Yes, the CDC vaccine patents are a large portfolio of intellectual property on various aspects of vaccines, because the CDC does a boatload of research on infectious disease, which leads to vaccines. Eventually, they invent something, maybe finding the exact antigen on a virus that induces an immune response, and patent attorneys at the CDC file a patent on that “invention.” It protects the CDC from corporations or individuals who would rely upon CDC inventions, then patent it for themselves. So, the CDC (or any federal science agency, like the NIH, US Geological Survey, or whomever) has a portfolio of patents it can license to anyone who wants to pay for them.
Now the CDC does not license the patents themselves. The patents are licensed to outside entities by the National Institutes of Health Office of Technology Transfer (OTT), which is responsible for licensing all of the patents generated from the Department of Health and Human Services. So, even at this point, the CDC really isn’t responsible for selling the patents and receiving the royalties, but that’s probably not an important issue with regards to Ginger Taylor’s convoluted conspiracy theory.
So, in the immortal words of somebody, “follow the money.” We shall do that, but be prepared to be shocked and dismayed at what I found. And by “shocked and dismayed,” I really mean “yawn loudly.” As opposed to Ms. Taylor’s wide-eyed reporting of some nonexistent conspiracy, I actually looked up the numbers. Took a little work, but I got there.
The CDC lists out all of the technology it has available to be licensed – that’s about 37 patents, which have some reasonable tie to vaccines or the vaccination process. Now, Ginger Taylor claims that there 57 patents from the CDC for vaccines, but that ignores the process of licensing. Some patents, as I’ve mentioned above, don’t stand alone, and have little value. She went about it like a typical Google University student, pretending to know more than she really does.
Looking through the technology that the CDC has, none of it will give you a right to manufacture the vaccine, again, as we mentioned above. I suppose this feathery dinosaur could license one of the CDC vaccine patents, open a manufacturing facility in his garage, and begin selling a Streptococcus A vaccine. Unfortunately, that same feathery dinosaur would need literally dozens of other patents that would need to be licensed – from manufacturing technology, to any unique ingredients, to just about everything else. At this point, I’d need to get some more gold bars to even begin manufacturing. And remember, even if I get all of those patents, the FDA still needs to approve my new Strep A vaccine.
You see, it’s more than that one patent from the CDC. It’s a huge process, and the cranky old dinosaur just doesn’t have the energy, money, or determination to bring out that vaccine.
But there’s more.
The OTT reported in 2014 (pdf) that they had earned royalties of about $138 million across all of the licensed technology from NIH. Remember, CDC technology is only a tiny part of the overall NIH licensing activities. Of that $138 million, 84%, or $116 million, resulted from OTT’s top 20 technologies.
But here’s where it gets interesting, only one of those top 20 technologies was CDC related – immunoreactive peptides for use in an HPV vaccine. Not the vaccine mind you, but just the parts of the proteins that would induce an immune response. Because of nondisclosure agreements, it is difficult to tease out the data of how much of that $116 million was associated with the CDC’s technology. But if we just make all top 20 products equal in value (and the OTT report made it clear one product got the bulk of that money, so this is an really high estimate), the CDC got $5.8 million for the HPV technology.
According to the rules of Federal Government, almost all of the royalties are plowed back into basic scientific research. And if you’re thinking, which I know the anti-vaccine types will be, that the CDC will prostitute itself for $5.8 million, well that kind of ignores a basic bit of information. The CDC budget is over $7 billion (pdf), so this royalty makes up less than the 0.1% of the total CDC budget. Since people usually attribute ethics to others that they do to themselves, maybe Ginger Taylor will sell her intellectual rights for $5.8 million, but what makes anyone think that the dedicated public servants at the CDC would? Moreover, there is little financial gain for an individual, just for basic scientific research to save human lives.
This is so frustrating. Ginger Taylor wants to convince us that the CDC pushes vaccines just to earn a measly $5.8 million dollars, basically rounding error in the accounting for a huge federal agency like the CDC. I imagine all the labs at the CDC throw away $5.8 million in micropipette tips every year. And I’m not joking.