At least nine people have become Big Pharma billionaires, mainly through massive profits that pharmaceutical corporations made developing and selling vaccines to protect people from covid-19.
The Peoples Vaccine Alliance is a movement of health and humanitarian organizations, world leaders, health experts, faith leaders and economists who want vaccines to be available free to all people around the world.
In May, the alliance identified nine billionaires with a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion — enough, it said, to vaccinate all people in low-income countries 1.3 times. These figures were based on the Forbes Rich List data.
Key members of the G20 Global Health Summit, which met in May, sought to put an end to Big Pharma companies’ monopoly of vaccine production by blocking moves to boost supply.
“These billionaires are the new human face of the massive profits most pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly of these vaccines,” said Anna Marriot of Oxfam, a charity that is part of the People Vaccine Alliance. “What a demonstration to our shared failure to control this barbaric disease that we rapidly create new billionaires but we totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need it.”
Low-income countries have received just 0.2 percent of the global supply of vaccines despite being home to 10 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
High- or upper-middle-income countries have received more than 87 percent of global vaccine doses, WHO said.
Member organizations of The People’s Vaccine Alliance include Global Justice Now and UNAIDS. They have called for an end to pharmaceutical corporation’s “monopoly control” of vaccine technology.
“The highly effective vaccines that we currently have are thanks to enormous amounts of taxpayers money. Therefore, it’s not fair that a few individuals are getting rich while millions face second and third waves completely unprotected,” said Heidi Chow, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager at Global Justice Now.
Of the 200.6 million+ covid cases reported worldwide, 180,816,409 people recovered from the virus and 4,265,820 million died, according to Worldometers. Almost 20 percent of the reported cases and 15 percent of the reported deaths are in the U.S. The U.S. has 4.25 percent of the total world population.
Here are nine people who have made billions from selling vaccines.
Stephane Bancel, the CEO of BioNTech, is estimated to be worth more than $4.3 billion, according to an analysis done by The People’s Vaccine Alliance. He became CEO of Moderna in 2011 and owns about 8 percent of the publicly traded company. BioNTech produced a vaccine with Pfizer and for a net profit of $1.3 billion in the first three months of 2021 largely from its sales of the covid-19 vaccine. Moderna’s share price has gained more than 700 percent since February 2020, while BioNTech has surged 600 percent.
Ugur Şahin is also a co-founder and CEO of BioNTech and is estimated to be worth $16.4 billion. Şahin, who was born in Turkey and grew up in Germany, owns about 17 percent of BioNTech, which went public on the Nasdaq in October 2019.
Timothy Springer is an immunologist and professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. He was a founding investor in publicly traded biotech outfit Moderna in 2010, investing about $5 million. He now owns 3.5 percent of the firm’s shares.
Noubar Afeyan is the chairman of biotech firm Moderna whose covid vaccine sales were $1.7 billion in the first three months of 2021. It was the most profitable quarter in the publicly listed pharmaceutical company’s history. Goldman Sachs anticipates Moderna will make $13.2 billion in covid 19 vaccine revenue in 2021. Beyond Afeyan’s stake in Moderna, he also owns shares in more than a dozen publicly traded biotech companies in the U.S.
Juan Lopez-Belmonte was chairman of Madrid-based biotech firm Laboratorios Farmaceuticos Rovi, a company that manufactures and packages the Moderna vaccine. With his sons, he owned more than 60 percent of the Madrid-listed company until his death in July 2021. His son Juan Lopez-Belmonte Encina is CEO of the company and two other sons serve as vice presidents.
Robert Langer is a scientist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was one of the founding investors in Moderna and currently owns a 3 percent stake in the company.
Zhu Tao is co-founder and chief scientific officer of China’s CanSino Biologics, a supplier of vaccine products. Zhu was an early investor in Moderna and has become a billionaire on paper as shares skyrocketed, partly in expectation of profits earned from covid vaccines.
Like Zhu, Qui also made his billions as Moderna share price skyrocketed. The company received conditional approval in February for its one-shot covid-19 vaccine from Chinese regulators.
Mao Huihua is also a co-founder and senior vice president of CanSino Biologics, a vaccine supplier. Mao obtained master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1984 and 1988.