Brigham president leaves Moderna board, cites possible perceived conflict of interest

Betsy Nabel, MD, president of Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said she is stepping down from the Moderna board to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest with the drugmaker working on an experimental COVID-19 vaccine.   

Dr. Nabel, who joined the Moderna board in 2015 and is paid for her service, is leaving immediately “to avoid any potential of even apparent conflict of interest on her part or Moderna’s part,” Moderna said July 30.  

In a written statement, hospital spokesperson Erin McDonough said that Dr. Nabel joined the Moderna board in an individual capacity, and an individual management plan was put in place in accordance with conflict-of-interest policy and procedure at the hospital’s parent company, Mass General Brigham. Another plan was implemented to ensure individual and institutional compliance when Brigham was identified as a site for Moderna’s phase 3 vaccine trial, which began July 27, according to the statement.

But “despite the management plans that have been put in place to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine study is not compromised due to my connection with Moderna, I have come to realize that those who do not know me, or how such trials are conducted, may perceive a conflict of interest,” Dr. Nabel said. “It is critically important that the public trust the conduct and outcome of the vaccine trials, so in the best interest of the greater good, I have made the difficult decision to resign from the Moderna.”

The study will take place at 89 sites and include about 30,000 people. Lindsey Baden, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at Brigham and an expert in vaccine development for viral diseases, is serving as co-principal investigator of the study.

Results of Moderna’s study are expected by November.


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