U.S. lab Moderna launched a major legal battle on Friday against Pfizer and BioNTech, accusing them of infringing patents on technologies needed for its Covid-19 matrix RNA vaccine.
“Moderna is convinced that Pfizer and BioNTech Comirnaty’s Covid-19 vaccine infringes patents filed by Moderna between 2010 and 2016,” the firm said in a statement.
But the company also seems to want to retain control over the technology, which can be used in many other contexts. Moderna emphasizes that it is using its messenger RNA technology platform to develop treatments for influenza, HIV, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancer. .
Moderna and Pfizer, affiliated with BioNTech, were the first to launch their coronavirus vaccines very quickly after the start of the pandemic, thanks to this messenger RNA technology that allows human cells to produce proteins present in the virus in order to teach the immune system recognize and neutralize it.
Prior to this, vaccines were based on weakened or inactivated forms of the virus to teach the body to defend itself, and it could take several years to develop remedies, as well as clinical trials to test their safety.
The use of messenger RNA technology in Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, some of the most injectable vaccines in the world, is the culmination of four decades of research over many hurdles.
The flexibility provided by messenger RNA, and the ability to force the body to produce antigens on its own, allows much to be expected from it in other diseases.
Moderna said it filed a complaint today in Massachusetts in the US and Düsseldorf in Germany.
– Financial compensation –
It can take several years to resolve such a case in court.
Pfizer/BioNTech emphasized in a message sent to AFP on Friday that they have not yet fully addressed the complaint. But both companies said they were “surprised by the litigation” given that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine “is based on BioNTech’s proprietary messenger RNA technology and was developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.” They said they were ready to “strongly” defend themselves against the allegations contained in Moderna’s lawsuit.
This is not the first patent infringement lawsuit for innovative messenger RNA technology.
Moderna, for example, has already been sued by small biotech companies Arbutus Biopharma Corporation and Genevant Sciences. BioNTech is also concerned about a complaint in Germany from its compatriot CureVac, to which BioNTech and Pfizer responded with a different procedure in the US.
“We are initiating these lawsuits to protect the innovative messenger RNA technology platform that we invested billions of dollars in and patented in the decade leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a press release.
Moderna emphasizes that, as of October 2020, it has committed not to file any intellectual property lawsuits while the pandemic rages, but believes it has now entered a new phase.
The company is not asking Pfizer/BioNTech to withdraw its vaccine from the market. But she asks for financial compensation, and only for the vaccines sold since March.
Pfizer plans to sell $32 billion worth of Covid-19 vaccine for all of 2022.
Moderna also clarifies that the patents it is suing Pfizer and BioNTech for were not developed when the company partnered with a US government research agency to accelerate efforts to combat Covid-19.