A vaccine manufacturer sued two other makers Friday, claiming their COVID vaccines infringed its patented mRNA technology used to develope their vax.
Moderna, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., sued Pfizer and BioNTech in a Massachusetts district court. The big pharma company filed a companion suit with the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany where BioNTech is based.
“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,” said Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel in a statement.
Bancel pledged in October 2020 that Moderna would not enforce Moderna’s COVID-19 patents while the pandemic continued. In March 2022, the world’s response to COVID-19 reflected a reduced threat from the pandemic. Noting that vaccine supply was not a barrier to access in many parts of the world, then, Moderna announced a change.
The company statement noted the original pledge still applies for 92 low-to-moderate income countries but it expects companies like Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights otherwise. Moderna added it was open to a commercially reasonable license request for other markets but stated Pfizer and BioNTech did not request a license.
“We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna’s inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission,” said Moderna Chief Legal Officer Shannon Thyme Klinger.
Pfizer and BioNTech expressed surprise about the lawsuits, according to a New York Times report citing Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts. She reportedly added the companies “remain confident in our intellectual property supporting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit.”
Moderna claims Pfizer took four vaccine candidates into clinical testing that included options that would have steered clear of Moderna’s innovative path. The company alleges Pfizer proceeded with a vaccine using the same mRNA technology as the Moderna vaccine.
Moderna said it was the first company to validate this technology in human trials in 2015 and that neither Pfizer nor BioNTech had its level of experience in developing mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases.
The Mass. biochemical company also alleges that, despite having many other options, Pfizer and BioNTech copied Moderna’s encoding approach for the full-length spike protein in a lipid nanoparticle formulation for a coronavirus.
The company statement did not indicate the dollar amount of damages they are seeking for the alleged patent violations.
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