Brigham president resigns from Moderna board after conflict of interest questions raised

Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said Thursday she was resigning from the Moderna board of directors after the Globe inquired about whether her position at the Cambridge biotech company conflicted with her hospital’s leadership role in a large study of Moderna’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

The hospital said in a statement that when Nabel joined Moderna’s board in 2015, Brigham and Women’s parent company put protections in place to prevent a conflict of interest. It said more safeguards were imposed when the hospital was named one of 89 clinical sites for the late-stage trial, which began Monday with the dosing of a healthy volunteer in Georgia. The nationwide study is being led partly by a Brigham infectious diseases specialist.

In addition to sitting on the Moderna board, Nabel also owns stock in the company, whose share price has almost quadrupled this year. On July 15, she sold 73,975 shares worth nearly $6.5 million.

“Despite the management plans that have been put in place to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine study is not compromised due to my connection with Moderna, I have come to realize that those who do not know me, or how such trials are conducted, may perceive a conflict of interest,” Nabel said in a statement. “It is critically important that the public trust the conduct and outcome of the vaccine trials, so in the best interest of the greater good, I have made the difficult decision to resign from the Moderna Board.”

Dr. Roy Poses, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Brown University who writes about medical ethics, commended Nabel for stepping down ― just hours after he mentioned that step as a potential remedy to the potential conflict during an earlier Globe interview.

“She did the right thing,” he said. “It eliminates one issue that could have led to unfounded skepticism about this trial, and this is a trial where people have to trust the results.”

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