Appeals court rules against Moderna in COVID-19 vaccine patent challenges

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled against Moderna in two COVID-19 vaccine patent challenges, putting the pharmaceutical company at risk of being sued.

The U.S. Court of Appeals bolstered an administrative panel’s conclusion that patents belonging to Canadian biopharmaceutical company ​​Arbutus Biopharma Corporation are justified since the science utilized was not known previously, Reuters reported.

Those patents, however, may involve the technology that Moderna used in its COVID-19 vaccine, according to Reuters.

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Moderna, in a previous court filing, said it believed that ​​Arbutus would be justified in filing a lawsuit against the company and requesting royalties from its COVID-19 vaccine if the patents were confirmed, the news wire noted.

A Moderna spokesperson, however, told The Hill in a statement that the company disagrees with the court’s decision and believes its vaccine does not fall under ​​Arbutus’ patent.

“While we disagree with the remainder of the decisions maintaining certain other claims or not considering their validity because of a procedural issue, we are confident that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is not covered by those claims,” the spokesperson said.

“Moderna is a pioneer of mRNA-based vaccines, and we have developed our own proprietary LNP-delivery technology. This technology allows us to deliver on our mission of creating a new generation of transformative medicines for patients,” the spokesperson added.

The patents under scrutiny pertain to the lipid nanoparticles that circle around the messenger RNA, which is the genetic matter, in the vaccine, according to Reuters. The technology could be useful for developing vaccines to help safeguard against other illnesses in the future.

Moderna had at first filed a challenge against the patents with the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which is a division of the federal patent office, according to Reuters. The board in-part sided with ​​Arbutus but did say it concurred that some parts of the patent were not justified.

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Genevant Sciences Inc. holds the patents, Reuters noted. Arbutus and Roivant Sciences Ltd. established the company in 2018.

Moderna is also involved in a separate patent-related matter related to its COVID-19 vaccine with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to Reuters.

The Hill reached out to Arbutus for comment.

The NIH has said that three of the agency scientists who assisted in creating the genetic sequence used in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine should be included on the patent application, which the company has reportedly objected to.

Moderna has said the sequence was designed by its personnel only, and nobody else, according to Reuters.