Molnupiravir, the antiviral drug that reduces hospitalizations and deaths by 50% from COVID was originally developed at Emory University with $35 million in taxpayer grants.
Alexander Zaitchik, author of Owning the Sun: A People's History of Monopoly Medicine from Aspirin to COVID-19 Vaccines says, “Yeah, it was developed with a series of federal grants at Emory University, which sold exclusive rights to a very small biotechnology company in Miami called Ridgeback, which was in practice and in purpose as much of a hedge fund as a biotechnology company who then flipped it to Merck for final trials and correct me if I'm wrong, but Merck is now going to be bringing it to market pretty much in control of the licensing and prices pricing moving forward exclusively.”
Today, the exclusive rights to this COVID-fighting antiviral pill belong to the corporate giant Merck. Even though molnupiravir was developed by researchers at Emory, and was funded by public dollars, doesn’t mean that any wrongdoing was taking place.
Patent attorney Joe Runge notes, “The pharmaceutical system certainly has its drawbacks, but the specialization of it essentially creates this exact network of companies that do the investment to do the necessary work to de-risk the project. So it can then go to the companies and actually distribute them to the people who need the drugs.”
Joe adds, “if that value chain if the return on those values is appropriate or fair, I'm not entirely sure, but that system is necessary in order to have all the different technical players in place to be able to bring the product to market.”
Only time will tell on how profitable this medication will be, but I think everyone is happy knowing molnupiravir can help bring an end to this global pandemic.
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