By Ben Johnson
Every year, the National Institutes of Health awards $30 billion in taxpayer-funded grants, but federal scientists — including Dr. Anthony Fauci — have also received tens of thousands of royalty payments, often from the very companies petitioning for those grants. A handful of Republican senators have demanded federal bureaucrats answer concerns about this potential conflict of interest.
A Freedom of Information Act request by the federal government watchdog OpenTheBooks.com found 22,100 separate royalty payments totaling $134 million made to almost 1,700 NIH scientists between 2009 and 2014. As robust as that sounds, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The NIH has yet to disclose another 1,800 pages of grants covering 2015 to 2020. Researchers estimate grants come to $350 million over 10 years.
The payments, for inventions the scientists often made while employed by the federal government, come in even as they decide whether those companies receive lucrative federal grants.
“I think the pandemic has exposed so much capture by Big Pharma of our federal health agencies. There’s a lot of corruption going on there,” said Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Tuesday. “We need people that work for government to be looking out for the people’s interest, not their own personal interests. And when you’re paying royalties, particularly drug [companies] or technologies, that completely corrupts the process.”
Johnson led a group of five senators in demanding the NIH answer whether these payments may have influenced which companies received money.