With Covid pandemic over, Moderna heads to the courts
The optics of two big movers involved in the global response to Covid-19 falling out in the courts are rather poor, yet this is the stage that the post-pandemic period entered today. Moderna had promised not to enforce its patents during the pandemic, but as this phase ended in March the shackles are off, and today it filed suit against Pfizer/Biontech, alleging that Comirnaty infringes foundational mRNA patents it had filed in 2010-16. This is not the first time Moderna has resorted to lawyers: in 2020, with the pandemic in full swing, the company failed to invalidate a lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery patent held by Arbutus and subsequently assigned to Genevant. Though Moderna later claimed that its Covid vaccine, Spikevax, had been developed independently of this patent, the issue was highly relevant as Genevant had sublicensed the LNP tech to Pfizer/Biontech for Comirnaty. Today’s dispute seems broader, however. Moderna claims that Pfizer/Biontech “copied” its approach to encode for the full-length spike protein in an LNP formulation, but the crux of its case is that Pfizer/Biontech “copied two key features” of Moderna's tech, and that Comirnaty contains “the same exact mRNA chemical modification” as Spikevax.