Moderna Sues Rival Pfizer Over Coronavirs mRNA Vaccine Patent

In the final week of August, pharmaceutical firm Modern sued Pfizer (and its German counterpart BioNTech) claiming the rival(s) improperly used Moderna’s foundational technology to develop their own coronavirus vaccine. The lawsuit establishes a legal battle between what are probably the two most impactful companies at the forefront of curbing the coronavirus pandemic in the US.

According to a statement from Moderna Chief Legal Officer Shannon Thyme Klinger, “We believe that the Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna’s inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission.”

The two injected medicines operate in the same way. Both drugs deliver a single strand of messenger RNA (mRNA) into human cells to instruct them to create the one spike protein distinctive to the surface of a coronavirus particle. This spike protein triggers immune response from the human body, which then inoculates against further infection.

As such, the company has filed suits in not only the US District Court in Massachusetts as well as in Germany (which is where BioNTech has their headquarters). The high-profile suit emphasizes just how big the stakes are in the industry, at a time like this, particularly since Moderna is a small biotech start-up whose first product was the same coronavirus vaccine they developed with emergency authorization funding from the United States Food and Drug Administration, towards the close of 2020. Pfizer, of course, is a far bigger company: a global pharmaceutical giant.

Both companies have made several billion dollars from the sale of their respective coronavirus vaccines. However, Moderna is not seeking any kind of injunction against Pfizer for selling their vacccine, nor are they requesting that regulators remove the product from the market; after all, the need for these medicines is great.

In a release, Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel clarified, “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.”

Regardless of what Moderna is requesting, the results of this case could affect the future of mRNA technology, and this profile in particular. After all, mRNA vaccines have shown immense promise in the future treatment against other common viruses like influenza and HIV.