Moderna (Nasdaq:MRNA) announced today that it is suing Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and its COVID-19 vaccine partner BioNTech (Nasdaq:BNTX) over patent infringement in U.S. and German courts.
Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Moderna said it is in the process of filing the complaints in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany.
The suits could pit three of the most significant COVID-19 vaccine makers against each other in an IP battle with billions of dollars potentially at stake. COVID-19 vaccine revenue boosted Pfizer to the top of the list among the Pharma 50 largest pharmaceutical companies on Drug Discovery & Development. Moderna and BioNTech also joined the Pharma 50 for the first time in the most recent edition.
“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,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a news release.
Pfizer/BioNTech said in a statement that it “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,” Pfizer continued in a statement.
Bancel noted that the company began creating its foundational mRNA platform in 2010. Moderna patented work on coronaviruses in 2015 and 2016. Those factors “enabled us to produce a safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccine in record time after the pandemic struck,” he noted. “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.”
Moderna pledged in October 2020 not to enforce COVID-19 vaccine patents while the pandemic continued. But company officials think the pandemic entered a new phase in March 2022 in which vaccine supply was no longer a barrier to access in much of the world. Moderna is seeking damages for Pfizer and BioNTech activities after March 8, 2022.
In addition, Moderna is not seeking to remove Pfizer and BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine from the market. It is also not asking for an injunction to prevent its future sale. Nor is Moderna seeking damages related to Pfizer’s sales to the 92 low- and middle-income countries in the international AMC 92 agreement. — or cases where the U.S. government would have to pay.
Moderna has also had a patent dispute with its partner NIH, arguing over which researchers should get credit as inventors on a principal vaccine patent application.
MRNA shares fell 3.33% to $137.32 in afternoon trading.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery, Drug Discovery and Development, Infectious Disease