Moderna is facing allegations of hijacking technology from two smaller biotech firms to produce its COVID-19 vaccine.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company is facing a lawsuit from Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences, both based in Vancouver, Canada, over allegations that is used lipid nanoparticle technology that infringed on the Canadian companies’ patents.
Moderna’s shot is the second most commonly used in the U.S., and has been a financial success for the previously low-profile biotech brand.
Earlier this month, CEO Stephane Bancel told investors that the company expects to rake in $19 billion in revenue in 2022 off of vaccine sales alone.
This is the second lawsuit Moderna is facing over its vaccine, with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also suing to have three of its scientists named as co-inventors of the vaccine after contributing to its creation.
‘We seek fair compensation for Moderna’s use of our patented technology that was developed with great effort and at great expense, without which Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine would not have been successful,’ William Collier, CEO of Arbutus, said in a statement.
Arbutus and Genevant have patented a ‘breakthrough’ lipid nanoparticle that gives the vaccine a protective coating it needs to function.
Messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines work by providing a person’s body with an instruction kit to make an artificial spike protein. The immune system then activates to destroy that protein, and in the process builds Covid antibodies.
Without the nanoparticle, the companies filing suit allege, the vaccine would not have been discovered so quickly.
‘It is well established in the scientific literature that the most significant technological hurdle to developing and deploying medicines using mRNA is engineering a safe and effective way to deliver the mRNA to human cells,’ an Arbutus statement explains.
‘Scientists at Arbutus and Genevant have spent years developing and refining lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology, which has been licensed for various applications to many different third parties… with this technology, the RNA can travel through the human body to a target cell and through the target cell’s membrane before releasing the RNA.
‘Without this crucial delivery technology, the RNA would quickly degrade in the body and be ineffective.’
In a complaint, Arbutus writes that Moderna knew that it was breaking the patent when it used the nanoparticle without licensing it.
They allege that ‘attempted to invalidate several of the patents before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and when those efforts largely failed, Moderna simply used the patented technology without paying for it.’
Moderna made around $12 billion in profit in 2021, largely fueled by a successful rollout of Covid vaccines, and booster shots later in the year.
The company’s shot has been administered 208 million times to fully vaccinate 75 million Americans and boost 40 million others.
This is an excerpt from Daily Mail.
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