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COVID-19 Vaccine Deal-Making

April 27, 2023

At ACC Docket, Practice Prof. Cynthia Dahl discussed the process of getting the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to the public with Khalil Mitchell, Senior Counsel at Moderna.

At ACC Docket, Cynthia Dahl, Practice Professor of Law, spoke with Khalil Mitchell, Senior Counsel at Moderna about the legal considerations surrounding the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dahl is the Director of the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic (DIPTC), a “teaching law firm” at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. She specializes in the business applications of intellectual property and technology and writes and speaks extensively around the country about teaching in this area.

From ACC Docket:

Cynthia Dahl, Practice Professor of Law Cynthia Dahl, Practice Professor of LawProf. Dahl: What kinds of deals need to be done between developing a vaccine and distribution?

Kahlil Mitchell: First, getting the enzymes to make the vaccine — all those chemicals and lipids and things that go into the vaccine. So that’s the first thing — the supply agreements to get the raw materials in.

And then also different parts of the vaccine — some of the plasmids, the mRNA constructs as they’re called — they had to be scaled up, and we work with different partners throughout the world to help us with that process. And then from there also, once we had all the stuff in the vaccines made, then another company would help us do what’s called fill finish — getting it into sterile vials, capped and ready to go.

So really those were the main agreements I saw; I’m sure there were dozens of others; as our legal team grew there were other things happening, for sure. But that was the part of the process that I was working on.

Khalil Mitchell, Senior Counsel at Moderna Khalil Mitchell, Senior Counsel at ModernaProf. Dahl: In the beginning, you were thinking about these deals prospectively since the vaccine wasn’t finished. Did that affect your approach?

Kahlil Mitchell: That was the scary part of it — that we couldn’t be sure we’d have a vaccine. I have to be honest; my gut was always positive. I always had a feeling that things were going to work out.

And then as the phase one and phase two data were released, it was just so incredibly encouraging. I heard the phrase that we were sort of building the plane as we were flying it.

It was like we were all on this train speeding very fast down a hill and we constantly had to pivot and do other things and change the direction of the tracks, and while we were always moving ahead down the hill, we were definitely laying out the tracks just as things kind of happened… . 

Read the full interview at ACC Docket.