Biotech firms allege Moderna hijacked technology to develop COVID-19 vaccine

Two biotech companies filed a lawsuit against Moderna on Monday, alleging that the vaccine manufacturer had infringed on patented technology when it developed its COVID-19 vaccine.

Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences allege in their civil lawsuit that Moderna was able to quickly develop a coronavirus vaccine thanks to “breakthrough technology Arbutus had already created and patented,” namely the lipid nanoparticle delivery system that is used in the shot.

Genevant is spearheaded by former Arbutus scientists. The Switzerland-based company licenses lipid nanoparticle platform intellectual property from Arbutus.

“Moderna was well aware of Arbutus’s LNP patents and licensed them for other product programs, but it chose not to do so for its COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, it attempted to invalidate several of the patents before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and when those efforts largely failed, Moderna simply used the patented technology without paying for it or even asking for a license,” the complaint read.

The companies are accusing Moderna of seven counts of patent infringement. 

“Moderna denies these allegations, and will vigorously defend itself against Genevant’s claims in Court,” it said in a statement to The Hill. “Our COVID-19 vaccine is a product of Moderna’s many years of pioneering mRNA platform research and development, including creation of our own proprietary lipid nanoparticle delivery technology, which has been pivotal to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Further, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1498, Moderna has notified the U.S. government about the accusation of infringement against sales to the U.S. government, so that the U.S. government can protect its rights in defending against any alleged liability to Genevant,” Moderna added.

Arbutus and Genevant are asking for financial compensation from Moderna for the alleged use of their patents.

In a statement, Arbutus President and CEO William Collier said his company and Genevant “do not seek an injunction or otherwise seek to impede the sale, manufacture or distribution of MRNA-1273.”

“However, we seek fair compensation for Moderna’s use of our patented technology that was developed with great effort and at great expense, without which Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine would not have been successful,” he added.

—Updated at 5:57 p.m.

Tags COVID-19 vaccination in the United States Moderna Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Patent RNA vaccines Vaccine

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