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30 August 2022AmericasStaff Writer

Moderna hits Pfizer and BioNTech with COVID-19 vaccine patent suit

Moderna has taken Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to court, alleging that the pair copied Moderna’s technology when developing their COVID-19 vaccine.

The suit was filed Friday, August 26 at the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Moderna is also filing at the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany.

Moderna claimed that Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine Comirnaty infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering its foundational mRNA technology. Moderna itself used this technology to develop its own mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, said: ”We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the decade preceding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Back in October 2020, Moderna pledged not to enforce its COVID-19 related patents while the pandemic continued.

Then, in March 2022, Moderna updated its pledge, noting that while it would never enforce its patents for any COVID-19 vaccine used in the 92 low- and middle-income countries in the GAVI COVAX Advance Market Commitment, it expected “companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its IP rights and would consider a commercially reasonable licence should they request one for other markets”.

Moderna is seeking royalty payments based on sales after March 8, 2022 (when Moderna updated its pledge), excluding sales to the US government or to low-income countries.

According to the suit, when COVID-19 emerged, Pfizer and BioNTech didn't have Moderna’s level of experience with developing mRNA vaccines for coronaviruses.

“Pfizer and BioNTech took four different vaccine candidates into clinical testing, which included options that would have steered clear of Moderna's innovative path. Pfizer and BioNTech, however, ultimately decided to proceed with a vaccine that has the same exact mRNA chemical modification to its vaccine as Spikevax,” said Moderna in its press release.

The suit also alleged that Pfizer and BioNTech copied Moderna's approach to “encode for the full-length spike protein in a lipid nanoparticle formulation for a coronavirus”.

According to Moderna, its scientists developed this approach when they created a vaccine for the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome years before COVID-19 first emerged.

In response, BioNTech said its work is original, and it would vigorously defend against all allegations of patent infringement.

“It is an unfortunate but rather regular occurrence that other companies make allegations that a successful product potentially infringes their intellectual property rights, even more so here after witnessing the historic accomplishments of a vaccine like Comirnaty,” said BioNTech.

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1 March 2022   Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences are jointly suing Moderna over royalties from the sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, which allegedly uses their tech for a drug-delivery system without authorisation.
Big Pharma
6 September 2022   CureVac accuses Pfizer and its German partner of infringing patented tech in landmark COVID-19 treatment | The pharma giant says that the patents are invalid
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8 December 2022   Big pharma firm accused of copying technology when developing vaccine | Dispute will also play out in Germany | BioNTech | Moderna.

More on this story

Big Pharma
1 March 2022   Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences are jointly suing Moderna over royalties from the sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, which allegedly uses their tech for a drug-delivery system without authorisation.
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6 September 2022   CureVac accuses Pfizer and its German partner of infringing patented tech in landmark COVID-19 treatment | The pharma giant says that the patents are invalid
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