one of the documents we surveyed since it is an international PCT procedure and not a published U.S. application. The Bayh-Dole disclosure requirements apply to patents filed in the United States. Nonetheless, the fact that this PCT application makes a disclosure is interesting, particularly since WO2019136241A1 names Giuseppe Ciaramella and Sunny Himansu as two of the co-inventors, two scientists who have acknowledged performing work under the DARPA awards, and who also appear as co-inventors in several of Moderna’s USPTO patents and applications where KEI has asked DARPA to investigate Moderna’s failure to disclose DARPA funding.