Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said it will be suing Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, for patent infringement in the development of the first COVID-19 vaccine.
Just a decade-old, Moderna, had been an innovator in the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology that enabled the unprecedented speed in developing the COVID-19 vaccine.
An approval process that previously took years was completed in months, due to the breakthrough in mRNA vaccines, which teach human cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response.
Moderna is alleging that Pfizer copied its mRNA technology it developed before the pandemic.
The lawsuit, which seeks undetermined monetary damages, was being filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Dusseldorf in Germany, Moderna said in a press release on Friday.
Moderna alleged that 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.
Early in the pandemic, Moderna said it would not enforce its COVID-19 patents to help others develop their own vaccines, particularly for low and middle-income countries. But in March 2022, Moderna said it expected companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights. It said it would not seek damages for any activity before March 8, 2022.
In a press statement, released by Moderna on Friday, the company said Pfizer/BioNTech appropriated two types of intellectual property.
One involved an mRNA structure that Moderna said its 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 said its scientists developed while creating a vaccine for the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Meanwhile, Pfizer is yet to respond to the allegations, as at the time of filing in the report.