The claim: Moderna is owned by Bill and Melinda Gates
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines by various biotech companies has renewed public interest in the major pharmaceutical manufacturer Moderna.
The company has faced unfounded accusations in the past, including alleged ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, according to USA TODAY.
Another claim, posted to Facebook on Dec. 27, states Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, actually founded Moderna with his wife, Melinda.
Gates was among several influential people theorized to support government-mandated vaccination against COVID-19, USA TODAY reported.
The claim, which has no caption, is a screenshot of an Instagram post by user Kool Mango. That post,which appears to be a repost from user lisa.hauri, features a picture of former President Barack Obama next to a woman in a white lab coat. A man and a woman watch from the background.
A comment below the image from lisa.hauri, which was added to Instagram on Dec. 25 is the only text in the post: "THEN: HERE WE HAVE OBAMA, GATES, AND FAUCI AT WUHAN LAB WHERE THEY SPENT 3.7 BILLION. NOW: YOU DO REALIZE THAT MODERNA IS OWNED BY BILL AND MELINDA GATES?"
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who made the post, as well as the original Instagram poster, for comment.
The Instagram post has several inaccuracies, including the location of picture and the identities of those photographed.
Bill Gates does not own Moderna
As a publicly traded company and one of the nation's largest drug developers, Moderna is owned by numerous shareholders, not a single family.
"There is no way to know if (the Gateses) were shareholders because they can keep the public from knowing," the user behind the account lisa.hauri told USA TODAY.
But there is no evidence for this, according to public record. Moderna's founding investor, Flagship Pioneering, is at the top of a list of Top 10 owners of Moderna Inc., according to Nasdaq. Noubar Afeyan, chief executive officer of Flagship Pioneering, co-founded the company with MIT professor Robert S. Langer, according to Flagship's website.
Melinda Gates did not visit Wuhan with Barack Obama
User lisa.hauri correctly identified Obama and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in the picture. But Melinda Gates was not with them.
What's more, the picture wasn't take in Wuhan, China — where the novel coronavirus first emerged — but in the United States.
In 2014, Obama visited the National Institutes of Health in Maryland during the Ebola outbreak, USA TODAY reported in July when fact-checking this same photo with a similar caption. Fauci and Sylvia Burwell, former secretary of Health and Human Services, were with him.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, posted a picture of the visit to the NIH blog on Dec. 2, 2014, with the caption: "Today, we had the great honor of welcoming President Barack Obama to the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD – to see first-hand the progress that biomedical research is making against Ebola virus disease," according to USA TODAY.
Burwell, pictured next to Fauci, was misidentified as Melinda Gates in the claim.
There is no evidence that Obama, Fauci and Gates traveled to a lab in Wuhan "where they spent $3.7 billion," as the claim says.
A separate claim about a multibillion-dollar grant from the Obama administration to a Wuhan research facility was previously debunked by USA TODAY.
Our rating: False
We rate this claim FALSE, based on our research. A social media post wrongly links Bill and Melinda Gates with coronavirus-related conspiracy theories. It misidentifies former HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell as Melinda Gates in a picture that was taken in 2014 at NIH in Maryland, not in a lab in Wuhan, China, as claimed. Further, the Gateses do not "own Moderna." They are not included in a list of major Moderna shareholders or founders.
Our fact-check sources:
NIH Director's Blog, Dec. 2, 2014: "President’s Visit to NIH Highlights Research on Ebola"
Nasdaq, accessed Dec. 29: "Moderna, Inc. Ownership Summary"
USA TODAY, Sept. 11: "Fact check: Moderna post makes false claims about Fauci, Gates, Soros, Epstein"
Flagship Pioneering, accessed Dec. 29: "Companies: Moderna"
MIT Department of Chemical Engineering Langer Lab, accessed Dec. 29: "Professor Robert S. Langer"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Post falsely ties Bill and Melinda Gates, Wuhan, Moderna