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Moderna Sues Pfizer And BioNTech Over COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines

In an unexpected turn of events, Moderna has filed a lawsuit against its two rivals: Pfizer and BioNTech. The complaints have been filed in the United States and in Germany and they pertain to alleged patent infringement. According to Moderna, the two pharmaceutical giants copied Moderna's mRNA vaccine technology that was initially made prior to the pandemic. The company is seeking financial damages that have not been shared in its official announcement.

The aforementioned mRNA technology was used in COVID-19 vaccines for the first time, but Moderna was early to develop it and file patents on it, which it now points out, citing patents filed between 2010 and 2016 as the ones that Pfizer and BioNTech have allegedly copied. An mRNA vaccine — also referred to as messenger RNA — uses a molecule of genetic code that invokes an immune response in the body. This helps your immune system fight the real virus if and when you are exposed to it

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Pharma companies seemed eager to get a working vaccine out as soon as possible. In 2020, Moderna said that it would not be enforcing COVID-19-related patents. This pledge was later updated to state the following: "To underscore our commitment to low-and middle-income countries, Moderna is now updating our patent pledge to never enforce our patents for COVID-19 vaccines against companies manufacturing in or for the 92 low- and middle-income countries in the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), provided that the manufactured vaccines are solely for use in the AMC 92 countries."

The latest update makes it clear that Moderna is now ready to make a move against its rivals, having amended its previous pledge. Moderna claims that Pfizer and BioNTech copied two crucial elements that are its intellectual property, including a chemical modification that Moderna allegedly first demonstrated in 2015 during human trials. This chemical modification makes the vaccine less likely to cause an "undesirable immune response." 

The second piece of intellectual property seems to be related to the fact that out of all the different ways that could have been used, Pfizer and BioNTech "copied Moderna's approach to encode for the full-length spike protein in a lipid nanoparticle formulation for a coronavirus." Moderna said that it is filing these lawsuits in order to protect the innovative mRNA technology that it claims to have pioneered. It also made sure to note that the lawsuit was not meant to stop people from getting vaccinated.

As reported by Reuters, a Pfizer spokesperson expressed surprise at Moderna's decision by saying, "We are surprised by the litigation given the COVID-19 vaccine was based on BioNTech's proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer."

Everything is rather uncertain right now, but one thing seems clear — this matter is likely going to be explored in a massive multi-million dollar lawsuit.

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