Health Care

Stephen Hahn joining venture capital firm behind Moderna

Washington Examiner/Pool

Stephen Hahn, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is set to serve as a chief medical officer at the venture capital firm that launched Moderna, according to a statement by the company Monday.

Flagship Pioneering, which boosted Moderna’s founding in 2010, said Hahn would lead the biotechnology company’s Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative and join the firm’s senior leadership team starting Wednesday.

The appointment comes as Flagship and Moderna, which are headquartered near each other in Cambridge, Mass., continue to maintain strong ties, with Flagship CEO Noubar Afeyan serving as Moderna’s chairman and Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel acting as a special partner of Flagship.

Hahn, who served as the FDA head in former President Trump’s administration, oversaw the emergency use authorization of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in December.

“The importance of investing in innovation and preemptive medicine has never been more heightened,” Hahn said in a statement.

“In my career I have been a doctor and a researcher foremost and it is an honor to join Flagship Pioneering in its efforts to prioritize innovation, particularly in its Preemptive Medicine and Health Security Initiative,” Hahn added. “The more we can embrace a ‘what if …’ approach the better we can support and protect the health and well-being of people here in the US and around the world.”

Afeyan in a statement said Flagship was “delighted” to be bringing Hahn on the team, adding that the firm would “benefit from Steve’s clinical and administrative leadership in helping us dimension and pursue our growing number of explorations and companies in this emerging field.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought into stark focus how important it is to bring increased attention and investment to our health security globally, and to preemptive medicine more broadly,” the CEO added.

Flagship’s appointment of the longtime cancer doctor comes as other former Trump administration officials have gone on to take positions at prominent biotechnology firms, including Hahn’s FDA predecessor, Scott Gottlieb, who joined the board of Pfizer after stepping down from his FDA role in 2019. 

While there are not set rules barring Hahn from taking the position at Flagship, The Washington Post, which first reported that Hahn was being considered for a role at the firm, said that some watchdogs have raised concerns over the former FDA commissioner’s appointment. 

Ethics experts told the Post that Hahn would be limited in communicating with the FDA, including a lifetime ban on matters he worked directly on and a one-year ban on communicating with the government agency on behalf of Flagship.

Walter Shaub, a senior ethics fellow at the Project on Government Oversight and former director of the Office of Government Ethics, told the Post that it was “concerning whenever a high-level government official who was instrumental in actions that may have profited a company turns around and goes to work for that company soon thereafter.” 

“This is one of many gaps in our weak ethics laws,” he added.

The Hill has reached out to Moderna for comment.

Tags Biotechnology Cambridge coronavirus vaccine Donald Trump Massachusetts Moderna Stephen Hahn The Washington Post Trump Administration Walter Shaub

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