Moderna sues Pfizer and BioNTech over Covid-19 vaccine

·3-min read

Moderna is suing US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for patent infringement over the company’s Covid-19 vaccine.

The US vaccine maker said it had filed patent infringement lawsuits in the US District Court in Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany, claiming the firms “copied technology without Moderna’s permission” that it developed years before the pandemic.

Moderna added that it was not seeking to removing Comirnaty, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, from the market or have an injunction against future sales.

Pfizer vaccine
A vaccinator is seen preparing a vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the COVID-19 vaccination centre at Dundonald Hospital in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Moderna’s chief executive Stephane Bancel 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.

“This foundational platform, which we began building in 2010, along with our patented work on coronaviruses in 2015 and 2016, enabled us to produce a safe and highly effective Covid-19 vaccine in record time after the pandemic struck.

“As we work to combat health challenges moving forward, Moderna is using our mRNA technology platform to develop medicines that could treat and prevent infectious diseases like influenza and HIV, as well as autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases and rare forms of cancer.”

The firm’s chief legal officer Shannon Thyme Klinger added: “We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna’s inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission.

“Outside of AMC 92 countries, where vaccine supply is no longer a barrier to access, Moderna expects Pfizer and BioNTech to compensate Moderna for Comirnaty’s ongoing use of Moderna’s patented technologies.

“Our mission to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients by delivering on the promise of mRNA science cannot be achieved without a patent system that rewards and protects innovation.”

A spokesperson for Pfizer said: “Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint but we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.

“We remain confident in our intellectual property supporting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit.”

Moderna’s vaccine was the third jab to be approved for use in the UK in January 2021 after the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines were approved.

How the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines work is by targeting the spike protein in Covid-19 which the virus uses to enter human cells.

The Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines use synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), a genetic material that contains information about the spike protein.

The vaccines provide the body with instructions to produce a small amount of this protein which, once detected by the immune system, leads to a protective antibody response.