Wednesday 12 June 2024

Was the U.S. National Institutes of Health conflicted during the COVID-19 pandemic period?

Jon Cohen at Science has an interesting and informative article titled, “Accusers’ bad math: NIH researchers didn’t pocket $710 million inroyalties during pandemic,” published on June 5.  The article addresses allegations that government scientists made $710 million in royalties on COVID-19-related technologies.  Those allegations raise an interesting conflict of interest issue. 

The article is definitely worth a read to provide some clarity to the controversy.  The article does note that government researchers did receive around almost $37 million in royalties during a three-year period that were mostly related to COVID-19-related technologies.  The article also states that there is a significant limit on the amount of royalties an NIH researcher can receive a year: $150,000.  I guess the math adds up to around a maximum of $450,000 over a three period for an individual researcher.  How long will they receive those royalties?  Do we have an issue with this or is this type of system which provides an incentive for government researchers to try to invent useful and valuable inventions for the public a very good thing?  Does the yearly limit effectively eliminate the conflict of interest issue? 

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