Moderna sues Pfizer and BioNTech for alleged infringement of its patents for mRNA vaccine technology announced today.
“We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform we developed, invested billions of dollars in creating and patented during the decade leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna. in a statement.
Moderna said in 2020 it would not enforce its patents during the pandemic to allow for an unimpeded public health response. It still has no plans to enforce patents in low- and middle-income countries, the company said in a statement. But it comes after Pfizer and BioNTech, which it said would “respect its intellectual property rights.” In the Submitthe company said: “Moderna has refrained from claiming its patents earlier so as not to distract from efforts to end the pandemic as soon as possible.”
The lawsuit should not have a major effect on vaccine availability – Moderna said it has no plans to remove the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, known commercially as Comirnaty, from the market. It is seeking payment, Moderna’s Chief Legal Officer, Shannon Thyme Klinger, said in the statement: “Moderna expects Pfizer and BioNTech to compensate Moderna for Comirnaty’s continued use of Moderna’s proprietary technologies.”
It is not seeking damages for vaccines sold to the United States government. But the US is planning stop paying for COVID-19 vaccines, and they will be sold through normal commercial routes.
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech both developed COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA. The shots introduce tiny fragments of the coronavirus’ genetic material into the body so it can make antibodies against it.
In the legal filing, Moderna claimed that Pfizer/BioNTech copied two elements of its mRNA vaccine. The first is a chemical alteration of the mRNA that prevents the body from attacking the vaccine before it can work in the body. mRNA vaccines that do not include these types of modifications, such as the COVID-19 vaccine made by the German company CureVac, have been less effective.
The second is the part of the virus that the vaccines train the body to recognize — both companies’ vaccines target the entire coronavirus spike protein, the part of the virus that allows it to invade human cells. Moderna said in its legal filing that it has patents on vaccines containing a full-spike protein based on research into MERS, another coronavirus.
Pfizer/BioNTech also sued for patent infringement by CureVac. Moderna is too facing lawsuits – biotechnology companies Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences have filed a lawsuit over the method of packaging the mRNA and delivering it to the body. Another biotechnology company, Alnylam, is to sue both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have a similar technology.