The American biotechnology company Moderna announced, on Friday, August 26, that it will file a complaint against Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for patent infringement on its messenger RNA vaccine against Covid-19.
“We are filing this lawsuit to protect the [technologie] innovative messenger RNA that we developed, invested billions of dollars in, and patented in the decade before the Covid-19 pandemic.”Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said in a company statement.
According to the biotech company, “Pfizer and BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine against Covid-19 contravenes [ces] patents ». Moderna claims that Pfizer-BioNTech copied, without permission, the messenger RNA vaccine technology that Moderna patented between 2010 and 2016, long before covid-19 emerged. Moderna adds that the Pfizer-BioNTech alliance has appropriated two types of intellectual property.
One involves a messenger RNA structure that Moderna claims to have started developing in 2010; The second alleged violation relates to the coding for a full spike protein that Moderna teams the company says developed during the creation of a vaccine against the coronavirus responsible for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The lawsuit, seeking indeterminate economic damages, was filed in a District Court in Massachusetts, USA, and in the Regional Court of Düsseldorf, Germany.
Pfizer and BioNTech said in a message to Agence France-Presse on Friday that they had not yet fully investigated the complaint. The two companies said “Surprised by litigation”since your vaccine against Covid-19 “is based on BioNTech’s proprietary messenger RNA technology and has been developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer”. They said they were ready to fight back “vigorously” against “accusations” of Moderna’s complaint.
Stay in control of technology
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were the first to put their SARS-CoV-2 vaccines into production, very shortly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to messenger RNA technology that allows human cells to be ordered to make 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 the development of remedies, as well as clinical trials to verify their safety, could take several years. The use of messenger RNA technology in Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, among the most injected in the world, was the culmination of four decades of research that has overcome many obstacles.
Moderna also seems to want to keep control of technologies that can be used in many other contexts. The company uses its platform of messenger RNA technologies to develop treatments for influenza, HIV, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.
However, this complaint is not the first lawsuit for patent infringement on innovative messenger RNA technology. Moderna, for example, is already the subject of complaints from small biotech companies Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences. BioNTech is also affected by a complaint in Germany from its compatriot CureVac, to which BioNTech and Pfizer responded with another proceeding in the United States.
Bivalent booster vaccines
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will hold, on 1Ahem September, extraordinary meeting dedicated to Moderna and Pfizer’s authorization requests for a new generation of so-called “bivalent” vaccines, used as booster doses against Covid-19.
These modified vaccines target both the original SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strain, first discovered in China, and Omicron’s BA.1 subvariant. The United Kingdom is the first country to approve a bivalent vaccine, that of Moderna.
The WEA has announced a new vaccine against Covid-19, developed by the German laboratory SK Chemicals, which is based on nanotechnology to attack the virus, in anticipation of a possible resurgence of the pandemic in the fall. If approved, the vaccine, called Skycovion, will be the seventh approved in the European Union.
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