Known and celebrated around the world for having developed very effective vaccines against Covid-19 in a few months, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech laboratories should soon face each other in court. In a press release published on Friday August 26, the boss of Moderna explains that his company accuses his competitor of having violated “the innovative technology platform of messenger RNA”, which Moderna “patented during the decade preceding the Covid-19 pandemic. 19”, and for which she has “invested billions of dollars”. Specifically, two types of intellectual property are concerned by the complaint: one relates to a messenger RNA structure developed since 2010 and validated in 2015; the other is based on the framing of the Spike protein – target of antibodies produced by the body after infection with the coronavirus – developed for a previous vaccine against the Middle East respiratory syndrome.

If Moderna chooses the lawsuit, it is because it would like to keep control over certain messenger RNA technologies, which allow human cells to be directed to manufacture the proteins present in the virus so that the organism can recognize and neutralize them. The laboratory intends, in fact, to use this device in the field of future treatments against HIV, cardiovascular diseases or cancers. Today determined to maintain its comparative advantage, Moderna had nevertheless, between October 2020 and March 2022, renounced the intellectual property concerning its anti-Covid vaccine, while waiting for competing companies to “request licenses”, which Pfizer-BioNTech would not have done.

For its part, the two partner laboratories accused of violation said they were “surprised” by the complaint filed by Moderna, estimating to AFP that their vaccine against Covid-19 was “based on the messenger RNA technology developed at the both by BioNTech and Pfizer”. In a press release responding to the other, the American-German laboratories regret that “other companies allege that a successful product potentially infringes their intellectual property”. Moderna is not asking for the withdrawal of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the market but for the payment of damages.

Note that the upcoming fight between the two major pharmaceutical players in the fight against Covid-19 is not a special case, since Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are already targeted by complaints from small biotechnology companies. The cooperation established in times of health crisis will not have resisted the return to normal for long.