The fight over mRNA tech is on
Aug 26, 2022
Episode 740

The fight over mRNA tech is on

and more news from Mar-a-Lago.

Today, we’re going to get smart about two legal fights with big implications. First, we get into the weeds of the Mar-a-Lago affidavit. Then, we move to the world of pharmaceuticals, where a lawsuit could determine who owns the future of mRNA technology. And finally, we lighten up the mood with a round of our favorite game, Half Full/Half Empty.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We love hearing from you. If you’ve got a question, comment or suggestion, send us a voice memo at or leave a voice message at 508-U-B-SMART. 

Make Me Smart August 26, 2022 transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


Kai Ryssdal: I’ll switch through this and get this big black circle out of in front of my face. And now of course when I’m doing my thing and muttering, Drew’s like, okay, now. Now.


Kimberly Adams: It’s perfect timing.


Kai Ryssdal: Hey everybody, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense.


Kimberly Adams: And I am Kimberly Adams. Thanks to everyone for joining us on the YouTube live stream and on the podcast for economics on tap. Today, we are going to be doing the news fix and then play a little half full half empty. You will notice there is no artwork or Jasper in my background, because I’m actually in the LA studios, so there will be no Jasper cameos today. No cat action behind me.


Kai Ryssdal: I know why I didn’t recognize it. Because you’re sitting, you’re sitting in the other spot as opposed to the “spot” spot.


Kimberly Adams: Yes, I’m not, because I know how sensitive you get whenever people move your stuff. So I’m on the other side…


Kai Ryssdal: Well, that’s like my office, and then people go in there and they move around! And I’m like, what?


Kimberly Adams: I know and that’s why I’m sitting over here on the other side of the studio because I care about you. And I also care –


Kai Ryssdal: Now I’m a jerk. Okay, all right. Okay.


Kimberly Adams: What are you drinking Kai?


Kai Ryssdal: So, okay, so look, so first of all, I’m having water, I’m doing it in a copy a glass. And you know how sometimes you just, you don’t feel like having a drink? You’re like, you’re tired, and it’s been a day, and you’re like, I just need to just not. And that’s where I am today. So I figured I just wouldn’t.


Kimberly Adams: You know, it’s so funny. I went for a hike today. And it took a lot out of me. And I was really like, I don’t want to drink today. But I was trying to like get it together for the podcast. But then the hotel bar where I was gonna get like something to take over was closed. And so then began this epic search of the mostly abandoned Marketplace headquarters for what kind of alcohol is here, and the only thing they had was beer. And so.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s so funny, because I was just gonna say there’s an 805 in the kitchen fridge way back on the second shelf on the left hand side. It was on my desk for so long. Somebody put it on my desk, like honest to God a year and a half ago. And I left it there for a while and then I put it in the fridge. So I’m glad it’s being used. That is so funny.


Kimberly Adams: I don’t think I’ve had a beer in like, years. Please forgive whatever face I’m about to make. Now I’m sure that’s wonderful for beer drinkers. No offense to the Firestone Walker Brewing Company. My bad.


Kai Ryssdal: Absolutely. Absolutely.


Kimberly Adams: And it is not bad for a beer.


Kai Ryssdal: It’s not. It’s not bad for a beer. I totally get it.


Kimberly Adams: So thanks to the Marketplace engineers for coming to the rescue with the location of all the beers.


Kai Ryssdal: For sure. Did now – is there nothing, is there nothing in the back fridge? Did they not tell you about the secret engineer back fridge?


Kimberly Adams: No, that’s where it was. Well, no, there was a different fridge – no, the kitchen fridge near the engineers but they did offer me things from the secret engineer fridge but. Which is no longer secret thanks to you, but whatever.  Sorry. I guess not. So look, everybody out there listening, swing by Marketplace, there’s a secret engineers fridge. That’s pretty funny. You go right, and then another right, then you go to the back.  All right, what’s your news?


Kai Ryssdal: Alright, so look. So I do not want to belabor the point about the unsealing of the redacted affidavit in support of the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. But I have two comments to make. Number one, excuse me, and I’ve said this before, when stupid security clearance things – not stupid, when serious security thing, security clearance things have happened. But if I or literally anybody else, so when I was in the service, I had top secret Sensitive Compartmented Information, code word clearances for Special Access Programs. If I had done what the former President of United States did, I would have been – I’d be in jail. I would truly be in jail. Immediately. Immediately. Like, like, yeah, yeah. So so there’s that, right?


Kimberly Adams: And not even allegedly did, we don’t even have to add the conditions on this.


Kai Ryssdal: No, because we know! Because it’s there!


Kimberly Adams: Because it’s there. And his lawyers are like, yeah, he had it but he could have it. It was allowed. And we’re just like, no.


Kai Ryssdal: His lawyers… can you imagine what the…


Kimberly Adams: I hear they missed a filing deadline today.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, God. Anyway. But I do want to make sure everybody realizes the severity of the violation. I’m not talking statutory violation or regulatory violation, I’m talking classification violation. We will put this on our web, on our show page. It’s obviously everywhere too if you want to find it. Here is a part of the affidavit unredacted, further the FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartments dissemination controls, HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI. Now, I don’t need to tell you what any of those are, you can Google them. But here’s the important part, HCS, those are human confidential sources. So those are actual people, right, that our intelligence services have made contact with who are giving us information that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. Let’s say there’s somebody in the room with a foreign leader when they’re having conversations. Let’s say there’s somebody in the room with a foreign military leader when they’re having conversations. That is what HCS means, right? And people die when those horses get burned. And I don’t know what’s going to happen out of these. I don’t know what has happened. I don’t know what, who knows about what in those documents now. I mean, honestly, there could be pictures on them in the Kremlin right now. Who knows? But this is serious. Sorry, Bridget. And this is serious, serious stuff. And we all need to understand that.


Kimberly Adams: I mean, not to mention like, so that’s the human potential costs, but also like the national security implications. These are documents that have to do with like the defense of our country, that have just been chilling at Mar-a-Lago where there was, there have been multiple documented incidents where he was just casually having conversations with random people around. There was basically someone who was affiliated with Chinese intelligence who was like arrested there. I mean, it’s not in the tiniest bit a secure place. And I was reading one of the articles, the boxes that they got earlier from Trump that he did release? When the National Archives got those boxes, apparently mixed in with these top secret and confidential and highly classified documents were like, newspaper clippings, and magazines, and just random notes, and just all jumbled up together. And it’s like, no, you’re not supposed to mix those things together.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah. It’s really bad. It’s really, really bad. Anyway, that’s it. That’s me.


Kimberly Adams: Okay. So my news fix is super fascinating to me. Moderna is suing Pfizer and BioNTech for patent infringement for the mRNA technology that created the COVID vaccines. Now, if you remember, early on in the pandemic, when they were making these rush for vaccines, we finally get some, and everyone was like, you know, these companies had been developing this at the same time, and it just, and they were rushing to sort of beat each other, but that’s why we have these two different mRNA vaccines. Moderna is saying that that is not the case, that Pfizer and BioNTech, BioNTech, I’m always mispronouncing that, took their technology. And they want like something like tripled damages, with the caveat that they don’t want damages on their sales in really low-income countries, because they don’t want, I guess they’re trying to look like a good guy or whatever. And then they don’t want damages off of, say the sales during the pandemic in the US. There’s all these like conditions or something. And meanwhile, Moderna is also being sued by other companies, alleging that they infringed on other patents when they were doing it. Now also, I think I said copyright earlier, I meant patents sorry, journalism brain. But here’s the thing. mRNA technology is not just useful for the COVID vaccine, it has the potential and I know you and Molly talked about this quite a bit during the vaccine development to completely upend the way we do health care, and to, you know, open the door for vaccines for so many different diseases. And there are a lot of people who have said that that technology should just be in the common so that everybody can be developing things. And what this is a signal of is that Moderna wants to keep that intellectual property, which means that anybody who wants to use the mRNA technology to develop something else would have to keep paying Moderna. And if they win this case, or you know, if a version of this ends up happening, where courts decide that these patents rest exclusively with these pharmaceutical companies, it is going to have a chilling effect on the deployment of this technology elsewhere. So it’s very important to see how that goes down. Yep, totally agree. Absolutely. Huge story. Which I did not get into on Marketplace today, but whatever. Anyway. There is always Monday. All right, shall we? Let’s do it. So before we play the game, I think I have to just like out Drew and make him stand up.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, yeah, for sure.


Kimberly Adams: Because, like the first chance anybody… and now he leaves. He’s like, no, I have to do my job. It’s very serious. Okay, go ahead, Drew.


Drew Jostad: I am so focused on these topics. Are you half full or half empty on dating in the metaverse?


Kimberly Adams: I’m not half full on dating in real life.


Kai Ryssdal: I don’t even know, I don’t even know. I’m gonna be empty just because it’s gotta be horrible. It’s gotta be horrible. I’m,


Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna go half empty. You know, it’s probably inevitable. Just like online dating. At first everyone was like, oh, how terrible. You must be desperate if you do that. And now it’s just like the default. So, you know, march of technology.


Kai Ryssdal: Yep. Fair.


Drew Jostad: Okay. On Wednesday, scientists announced an exoplanet 100 light years away that may be covered in a liquid ocean. Are you half full or half empty?


Kimberly Adams: It has carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Kai Ryssdal: Wow.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. I’m half full, optimistic, excited. I mean, probably still not a planet we can live on, but the fact that we keep – ever since the James Webb Space Telescope started looking, the fact that we keep finding planets with things that are very close to what we have? That’s all exciting and it’s only really a matter of time.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, totally. How did I miss that. Yeah, totally half full. Wow.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah.


Drew Jostad: All right. This next one is one of Kai’s stories. Are you half full or half empty on a four-day work week?


Kimberly Adams: I like that interview.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, yeah. Did an interview this week about a woman whose company, a market research company of about 25 people, tried a four-day work week, did not work out, they’re going back to five. Here’s the interesting part about this story, though. They didn’t just say like, everybody gets Monday off, or everybody gets Friday off or whatever. It’s, you got, cut down to 32 hours, same pay, but you vary throughout the week so they always had coverage for these high end clients. And it didn’t work out. People got less satisfied with their workplace in this 10-week trial, because they couldn’t draw the boundaries. They didn’t understand that a day off meant a day off. And they were still doing work emails, and they were still thinking about projects. And so they’re gonna go back and try it again. I think a four-day – I don’t know, I don’t know. I mean, I’m a guy who needs structure. So it’d be really tricky for me actually to be productive and do it only in four days. But I don’t know, I don’t know.


Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna say half full, because all this discourse recently about the quiet quitting thing, and then the backlash of all the people saying, you know, similar to what I did, it’s like, no, we really do need to be setting boundaries at work. I feel like younger generations are much better at setting work boundaries, and are imposing that on the workplace. So maybe like, you and I can’t navigate a four-day workweek. But I feel like the folks coming after us probably could do that. And so I’m gonna say half full.


Kai Ryssdal: I think that’s true. I think that’s totally true. I agree with that. I’ll go with half full. Not for me, but for the – yeah, for sure. Yep.


Drew Jostad: Okay, one of the cofounders of MoviePass says he plans to get it back up and running in September. Are you half full or half empty?


Kai Ryssdal: I’m completely ridiculous. Let’s just remind people what MoviePass was right. It was this program where you can pay 10, 15 bucks a month and then go see as many movies as you want it. The catch was that MoviePass, the company, was paying those movie theaters full freight for every time you walked in the door. So you gave them $10 a month, you went to see five movies? That’s 15 bucks a whack. And everybody looked at it and said, how can this possibly work? And shockingly, in 2019, MoviePass went out of business. Now they’re coming back. The beta opens in September and they say it’s going to work. Details TK, as we say in journalism, details to come. Don’t ask me why it’s K and not C. Half empty. It’s ridiculous. Sorry, rant.


Kimberly Adams: I’m going to say half empty, but for a different reason.


Kai Ryssdal: You’re, you’re very quiet.


Kimberly Adams: Well, because I’m pondering this really hard, because I went to the movies with my nephew when he was in town to go see Minions, right? And we were the only people in the movie theater. But they were handing out these little flyers, because Regal Cinemas has effectively a MoviePass plan where you pay something like 25 or 30 or 40 bucks a month or something. And you can see as many movies as you want. And you can even see back-to-back movie in a given day. And I was like, this is MoviePass, and how are they doing it? But it is the cinema itself doing it. So given that something like that exists, I don’t know how MoviePass is going to compete. It’s sort of like, all of the streaming services were happy to give their content to Netflix until they set up their own. And now Netflix has like … had to do its original content. So MoviePass is going to launch into competition with its clients? So, half empty.


Kai Ryssdal: Right. Absolutely, totally. Totally, completely agree. Completely agree.


Kimberly Adams: Yes. All right. What else?


Drew Jostad: Okay, apparently Velveeta has introduced the Veltini, a dirty martini infused with Velveeta cheese. Are you half full or half empty?


Kai Ryssdal: You’re the cocktail person. You go.


Kimberly Adams: That’s not a cocktail Kai.


Drew Jostad: She also hates cheese.


Kimberly Adams: I also hate cheese. Thank you. Yeah, that’s no, that’s gonna be a hard pass, all the way empty.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, totally agree. Totally agree.


Kimberly Adams: I’m sitting here drinking beer saying that.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah. Oh, there we go. Veltini, whatever that is. That is it for us for today on this Friday. We’re back next week, Monday, of course, regular Monday show. Tuesday we’re talking about productivity in this economy. What is up with that productivity, of course, being the key to rising standards of living and then there’s a lot in there to unpack, which we will do on Tuesday.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. And if you have questions about productivity and how we measure it, or how you think it should be measured, or how your productivity is going, send us your thoughts, send us your questions. We are at You can also leave us a voice message at 508-827-6278. And that’s 508-U-B-SMART.


Kai Ryssdal: And before the music starts, let us do a little goodbye. A very productive member of this team, shall we say, Steven Byeon, leaves us today. He does, first of all the video, for our YouTube live stream. He is part of the team that came up with half full half empty. He came up with all kinds of stuff. If you’ve seen anything on Marketplace social lately, that video in nature, Steven is the guy who is in technical charge of all that stuff, and he’s gone somewhere else. And that stinks for us. But it’s good for him.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, super happy for Steven. And I should say that Steven is also the person who’s like always telling us like where our cameras should be for the live stream. And Kai is usually the guy who’s messing up. And –


Kai Ryssdal: Hello? I’m sitting right here.


Kimberly Adams: I know. But I mean –


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, that’s true. That is actually true.


Kimberly Adams: This is more evidence that I wouldn’t say stuff behind your back I won’t say to your face. But anyway, Steven was really – it was really nice I got to hang out with him and meet him for the first time this week in person. And he was helping us with all of our little video shoots and photo thingies and you know, making sure that I look the right color on camera and so, Steven, you’re awesome. We’re gonna miss you. Thank you for everything that you’ve done.


Kai Ryssdal: Lots of video coming to Marketplace social in the next couple of weeks and months, I think, which Steven sort of shot for all of us. Anyway, Drew take us out of here. Take us out. Make Me Smart is produced by Marrisa Cabrera. Today’s episode was engineered by Drew Jostad. The Senior Producer, lady in charge of all things, is Bridget Bodnar. Well almost.


Kimberly Adams: The team, as we just said, behind the YouTube livestream and our Friday game is Steven Byeon, Mel Rosenberg and Emily Macune, with theme music written by that guy back there, Drew Jostad. And the Director of On Demand is Donna Tam. Wave at everybody again, Drew!


Kai Ryssdal: One more time, one more time, there you go.


Kimberly Adams: They’ve been asking for you for so long. It’s like the crowd goes wild, Drew Drew Drew Drew!


Kai Ryssdal: We should have gotten Steven out today actually. That’s what we should have done.

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The team

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