October 20, 2020

Moderna board member resigns to avoid conflict of interest during coronavirus vaccine trial

Moderna in Cambridge, MA is pictured on Feb. 28, 2020.

David L. Ryan | The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A member of Moderna’s board of directors resigned to avoid any “potential or even apparent conflict of interest” during the company’s phase three trial for its potential coronavirus vaccine, the company announced Thursday. 

Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Nabel is leaving effective immediately after sitting on the company’s board of directors for five years, Moderna said in a statement. Nabel is president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is one of 89 clinical trial sites participating in the phase three trial of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate. 

“In the context of the start of the 30,000 participant Phase 3 trial for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s final preparation as a site for enrolling up to 300-500 trial participants, we have accepted Betsy’s resignation out of an abundance of caution to avoid any potential or even apparent conflict of interest on her part or Moderna’s part,” the company said in a statement. 

Moderna began its late-stage human trials on Monday in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The company said it remains on track to deliver between 500 million and 1 billion doses per year starting next year.

On Thursday, senior administration officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on a conference call that Moderna and competitor drugmaker Pfizer, which began a phase three trial for its leading vaccine candidate on Monday, have already vaccinated “several hundred people” within the first few days. 

Some of Moderna’s top executives have recently come under scrutiny for selling millions in stock so far this year. While the transactions were prescheduled, the timing and volume of the sales have left shareholders alarmed as the biotech company races toward a vaccine. 

Moderna said this week it received an additional $472 million from the U.S. government to support the development of its potential coronavirus vaccine. The company received $483 million from the federal agency in April. 

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report. 

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