Moderna sues Pfizer, BioNTech over Covid vaccine patents

Moderna said it worked with scientists of national institutes to develop and test its vaccine

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Vaccine
Moderna told BusinessLine that it would not enforce the patents for the vaccines (PC: Unsplash)

American vaccine manufacturer Moderna has filed lawsuits against its main competitors, German drug manufacturer BioNTech, and Pfizer, alleging they have copied some of the critical features of Moderna’s technology to make their Comirnaty vaccine. 

According to Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer’s vaccine violated patents that Moderna filed some years ago to protect the tech behind its own preventive dose Spikevax. 

Patent infringement lawsuits have been filed by Moderna in German and US federal courts.

Pfizer’s response

Pfizer says it has not reviewed Moderna lawsuit completely but expressed surprise. Pfizer, spokesperson Pam Eisele told BusinessLine that their vaccine was formulated on a proprietary technology made by both Pfizer and BioNTech.

There was no immediate response from BioNTech. 

Pfizer’s and Moderna’s 2-shot vaccines both make use of mRNA tech to help people battle the coronavirus. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, neither BioNTech nor Pfizer had the level of experience that Moderna possessed to make mRNA vaccines for the virus.

Moderna’s journey

Moderna said that it had started to work on mRNA technology in 2010. This helped the company to make the Covid-19 vaccine very fast after the pandemic broke out in 2020.

By the end of 2020, the US regulators, after their clinical research, found out that the shots of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were extremely effective. 

The CEO of Moderna, Stephane Bancel, told BusinessLine that the company had pioneered the tech and had invested billions of dollars in it.

Moderna said it worked with scientists of national institutes to develop and test its vaccine. The company said its lawsuit was not associated with any of the patent rights created in that collab. It believes its competitor’s vaccine violated the patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016.

In the complaint, Moderna stated that besides copying some of the crucial features of its mechanism, its competitor had used the same chemical moderation into their mRNA that Moderna scientists developed years ago and used in Spikevax.

Moderna says it understands the essentiality of vaccine access and does not want to remove Comirnaty from the market or stop future sales.

In 2020, Moderna mentioned that it would not incorporate Covid-19-associated patents when the pandemic was continuing. But in March, Moderna said that with the improvement in supplies of vaccines, it would update its pledge.

Moderna told BusinessLine that it would not enforce the patents for the vaccines put to use in low to middle-income nations, but it expected companies such as BioNTech and Pfizer to respect the intellectual property. 

Moderna said it would prioritize “a commercially reasonable license” in the other markets in case they have requested one.

Spikevax is presently the only product of Moderna, but it is trying to develop other vaccines as well by making use of mRNA technology.

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