COVID-19 vaccines create nine new Big Pharma billionaires

May 20, 2021: At least nine people have become new billionaires since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the excessive profits made by pharmaceutical corporations with monopolies on COVID vaccines, The People’s Vaccine Alliance revealed ahead of a G20 leaders Global Health Summit.

Key members of the G20 who meet on May 21, including the UK, Germany and Australia, are blocking moves to boost supply by ending companies’ monopoly control of vaccine production as COVID-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.

Italy, who are hosting the G20 Global Health Summit, are continuing to sit on the fence on the issue, as are Canada and France.

Between them the nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate 776 million people in low-income countries 1.3 times over. Meanwhile, these countries have received only 0.2 per cent of the global supply of vaccines, because of the massive shortfall in available doses, despite being home to 10 per cent 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 1,380 million people in India.

Campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance – whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and UNAIDS - have analysed Forbes Rich List data to highlight the massive wealth being generated for a handful of people from vaccines which were largely public funded.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said: “What a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we quickly create new vaccine billionaires but totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need to feel safe”.

Earlier this month the US backed proposals by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation to temporarily suspend the patents on COVID-19 vaccines. This move has the support of over 100 developing countries, and in recent days countries like Spain have also declared their support, as has the Pope and over 100 world leaders and Nobel laureates.

Heidi Chow, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager at Global Justice Now, said, “The highly effective vaccines we have are thanks to massive amounts of taxpayers’ money, so it can’t be fair that private individuals are cashing in while hundreds of millions face second and third waves completely unprotected. It is a sad indictment of the loyalties of some current governments that a handful of people working for pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to become billionaires off the back of publicly-funded efforts to end the pandemic”.

The nine new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth are:

  1. Stéphane Bancel - Moderna’s CEO (worth $4.3 billion)
  2. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $4 billion)
  3. Timothy Springer - an immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $2.2bn)
  4. Noubar Afeyan - Moderna’s Chairman (worth $1.9 billion)
  5. Juan Lopez-Belmonte-- Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8 billion)
  6. Robert Langer - a scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6 billion)
  7. Zhu Tao co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3 billion)
  8. Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2)
  9. Mao Huinhoa, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1 billion)

The eight vaccine billionaires who saw their wealth increase are:

Name

Role/description

$ billions

2021

$ billions

2020

Jiang Rensheng & family

Chair, Zhifei Biological products

$ 24.40

$7.60

Cyrus Poonawalla

Founder, Serum Institute of India

$12.70

$8.20

Tse Ping

Sinopharm

$8.90

$7.30

Wu Guanjiang

Co-founder, Zhifei Biological products

$5.10

$1.80

Thomas Struengmann & family

portfolio includes Germany's BioNTech and Uruguay's Mega Pharma

$11.00

$9.60

Andreas Struengmann & family

portfolio includes Germany's BioNTech and Uruguay's Mega Pharma

$11.00

$9.60

Pankaj Patel

controls listed company Cadila Healthcare. The company now manufactures drugs to treat Covid-19 such as Remdesivir from Gilead. Its Covid-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D, is undergoing clinical trials.

$5.00

$2.90

Patrick Soon-Shiong

ImmunityBio - selected for the US federal government's "Operation Warp Speed" to help quickly develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

$7.50

$6.40