Big pharma minted 9 new billionaires in the last 2 years; with combined wealth greater than the cost of vaccinating the world’s poorest countries
Who said you can’t make billions while claiming to save lives? The pharmaceutical industry has minted at least nine billionaires since the covid pandemic started almost two years ago. The “booster jabs have become easy money for Pfizer and Moderna” as the two companies “found an additional pot of gold” and turned covid vaccines into a money-making machine.
While covid is one of the worst pandemics in recent memory, it has also created enormous opportunities for pharmaceutical companies small and large as governments around the world spent billions on millions of covid vaccines, thanks to the $6 billion big pharma spent $6 billion on lobbying politicians.
Although Pfizer is one of the most popular pharmaceutical companies working on mRNA vaccines, behind the pharma giant are two previously known biotech startup companies, Moderna and BioNTech. They were founded in 2008 and 2010 respectively with the goal of pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) therapies in the world of healthcare.
Before 2020, Moderna and BioNTech were relatively two unknown biotech startups that never produced or launched a product and didn’t even have credit ratings. In just two years, Moderna has gone from an unknown startup to a multi-billion dollar company with a market capitalization of $97.68 billion, making its CEO Stéphane Bancel a billionaire.
The same is true for BioNTech, which later partnered with Pfizer to develop mRNA vaccines. Today, the BioTech startup is now valued at $58.54 billion (from $46.33 billion when we wrote about the company in April) and also making its CEO Ugur Sahin a billionaire.
So, how did these pharmaceutical companies and their founders become overnight billionaires? An analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance alleged that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna charged governments as much as $41 billion above the estimated cost of production, at least five times more expensive than they could be.
Moderna and BioNTech are not alone. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, CanSino Biologics, and ROVI also made billions from the vaccines. Today, covid vaccines have become a $100 billion-plus business, thanks to the excessive profits pharmaceutical companies with monopolies on COVID vaccines are making.
BioNTech SE is a German biotech startup based in Mainz, Germany that develops and manufactures active immunotherapies for patient-specific approaches to the treatment of diseases. It was founded by CEO Uğur Şahin, Özlem Türeci, and Christoph Huber. We’ve written extensively about BioNTech over the years.
Today, the two CEOs now top the list of new pharma billionaires at a combined worth of around $18.67 billion, according to an analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a campaign group that includes Oxfam, UNAIDS, Global Justice Now, and Amnesty International.
Between them, the nine new pharma billionaires, now have a combined net wealth of at least $25 billion, enough to fully vaccinate all people in low-income countries 1.3 times. According to a report from Oxfam International, these countries have received only 0.2 percent of the global supply of vaccines, because of the massive shortfall in available doses, despite being home to 10 percent of the world’s population.
“In addition, eight existing billionaires –who have extensive portfolios in the COVID-19 vaccine pharma corporations– have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion, enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India,” Oxfam reported.
Below are the 9 new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth:
- Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO (worth $7.57 billion)
- Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $$11.1 billion)
- Timothy Springer, an immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $5 billion)
- Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s Chairman (worth $3.3 billion)
- Juan Lopez-Belmonte, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8 billion)
- Robert Langer, a scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6 billion)
- Zhu Tao, co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3 billion)
- Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2)
- Mao Huihua, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1 billion)
Below is a Forbes Magazine of new pharma billionaires who got rich fighting covid.