Pfizer has rejected allegations made by rival Moderna that its Covid-19 vaccine is a copy, accusing the Boston biotech company of rewriting history to lay claim to technology developed by a field of scientists over many years.
Pfizer asked a federal court in Massachusetts on Monday to dismiss Moderna’s lawsuit seeking monetary damages for alleged patent violations related to the Boston company’s Covid vaccine. Pfizer asked the court to stop Moderna from suing it or its partners again over three alleged patent infringements.
Moderna, in a complaint filed in August, accused Pfizer of copying two key pieces of technology that make the messenger RNA Covid vaccines possible.
Moderna accused Pfizer of using the same modification to mRNA that keeps the molecule stable long enough to program human cells to produce the crucial spike protein that triggers an immune response against Covid.
Moderna also accused Pfizer of using the same full-length spike protein in its Covid shots. Moderna says it demonstrated a full spike produced an immune response in 2015 when it developed an mRNA vaccine against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. That vaccine never went to market.
“The Moderna inventions that Pfizer and BioNTech chose to copy were foundational for the success of their vaccine,” the company claimed.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech vigorously rejected those allegations, saying the technological building blocks for the vaccines were developed by a field of research scientists before the pandemic began. They accused Moderna of trying to “place itself in the spotlight alone.”
“Moderna is wrong, and its revisionist history is not based on fact. Pfizer and BioNTech did not copy Moderna’s technology,” Pfizer said in its response. “Rather, Pfizer and BioNTech independently developed their vaccine by utilizing innovation from their respective scientists and relying upon decades of research conducted by others before the pandemic began.”
Pfizer said the modification to mRNA was developed by research scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, one of whom is now an executive at BioNTech. It rejected Moderna’s claim to own the full-length spike protein technology. Pfizer said scientists have worried about coronaviruses since the 2003 SARS outbreak and by 2009 scientists understood the full-length spike induced a strong immune response.
Pfizer and Moderna have generated tens of billions of dollars in revenue from the Covid vaccines and generated windfall profits since the shots were first authorized in December 2020.
Moderna is asking the court to award it monetary damages since March 2022 including royalties and lost profits with interest. The company is also seeking enhanced damages up to three times the amount of compensatory damages found.