Moderna says it is filing patent infringement lawsuits against Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for allegedly copying mRNA COVID-19 vaccine technology.
Moderna filed a lawsuit seeking undetermined monetary damages in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The company said it would also file the lawsuit in the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany.
"Moderna believes that Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering Moderna's foundational mRNA technology. This groundbreaking technology was critical to the development of Moderna's own mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax. Pfizer and BioNTech copied this technology, without Moderna's permission, to make Comirnaty," Moderna said in a statement announcing the lawsuits.
"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," said Moderna's Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel.
BioNTech said in a statement that its work is original and the company "will vigorously defend against all allegations of patent infringement."
"BioNTech also values and respects valid and enforceable intellectual property rights of others and remains confident in its intellectual property. It is an unfortunate but rather regular occurrence that other companies make allegations that a successful product potentially infringes their intellectual property rights, even more so here after witnessing the historic accomplishments of a vaccine like Comirnaty."
Moderna claims it is not seeking to remove Comirnaty from the market and is not asking for an injunction to prevent its future sale. In addition, the company says it is not seeking damages related to Pfizer's sales in 92 low- and middle-income countries and the US and is not seeking damages for activities occurring before March 8, 2022.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein — or a piece of it — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This immune response produces antibodies and protects from getting sick from the particular germ in the future.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Comirnaty in individuals 16 years of age and older on December 11, 2020. A week later, on December 17, the agency approved Moderna's Spikevax vaccine.