Moderna SUES Pfizer and BioNTech

Pharma giants go to war: Moderna SUES Pfizer and BioNTech and accuses them of COPYING their mRNA technology – patented in 2010 – to develop their COVID vaccines

  • Moderna is suing its two major competitors in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Pfizer and BioNTech
  • The firm alleges that the other two companies copied its technology that it developed and patented between 2010 and 2016 
  • The pair of competing firms will have earned over $100 billion in revenue from sales of the shots by the end of 2022 
  • Moderna had initially planned not to enforce patents related to the shots – but reversed course in March 
  • Pfizer earned a combined $68 billion between 2021 and 2022 on sales of its COVID-19 vaccine alone 

A colossal $104 billion legal battle has erupted between two of the world’s biggest Covid vaccine providers – with Moderna suing major competitors Pfizer and BioNTech for copyright infringement, claiming it copied technology that the firm pioneered.

The Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccines are both mRNA shots – a little used technology before its introduction to the mainstream during the pandemic. Moderna alleges that the competing firms copied the technology it had patented between 2010 and 2016.

The company is seeking unspecified damages from Pfizer and BioNTech for using its technology, and it is not seeking to have the vaccine removed from the market.

Pfizer and BioNTech are projected to amass at least $104 billion in sales by the end of 2022 – and the figure is set to increase even further as the companies roll out a new Omicron-specific shot in the coming months.

Moderna’s shot in comparison is projected to rake in $37 billion across 2021 and 2022.

As the pandemic triggered soaring infection rates and deaths in late 2020, Moderna chose not to enforce its patent rights during the rollout of the vaccines. But, it changed its policy in March – and only promised not to enforce its patents in ways that will harm low-and-middle income nations.

Moderna is alleging that its two major competitors in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer and BioNTech used its patented mRNA technology in the development of the jabs (file photo)

‘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,’ Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, 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.’

Pfizer told that it had not yet been served the lawsuit and could not comment on the allegations. 

BioNTech did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In October 2020, two months before both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots hit the market, the former said it would not enforce patents on its mRNA technology.

The move was seen as a show of good faith from the biotech company, though some critics said that by still holding the patents the company would always have the option to reverse the policy and begin file suits against other firms.

In March, the firm chose to reverse its policy. Citing increased access to the shots, Moderna announced that it would enforce its patents in ways that would not hurt 92 countries deemed low-or-middle income – where residents may have limited access to the shots.

Pfizer and BioNTech have emerged as major winners of the vaccine rollout, projected to have amassed over $100 billion in revenue from sales of the shots by the end of 2022 (file photo)

Pfizer and BioNTech have emerged as major winners of the vaccine rollout, projected to have amassed over $100 billion in revenue from sales of the shots by the end of 2022 (file photo)

Moderna is seeking damages for sales Pfizer made that were not in those 92 countries.

‘Outside of AMC 92 countries, where vaccine supply is no longer a barrier to access, Moderna expects Pfizer and BioNTech to compensate Moderna for [the shot’s] ongoing use of Moderna’s patented technologies,’ Shannon Thyme Klinger, Moderna’s chief legal officer, said in a statement.

‘Our mission to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients by delivering on the promise of mRNA science cannot be achieved without a patent system that rewards and protects innovation.’ 

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is available in 164 countries, only trailing the AstraZeneca shot in prevalence. Moderna is third, having been approved in 109 nations.

In the United States, the largest purchaser from private vaccine companies, the Pfizer jab has been administered more than 360 million times.

Moderna’s shot falls well behind, having been administered 230 million times, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Both companies have had booster doses approved by the Food and Drug Administration and CDC – along with fourth doses for the severely immunocompromised and for Americans over 50.