Pharmaceutical giant, Moderna, on Friday sued Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech for patent infringement in the development first COVID-19 vaccine approved in the United States.
Moderna alleged that the Pfizer and BioNtech copied its technology developed years before the pandemic.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, which seeks undetermined monetary damages.
Moderna, in a statement issued on Friday, said the lawsuit would be filed also in the Regional Court of Duesseldorf in Germany.
“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 Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said in the statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine first to Pfizer/BioNTech in December 2020, then one week later to Moderna.
Moderna’s COVID vaccine – its lone commercial product – has brought in $10.4 billion in revenue this year while Pfizer’s vaccine brought in about $22 billion, according to Reuters.
In the statement, Moderna said Pfizer/BioNTech appropriated two types of intellectual property.
One involved an mRNA structure that Moderna’s scientists began developing in 2010 and were the first to validate in human trials in 2015.
“Pfizer and BioNTech took four different vaccine candidates into clinical testing, which included options that would have steered clear of Moderna’s innovative path. Pfizer and BioNTech, however, ultimately decided to proceed with a vaccine that has the same exact mRNA chemical modification to its vaccine,” Moderna said.
The second alleged infringement involves the coding of a full-length spike protein that Moderna says its scientists developed while creating a vaccine for the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Although the MERS vaccine never went to market, its development helped Moderna rapidly roll out its COVID-19 vaccine.
Moderna said its lawsuit was not meant to stop people from getting vaccines.
Reacting to the lawsuit, Pfizer spokesperson said: “Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint but we are surprised by the litigation given the 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, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a decade old, had been an innovator in the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology that enabled the unprecedented speed in developing the COVID-19 vaccine.
Moderna alleges Pfizer/BioNTech, without permission, copied mRNA technology that Moderna had patented between 2010 and 2016, well before COVID-19 emerged in 2019 and exploded into global consciousness in early 2020.
Pfizer and BioNTech are already facing multiple lawsuits from other companies who say the partnership’s vaccine infringes on their patents. Pfizer/BioNTech have said they will defend their patents vigorously.
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