A report by Peter Doshi for the British Medical Journal has uncovered two high-ranking officials who worked for the FDA during the pandemic left the public sector position to work for Moderna. Dorian Fink, an employee of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, was part of the decision to license the COVID Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. He left the FDA in December 2022 and began working for Moderna two months later.
Jaya Goswami began working with the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in March of 2020. She had “broad oversight over vaccines and biologics clinical development,” according to her. She also was tasked with determining whether Moderna’s vaccine clinical data met regulatory standards. Moderna was granted that license in January 2022. Goswami departed her position for the FDA in June 2022 to start working for Moderna as the Director of Clinical Development in Infectious Diseases.
Goswami has helped Moderna with the application for a new mRNA vaccine to prevent respiratory syncytial virus, which was submitted in July. The same office Goswami worked for at the FDA, the Office of Vaccines Research and Review, is responsible for reviewing this application.
Post-government employment regulations apply to all government agency employees seeking non-federal employment. 18 US Code 207(a)(1) states, “Former employees are subject to a lifetime ban on communicating to or appearing before the Government on behalf of their new employer or anyone else regarding specific party matters in which they participated personally and substantially during their entire government service.”
Despite these regulations, the BMJ report states that the FDA doesn’t keep records on employees after they leave government positions. They have no procedure to ensure former employees are not taking positions with private companies they were once tasked with regulating. The regulations are self-enforced, meaning Goswami and Fink are responsible for making sure they don’t participate in matters pertaining to government agencies they directly worked for.
Craig Holman is a lobbyist for a consumer advocacy organization, Public Citizen. In the BMJ report, Holman said, “The revolving door is particularly abusive in agencies that have a huge flood of money going in. That’s a big problem with the FDA, especially with the pandemic and Operation Warp Speed”
Holman, as an agent of Public Citizen, submitted an ethics complaint regarding another egregious conflict of interest under President Trump. Moncef Slaoui resigned from the board of Moderna and sold $12 Million of Moderna stock to take a contract position as the co-lead of Operation Warp Speed. Slaoui retained $10 Million worth of stock in GlaxoSmithKline. GSK worked with Sanofi, and together they received $2.1 billion in taxpayer funding through the Operation Warp Speed program.
Slaoui was not a government employee but a contractor. The government employee regulations intended to prevent conflicts of interest do not apply to government contractors. Moderna, as of 2020, had never brought an mRNA product to market despite a decade of trying. With Stephen Hahn as the commissioner, the FDA authorized Moderna’s mRNA vaccine in December 2020. Stephen Hahn joined Flagship Pioneering in June of 2021 as the Chief Medical Officer. Flagship Pioneering is a primary investor of Moderna. Hahn is now labeled as a CEO-partner on the company’s website.
A report published September 2023 in Health Affairs found that 54 percent of CDC staff members went on to work for private pharmaceutical companies between the years of 2004 and 2020. The report also looked at the deparDepartmentealth and Human Services (HHS) and found 32% of their staff went on to work in the private sector of the same industry.
The revolving door between government regulatory agencies and the private companies they regulate has been well established. Scott Gottlieb left his position as the FDA commissioner only to accept a position on the board of Pfizer in less than three months.
In the broader context of conflicts of interest within government regulatory agencies, this isn’t the first time such concerns have been raised. ICAN Lead Attorney, Aaron Siri, Esq., notably discussed a historic cross-examination of leading vaccinologist, Dr. Kathryn Edwards, revealing her conflict of interest as an advisor to Pfizer while simultaneously sitting on Pfizer’s ‘Independent’ Data Safety Monitoring Board for the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Public Citizen, the advocacy group, continues to look for accountability and enforcement of government regulations that should prevent obvious conflicts of interest. Without tracking the former employees of these agencies, no enforcement mechanism can protect the interests of the people. The lack of enforcement ensures American citizens will not get honesty and transparency from government organizations, and the revolving door remains the supreme policy for government employees.
Published Thursday, November 16, 2023