Moderna hits back at Alnylam's 'baseless' patent infringement claims

The U.S.' COVID-19 health emergency might be over, but vaccine-related lawsuits are moving forward in full force. 

After Alnylam levied patent infringement claims against Moderna last year, the mRNA specialist is hitting back. In a pair of countersuits, Moderna claims Alnylam “baselessly seeks to profit” from Moderna’s inventions.

Alnylam first sued Moderna in March 2022, claiming patent infringement on its so-called ‘933 patent. The patent covers delivery technology that Alnylam says is infringed by Moderna's popular vaccine Spikevax. 

Alnylam later claimed violations on another patent that it received in July.  The company did not seek to stop sales of the lucrative mRNA vaccine but instead requested damages and royalties.

But Moderna isn't having it. “Alnylam played no role in Moderna’s significant accomplishments,” the company said in a pair of countersuits filed last week.

The Spikevax maker says that it had been pioneering mRNA technologies for a decade before the pandemic. That work included lipid nanoparticle delivery tech, which is at the center of Alnylam’s claims.

Moderna notes that in contrast to its mission as an mRNA company, Alnylam has “based its entire business model” on a different type of RNA called small interfering RNA. It points out that Alnylam’s website touts itself as “the leading RNAi therapeutics company." Nowhere does the site mention mRNA, Moderna argues.

Moderna and Alnylam did not immediately reply to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

The new counterclaims are the latest in a long string of COVID-19 vaccine patent disputes, both for Moderna and fellow COVID vaccine maker Pfizer.

Alnylam sued Pfizer at the same time it originally filed against Moderna, alleging infringement on the same patent. Meanwhile, Arbutus Biopharma and Roivant’s Genevant Sciences sued Moderna last February, claiming its vaccine stepped on six of their patents.

Then of course there’s the Moderna suit against Pfizer, which pits the two COVID-19 vaccine kingpins against each other.

Both companies raked in tens of billions with their vaccines, so an Alnylam win would be quite lucrative if it's able to eventually score damages or royalties.