Commercial Moderna sues BioNTech and Pfizer over mRNA Covid-19 vaccine...

Moderna sues BioNTech and Pfizer over mRNA Covid-19 vaccine patent


Moderna filed a lawsuit against pharma giant Pfizer and BioNTech for patent violation according to a press release from Friday.

According to Moderna, Comirnaty, the COVID-19 vaccine by BioNTech and Pfizer is in violation of the patents filed by Moderna between 2010 and 2016 that relate to mRNA technology founded by Moderna. Moderna used the same technology in their own vaccine, Spikevax. Moderna claims that the companies copied their technology without consent.

Pfizer released a written statement to CNN stating “Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint but we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer. We remain confident in our intellectual property supporting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit,” 

Moderna clarified that the aim of the lawsuit is not to eliminate Pfizer’s vaccine from the market or to gain a cut from the vaccine sales in the 92 countries that are categorized as low and middle-income nations that had vaccine accessibility issues. The only thing Moderna wants is a cut of Pfizer’s profits, according to Christopher Morten, an intellectual property expert from Columbia University.

Morten said that it would be interesting for both the companies’ shareholders to see one of the largest vaccine manufacturers asking the court to give a part of the competitor’s profit.

Back in October of 2020, Moderna vowed not to implement its patents related to the virus while the pandemic continued.  In 2022 March, when the supply of vaccines was not an issue across the globe, Moderna revisited the vow. Moderna pointed out certain times when Pfizer violated the patent.

According to legal experts, the lawsuit is Moderna’s attempt to control mRNA vaccine technology even though it claimed that restricting access was not the objective.

A global public health law professor at Georgetown University, Lawrence Gostin is of the view that Moderna is being over aggressive and however it plays out, the consumer of the vaccine will be the loser in the scenario. Currently, this is not the only public dispute involving Moderna as the National Institutes of Health are also on the receiving end of intellectual property lawsuits.

On the flip side, Moderna is being sued for patent infringement themselves, by Arbutus Biopharma and Alnylam Pharma. Both companies claim that Moderna used their technology to produce lipid nanoparticles which are very important in transporting the mRNA into cells.

Moderna claims that patent infringement was granted through a legal clause that enables the government to disregard patent rights for organizations that produce goods during a public emergency.

The lawsuit is seeking triple damages, which would undoubtedly make other companies think twice before using mRNA technology for the development of products.

As the backbone of the United States vaccine strategy, Moderna and Pfizer have had a total of 589M administered doses, of which 229M were Moderna and the remaining 360M were Pfizer.

One of the biggest achievements in modern science is considered to be the development of mRNA vaccines for the pandemic. According to a recent study, the vaccines saved almost 20M lives in the first year of use.

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