Biotechnology company Moderna on Friday filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech alleging that they infringed on its patents while developing their Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty.
The lawsuits have been filed in the United States District Court for Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Dusseldorf in Germany.
“Moderna believes that Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty infringes patents [that] Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering Moderna’s foundational mRNA technology,” the company said in an official statement.
Stephane Bancel, the chief executive officer of Moderna, said that the lawsuits were aimed at protecting its mRNA technology.
The technology used in mRNA vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots are not the same as traditional vaccines which contain either weakened viruses or purified signature proteins of the virus.
But in an mRNA vaccine, a person receives genetic material that encodes the viral protein. When these genetic instructions are injected into the upper arm, the muscle cells translate them to make the viral protein directly in the body. This approach mimics what the SARS-CoV-2 does in nature. This gives the immune system a preview of what the real virus looks like without causing disease.
The US Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency use authorisation for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech in December 2020. One week later, the approval was given to Moderna.
“Moderna believes Pfizer and BioNTech copied two key features of Moderna’s patented technologies which are critical to the success of mRNA vaccines,” the company said in its statement on Friday.
Moderna, however, maintained that it did not want to get the Comirnaty vaccine removed from the markets or prevent its future sales, “recognising the need to ensure continued access to these lifesaving vaccines”.