Moderna is suing its US pharmaceutical rival Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for patent infringement in the development of the first Covid-19 vaccine approved in the United States, claiming they copied technology Moderna developed years before the pandemic.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, was filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts and the Dusseldorf Regional Court in Germany, Moderna said in a press release Friday.

“We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in building and patented in the decade before the Covid-19 pandemic,” Moderna CEO Stefan Bansel said in a statement.

Moderna Inc, on its own, and a partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech were two of the first groups to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus.

Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, pioneered messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology just a decade ago, enabling the unprecedented rapid development of a Covid-19 vaccine since the coronavirus pandemic began in late 2019 and is spreading worldwide.

The approval process, which used to take years, was completed in months, largely thanks to a breakthrough in mRNA vaccines, which teach human cells to produce a protein that will trigger an immune response.

The German company BioNTech also worked in this field when it collaborated with the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

In December 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine, first to Pfizer/BioNTech, and a week later to Moderna.

Moderna alleges that Pfizer/BioNTech copied without permission the mRNA technology that Moderna patented between 2010 and 2016, long before the deadly Covid-19 outbreak in China in 2019 that exploded into global consciousness in early 2020 year.

At the start of the pandemic, Moderna said it would not honor its Covid-19 patents to help others develop their own vaccines, particularly for low- and middle-income countries.

But in March 2022, Moderna said it expects companies like Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights. He said he would not seek damages for any activity until March 8, 2022.

Patent litigation is not uncommon in the early stages of new technology development.

Pfizer and BioNTech have already faced numerous lawsuits from other companies that claim the partnership’s vaccine infringes their patents. Pfizer/BioNTech said it will vigorously defend its patents.

Germany’s CureVac, for example, also filed a lawsuit against BioNTech in Germany in July. BioNTech responded in a statement that its work was original.

Moderna has also sued for patent infringement in the US and is continuing a dispute with the US National Institutes of Health over rights to the mRNA technology.

In a statement Friday, Moderna said Pfizer/BioNTech has assigned two types of intellectual property.

One involved an mRNA structure that Moderna scientists said they began developing in 2010 and first confirmed in human trials in 2015.

“Pfizer and BioNTech conducted clinical trials of four different vaccine candidates that included variants that would have rejected Moderna’s innovative path.

“Pfizer and BioNTech, however, ultimately decided to proceed with a vaccine that has the same exact chemical modification of mRNA as their vaccine,” Moderna said in a statement.

The second alleged breach is related to the coding of a full-length spike protein, which Moderna scientists say was developed in the creation of a vaccine against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

Although the Mers vaccine never reached the market, its development helped Moderna rapidly develop a vaccine against Covid-19.

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