Arbutus, Genevant gain an edge in COVID patent scrap with Moderna

With a new order clarifying several terms of the patents at the center of Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences’ infringement suit against Moderna, the companies are one step closer in their efforts to get in on the cash flush from Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine Spikevax.

Arbutus and its Genevant, a joint company between Arbutus and Roivant that holds a license to the patents in the suit, first asserted the patents back in 2022. The two argue that Moderna used their “revolutionary” lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery platform “without payment or a license,” according to the recent order (PDF).

More recently, the companies filed a joint claim construction brief, requesting that a Delaware district court construe the disputed claim terms on the patents in order to clearly define the meaning and scope of what they can claim.

Through a 38-page order, Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg broke down the language and the science used in each of the three claims, landing on definitions that served to strengthen the plaintiff’s case by largely rejecting Moderna’s proposed constructions.

The companies are seeking compensation for the alleged use of their patented technology that was developed “with great effort and at great expense, and without which Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine would not have been successful,” Arbutus said in a recent statement.

Moderna, meanwhile, believes that its Spikevax technology “including our proprietary lipid nanoparticle delivery system” is the result of “our independent research and development, a company spokesperson noted in an emailed statement.

The mRNA maker is “confident in our position and look forward to presenting our case at trial next year,” the representative said, adding that the company has a “strong belief” that it didn’t step on the patents in question.

Arbutus is likewise “committed to protecting and defending our intellectual property” and “looks forward to the next steps in the litigation,” interim CEO Michael J. McElhaugh said in the company’s release.

“We are pleased with how the Court construed the disputed claim terms,” McElhaugh added.

Back in 2022, Genevant’s CEO said on a call that he expects the Moderna suit to take “at least two years.” The initial complaint came after Moderna tried and failed to ward off the motion with a bid to invalidate key Arbutus LNP patents.

Moderna has also been sued by CureVac and Alnylam, along with COVID vaccine rival Pfizer and BioNTech in a counter suit.

The biopharma made $18.4 billion in revenue from Spikevax in 2022 and $17.7 billion the year before. Sales have since been decimated by lagging demand, with newer boosters failing to replicate those megablockbuster numbers.