Moderna is suing Pfizer and BioNTech for infringing patents central to Moderna's mRNA technology platform used to develop the COVID vaccine, the company said in a press release Friday.
A widely distributed COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, called Comirnaty, infringes on patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016, the company alleged, adding that mRNA technology was vital to the development of its COVID vaccine.
Moderna accused Pfizer and BioNTech of copying the mRNA technology without its permission in order to develop Comirnaty, the press release said.
"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 CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.
"This foundational platform, which we began building in 2010, along with our patented work on coronaviruses in 2015 and 2016, enabled us to produce a safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccine in record time after the pandemic struck," he added. "As we work to combat health challenges moving forward, Moderna is using our mRNA technology platform to develop medicines that could treat and prevent infectious diseases like influenza and HIV, as well as autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases and rare forms of cancer."
In October 2020, Moderna vowed to forego enforcement of its COVID-related patents amid the pandemic, the company said. In March, however, the pandemic “entered a new phase and vaccine supply was no longer a barrier to access in many parts of the world,” the company added.
Moderna would never enforce patents in 92 middle- and low-income countries involved with a financing agreement at the global vaccine alliance Gavi, the company said. But, in other markets, Moderna expected competitors to respect intellectual property rights, it added.
In response to a request for comment, Pfizer said in a statement: “Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint but we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech 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," Pfizer added.
BioNTech did not immediately respond to a request for comment.