The president of Brigham and Women's Hospital resigned from Moderna's board on Thursday to avoid a potential conflict of interest, as the prominent Boston hospital is participating in the drugmaker's COVID-19 vaccine study.
Brigham and Women's is serving as a clinical research site in Moderna's phase 3 trial to develop its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The hospital's president, Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, has served on Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna's board since 2015 and has a financial interest in the company.
Brigham and Women's disclosed Nabel's connection to Moderna in a news release announcing its involvement with the company's vaccine study.
"Since its inception, this personal relationship has been reviewed and approved in accordance with Mass General Brigham conflict of interest policy and procedure, including a recent review in connection with the Phase 3 study, and has been disclosed to the NIH/NIAID," the release said.
Moderna paid Nabel $487,500 in cash and stock awards to serve on its board last year, according to the company's latest proxy statement.
Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan said in a statement that Nabel's resignation is "out of an abundance of caution to avoid any potential of even apparent conflict of interest on her part or Moderna's part." He said Brigham and Women's will enroll up to 500 trial participants out of 30,000 total.
Not-for-profit health system leaders routinely serve as directors for outside companies, including publicly traded ones, and are often well compensated for doing so. It's also not uncommon for those health systems to simultaneously do business with those companies, although governance experts told Modern Healthcare such relationships must be managed with detailed conflicts of interest policies.
In 2016, the Boston Globe wrote about Nabel's paying positions in addition to being CEO, including a board position on Medtronic that earned her $175,000 plus stock.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's chief medical officer resigned in 2018 following reports he failed to disclose several millions of dollars in payments he received from drug and healthcare companies in dozens of his research articles. That same year, Sloan Kettering's CEO resigned from the boards of Merck and Charles River Laboratories, from which he received roughly $600,000 in cash and stock compensation last year.