According to Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski, Fauci and the others at the NIH haven’t just doled out billions in dollars for research grants over the past few decades. They’ve also, according to Andrzejewski, received hundreds of millions of dollars in cash flowing back toward them from pharmaceutical companies and other interested parties.
News on that comes from the Open the Books Substack, in which he wrote:
We estimate that between fiscal years 2010 and 2020, more than $350 million in royalties were paid by third-parties to the agency and NIH scientists – who are credited as co-inventors.
Because those payments enrich the agency and its scientists, each and every royalty payment could be a potential conflict of interest and needs disclosure.
Recently, our organization at OpenTheBooks.com forced NIH to disclose over 22,100 royalty payments totaling nearly $134 million paid to the agency and nearly 1,700 NIH scientists. These payments occurred during the most recently available period (September 2009 – September 2014).
Hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to only 1,700 NIH scientists! One would think their parking lot would have some nicer cars in it.
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While the number of royalty payments to each scientist could be figured out by Andrzejewski and his team, just what the payments totaled was a bit more nebulous, as that information had been redacted. Reporting on that aspect of the situation, the Substack article claimed:
We found agency leadership and top scientists at NIH receiving royalty payments. Well-known scientists receiving payments during the period included:
- Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the highest-paid federal bureaucrat, received 23 royalty payments. (Fauci’s 2021 taxpayer-funded salary: $456,028).
- Francis Collins, NIH director from 2009-2021, received 14 payments. (Collins’ 2021 taxpayer-funded salary: $203,500)
- Clifford Lane, Fauci’s deputy at NIAID, received 8 payments. (Lane’s 2021 taxpayer-funded salary: $325,287)
In the above examples, although we know the number of payments to each scientist, we still don’t know how much money was paid – because the dollar figure was deleted (redacted) from the disclosures.
And those are just some of the higher-profile names. Compared to some of the others involved, their royalty payment numbers were quite small. Robert Gallow of the National Cancer Institute, for example, received 271 payments and his colleague at the NCI, Ira Pastan, received 250 payments.
Apparently, the royalty payments happen because the scientists, working with millions in government funding, discover some new invention, use for technology, or treatment. That treatment is then transferred to pharma companies via a “technology transfer”, and if it is used then the researchers and scientists that discovered it receive royalty payments, as they are listed on the patent.
Thus, the scientists and researchers are essentially, according to Andrzejewski, using taxpayer money to discover things that they then reap some of the profits from. Reporting on that aspect of it, Open the Books said:
When an NIH employee makes a discovery in their official capacity, the NIH owns the rights
to any resulting patent. These patents are then licensed for commercial use to companies
that could use them to bring products to market. Employees are listed as inventors on the
patents and receive a share of the royalties obtained through any licensing, or “technology
transfer,” of their inventions.
Essentially, taxpayer money funding NIH research benefits researchers employed by NIH
because they are listed as patent inventors and therefore receive royalty payments from
Andrzejewski framed that as a major conflict of interest, saying that:
“We believe there is an unholy conflict of interest inherent at NIH. Consider the fact that each year, NIH doles out $32 billion in grants to approximately 56,000 grantees. Now we know that over an 11-year period, there is going to be approximately $350 million flowing the other way from third-party payers, many of which receive NIH grants, and those payments are flowing back to NIH scientists and leadership.”
Perhaps the NIH scientists are just very clever innovators and researchers. Given that the whole process has been approved by the government, which gives the patents to the pharma companies, nothing illegal appears to have happened. But, still, it doesn’t look good, as Andrzejewski notes.