Moderna mounts 2 new patent lawsuits against mRNA rivals Pfizer, BioNTech: report

Caught in a litigation crossfire, Moderna has reportedly opened two new fronts in its COVID-19 vaccine patent war with Pfizer and BioNTech.

Seeking damages from Pfizer and BioNTech for alleged infringement, Moderna has lodged new lawsuits at the High Court in Dublin, Ireland, and the Brussels Commercial Court in Belgium, European intellectual property outlet Juve Patent reported Tuesday.

The Irish court, where Moderna is claiming infringement by Pfizer-BioNTech on a pair of Spikevax patents, is set to hear the case in early 2024, according to the publication. Less is known about the status of Moderna’s Belgian lawsuit, Juve points out.

A spokesperson for Moderna didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new lawsuits add to a complex web of ongoing mRNA patent litigation. The legal melee began last August when Moderna filed patent infringement lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany. Separately, Moderna has also sued Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in the Netherlands, plus the U.K.

Moderna’s goal isn’t to remove Pfizer’s shot Comirnaty from the market, nor is it trying to target Pfizer’s sales in low- and middle-income countries covered by the COVAX initiative, the company insists. Instead, Moderna is pursuing compensation and damages to make up for Pfizer-BioNTech’s alleged trampling of patents detailing lipid nanoparticle delivery, spike protein encoding and more.

Moderna’s clutch of lawsuits represents just a fraction of the greater legal landscape around its widely used COVID shot Spikevax and Pfizer-BioNTech’s rival vaccine Comirnaty. For one, Pfizer and BioNTech in December struck back at Moderna with a U.S. countersuit, demanding a jury trial and parrying its competitor’s infringement claims.

The Comirnaty partners argued that Moderna was stretching its “already overbroad” and “invalid” patents in a bid to “claim credit for others’ work.” Pfizer and BioNTech went on to suggest Moderna’s original lawsuit sought to rewrite the well-known story of the COVID-19 pandemic to put itself in the “single, starring role.”

While Moderna and Pfizer’s dueling lawsuits have captured plenty of the spotlight, both companies are tangled up in additional legal disputes over their mRNA vaccine technology brought by less prominent players.

Last winter, Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences sued Moderna in Delaware federal court in pursuit of damages over alleged infringement of six patents. Separately, Pfizer is playing defense in German and U.S. patent litigation with Germany’s CureVac, which filed a suit in summer 2022.

Elsewhere, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has sued both Pfizer and Moderna on claims they’ve violated its so-called ‘933 patent, which covers a “breakthrough class of cationic biodegradable lipids used to form lipid nanoparticles that carry and deliver” mRNA-based vaccines. Alnylam wants royalties from Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine sales in lieu of a market pull.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have attempted to rebut Alnylam’s claims.

While its unclear how the myriad mRNA vaccine lawsuits are destined to play out, there’s no doubt that some serious cash is on the line. Both Pfizer and Moderna have raked in tens of billions of dollars with their respective shots, making any potential damages or royalties from a successful infringement claim a highly lucrative proposition.