(New York) American laboratory Moderna on Friday launched a major lawsuit against Pfizer and BioNTech, accusing them of infringing on patents on technologies essential to its messenger RNA vaccine against COVID-19.
Updated yesterday at 09:05.
“Moderna believes that Pfizer and BioNTech’s Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine infringes patents that Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016,” the company said in a statement.
But the company also seems to want to maintain control over technology that can be used in many other contexts. Moderna says it is using its platform of messenger RNA-related technologies to develop treatments for influenza, HIV, autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular and cancer diseases.
Moderna and Pfizer, affiliated with BioNTech, were the first to put their vaccines against the coronavirus into production very quickly after the pandemic began thanks to this messenger RNA technology, which can be used to instruct human cells to read proteins present in the virus in order to train the immune system to recognize and neutralize it.
Until then, vaccines relied on weakened or inactivated forms of the virus to train the body to defend itself, and it could take several years for cures to be developed and clinical trials to verify their safety.
The use of messenger RNA technology in Moderna’s and Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccines, which are among the world’s most commonly injected vaccines, was the culmination of four decades of research that has overcome many obstacles.
The flexibility that messenger RNA offers and the ability to trick the body into making antigens on its own bodes well for other diseases.
Moderna said it will file suits in the state of Massachusetts in the United States and in Dusseldorf in Germany.
The judicial clarification of such a case can take several years.
Pfizer and BioNTech, in a message sent to AFP on Friday, said they were “surprised by the litigation” because their COVID-19 vaccine “is based on BioNTech’s proprietary messenger RNA technology and is being developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.” became”.
“It’s unfortunate but fairly common for other companies to claim that a successful product may infringe on their intellectual property,” BioNTech said in a separate statement.
Both companies have said they will “vehemently” defend themselves against the allegations in Moderna’s lawsuit.
This is not the first patent infringement lawsuit relating to innovative messenger RNA technology.
Moderna, for example, is already being sued by small biotech companies Arbutus Biopharma Corporation and Genevant Sciences. BioNTech is also affected by a lawsuit in Germany by compatriot CureVac, to which BioNTech and Pfizer have responded with further proceedings in the USA.
“We are bringing these lawsuits to protect the innovative messenger RNA technology platform we developed, invested billions of dollars in, and patented in the decade leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moderna’s CEO commented , Stéphane Bancel, in the press release.
Moderna stresses that it’s committed to not filing intellectual property lawsuits as of October 2020 while the pandemic rages, but believes it’s now entered a new phase.
The company is not requiring Pfizer/BioNTech to withdraw its vaccine. But she is asking for financial compensation and only for the vaccines sold since last March.
Pfizer expects to sell its COVID-19 vaccine worth $32 billion in 2022.
Moderna also says the patents it’s suing Pfizer and BioNTech for weren’t developed when the company worked with America’s public research agency to accelerate work on the fight against COVID-19.