Moderna Sues Pfizer For COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Infringement

Pharmaceutical firms Moderna and Pfizer led the charge in developing a novel vaccine used to prevent serious illness and death from the COVID-19 virus. While Comirnaty, the shot developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, was the first to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, a new lawsuit claims that it was created using technology that belonged to Moderna.

In a statement this week, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel explained why the company is taking Pfizer to court in Germany and the United States.

“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,” he asserted.

In addition to creating the “foundational platform” based on research dating back to 2010, Bancel said that Moderna’s “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.”

A Pfizer spokesperson reacted to the lawsuit by insisting that its vaccine “was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.”

Asserting that the company was “surprised” to learn of the litigation, the statement concluded: “We remain confident in our intellectual property supporting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit.”

The lawsuit specifically accuses Pfizer and BioNTech of moving forward with a vaccine “knowing that it utilized the same target antigen as Moderna’s patent-protected Spikevax,” asserting that the defendants did so “in deliberate disregard for Moderna’s patent rights.”

As for what Moderna is hoping to get out of its lawsuit, the company indicated that it is seeking a “reasonable license” that will allow Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies to use its vaccine. While Moderna is seeking monetary damages for Comirnaty’s use in wealthy countries, it is not asking for such compensation from Pfizer’s distribution of the vaccine in poorer nations.

“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,” argued Moderna Chief Legal Officer Shannon Thyme Klinger.