COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna is suing Pfizer and German drugmaker BioNTech, accusing their main competitors of copying Moderna’s technology to make their own vaccine.
Moderna said Friday that Pfizer and BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine infringes on patents that Moderna filed several years ago to protect the technology behind its preventive injection, Spikevax.
The company filed patent infringement lawsuits in both a US federal court and a German court.
A Pfizer spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the company had not received a copy of the lawsuit.
Two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use mRNA technology to help patients fight the coronavirus.
mRNA vaccines work by injecting genetic code for the spike protein that coats the surface of the coronavirus. That code, the mRNA, is encased in a little ball of fat and instructs the body’s cells to make a few copies of harmless spikes that train the immune system to recognize the real virus.
That approach is radically different from how vaccines have traditionally been done.
Moderna said it started developing its mRNA technology platform in 2010 and that helped the company quickly produce its COVID-19 vaccine after the pandemic hit in early 2020.
Later that year, US regulators cleared the use of injections from both Pfizer and Moderna after clinical research showed both to be highly effective.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a prepared statement that the vaccine’s developer pioneered that technology and invested billions of dollars in its creation.
The company said it believes its rivals’ vaccine infringes on patents that Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016.
Moderna said it recognizes the importance of access to vaccines and is not seeking to remove Comirnaty from the market. Nor is it asking for a court order to prevent future sales.
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Moderna and Pfizer’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have been the backbone of the US vaccination strategy, with Pfizer making up the majority of doses administered.
As of Friday morning, 360,175,884 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the US and 229,236,868 doses of Moderna’s.