Alnylam ratchets up Pfizer, Moderna infringement fight on same day it scored new patent

Alnylam is adding more fuel to the fire in its infringement lawsuits against Pfizer and Moderna, claiming both companies violated a patent that was just granted to the company on Tuesday.

The fight is over mRNA technology Pfizer and Moderna used in developing their respective COVID-19 vaccines, Alnylam says. Alnylam originally filed lawsuits against each in March.

On Tuesday in lawsuits filed in U.S. district court in Delaware, Alnylam said that its newly granted patent covers a specific class of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) and how they are manufactured. LPLs deliver genetic material into cells.

In previous lawsuits, Alnylam claimed (PDF) the companies violated Patent No. 11,246,933, which covers “a breakthrough class of cationic biodegradable lipids used to form lipid nanoparticles that carry and deliver” mRNA-based vaccines.  

Alnylam is seeking royalties from the sales of the vaccines. The company doesn't want to pull Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 shots from the market.

Moderna responded by referring to a statement posted on its website on May 23 when it moved to dismiss Alynlam’s claim, contending that the suit was filed in the wrong court.

“Under federal law, claims against U.S. government-contracted suppliers must proceed against the government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims,” Moderna wrote. This law provides an important statutory protection for authorized government suppliers and played a critical role in encouraging companies, including Moderna, to step up and help the government fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Moderna also addressed the infringement claim in the statement.

“Moderna’s lipids do not resemble Alnylam’s work,” the company said. “Any assertion that the Alnylam patent covers Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is specious, and, as a result, Alnylam’s claims will fail even if Alnylam complies with the statutory requirements and refiles in the Court of Federal Claims against the U.S. government.”

Pfizer did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In June, Pfizer responded to Alnylam’s original claim, saying the company’s patent played no role in the success of its COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer also characterized Alnylam’s attempt to enforce intellectual property in this case is an effort to seek an improper economic benefit. 

The additional suits from Alnylam come a week after CureVac sued Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine development partner BioNTech in German court, claiming that four of its patents were infringed in development of the shot.

Pfizer and Moderna have reaped tens of billions of dollars in sales from their COVID-19 shots, so any successful infringement claims—from Alnylam or others that have alleged violations of their patent rights—could end up being lucrative.