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The Mapping Project


Moderna is a biotech firm, located in Kendall Square in Cambridge, that was co-founded by Harvard scientists. Like other biotechs and pharmaceutical companies, Moderna’s business model is to privatize work that’s been collectively developed through public funding – in this case, RNA-based vaccines. This is why, as journalist Alex Zaitchik points out, it’s a misnomer to call Covid RNA-based vaccines “the Moderna vaccine” (or “company X vaccine”) – it should really be called a public vaccine since it was funded with public money (mostly research funded by the National Institutes of Health).

Moderna took the fruits of decades of collective labor and privatized it, creating a mega lucrative Covid vaccine. This vaccine enriched the company and its shareholders, including a Harvard Medical School professor, Timothy Springer, who became a billionaire from his investment in Moderna. Moderna also contributes to displacement and ethnic cleansing of Cambridge, especially as it plans to expand its space in the area. Meanwhile, the state continues to enrich Moderna: the company has received over $8 billion from the Pentagon, as of 2021, according to USASpending records.

Some local residents and scientists have protested against Moderna in 2022, asking it to “free” the vaccine – something that’s contrary to the company’s business model. Moderna responded with a PR stunt saying it won’t enforce its patent. This is misleading because the major barrier to producing such vaccines is often a combination of trade secrets (not disclosed in patent) and access to relevant reagents and material resources. It is also important to recognize the Western imperialist attitude sometimes found in these campaigns from the US, which presume that effective vaccines cannot be developed in the Global South, only in Europe and the US, and must therefore be “freed” and turned over to the needy in an act of benevolence from the West. (Such narratives also hide the fact that vaccine developers depend on the Global South for their profits – e.g., AstraZeneca and Oxford University tested their vaccines on South Africans, who they later charged more than double for the vaccine compared to European countries.)

200 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139

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