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Moderna Is Suing Pfizer, BioNTech For Vaccine Patent Infringement The mRNA giants could soon hit the courtroom -- or the negotiating table.

By Gabrielle Bienasz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Moderna on Friday announced in a press release it was suing Pfizer and BioNTech for patent infringement over intellectual property related to mRNA.

"Moderna believes that Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty infringes patents Moderna led between 2010 and 2016 covering Moderna's foundational mRNA technology," the release says.

Comirnaty is the name for Pfizer and BioNTech's widely-used coronavirus vaccine. It's currently being used in 164 countries, according to the New York Times' vaccine tracker.

"We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the decade preceding the COVID-19 pandemic," said Moderna's Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel in the release.

The company further said it had filed complaints in the U.S., in Massachusetts, and in Germany, in the Regional Court of Düsseldorf.

However, Moderna is not seeking certain damages or an injunction, the release says. It reiterates the company says it will only enforce its COVID-19-related patents in countries that are not classified as low and middle-income. But, it said it "expected companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights and would consider a commercially reasonable license should they request one for other markets."

Moderna, founded in 2010, is a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company focused on Messenger RNA, which is a type of RNA that carries instructions on how to make proteins.

Technologies related to mRNA saw much-increased interest after Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech used it to create highly effective vaccines for the coronavirus, per the BBC.

But, many are hoping mRNA will go over farther. Scientists, for example, hope that one day mRNA will be able to instruct your body to start fighting a cancerous tumor, according to the National Cancer Institute. Moderna is currently working on a cancer vaccine, per its project tracker.

In 2005, two scientists figured out how to keep foreign mRNA alive in the body, and their work inspired two scientists, who went on to help create Moderna and BioNTech, according to STAT News.

Specifically, Moderna is claiming that Pfizer-BioNTech copied its technology related to how you modify mRNA to skirt the body's usual reaction, which is to eliminate it.

Second, per the release, Moderna is saying that the company copied its "approach to encode for the full-length spike protein in a lipid nanoparticle formulation for a coronavirus."

Moderna's only product on the market right now is its vaccine, and it's garnered $10.4 billion in revenue, per Reuters. Pfizer has generated $22 billion from its vaccine, the outlet added.

Pfizer did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

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