Is UPenn profiting from COVID-19 vaccine approvals and sales? Read the BioNTech contract.

A university press release confirms that UPenn and its researchers 'have received and may continue to receive significant financial benefits' as the result of a 2018 contract with BioNTech.

Under this agreement, the university initially received a one-time $20 million payment to fund its research activities and a $5 million payment to fund 'initial development programs.'

A 2018 licensing agreement between the University of Pennsylvania and BioNTech reveals that the university apparently benefits from the sale of mRNA Coronavirus vaccines. 

As reported by National File, BioNTech published a press release in 2018 announcing its partnership with University of Pennsylvania researchers for the purpose of developing “novel nucleoside-modified mRNA vaccine candidates for the prevention and treatment of various infectious diseases.” 

“If proprietary Penn technology is part of a new mRNA-based vaccine, the university will be eligible to receive additional milestone payments and royalties from BioNTech,” the press release states.

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In December 2020, the university published a news release revealing that “Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines both use licensed University of Pennsylvania technology.” 

“As a result of these licensing relationships, Penn, [and University of Pennsylvania researchers] have received and may continue to receive significant financial benefits in the future based on the sale of these products,” the news release continues.

The “significant financial benefits” stem from a 2018 licensing agreement between UPenn and BioNTech. 

Under this agreement, the university initially received a one-time $20 million payment to fund its research activities and a $5 million payment to fund “initial development programs.” 

Additionally, the university receives “milestone payments” each time a new phased study begins or each time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other regulatory agency approves a vaccine application, referred to as a “BLA”, up to the first three approvals.

“Licensee will pay Penn each of the following milestone payments (each, a ‘Development Milestone Payment’) upon the first, second and third achievement of the corresponding milestone by any Licensed Product,” the agreement states.

BioNTech also pays the University of Pennsylvania “Commercial Milestone Payments” and royalties in accordance with worldwide net sales of its vaccines. 

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Per the agreement, UPenn maintains civil legal immunity for itself, which protects the institution from being held liable for “bodily injury” or “death” that might occur due to the vaccine.

“Licensee shall defend, indemnify and hold Penn and its respective trustees, officers, faculty, students, employees, contractors and agents (the ‘Penn Indemnitees’) harmless from and against any and all liability, damage, loss, cost or expense (including reasonable attorneys’ fees), including, without limitation, bodily injury, risk of bodily injury, death and property damage to the extent arising out of Third Party claims or suits,” the agreement states. 

UPenn and BioNTech did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment in time for publication.